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Dem leader: Loss in GOP primary could weaken Gov. DeSantis with Legislature

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Dem leader: Loss in GOP primary could weaken Gov. DeSantis with Legislature

Sep 18, 2023 | 5:23 pm ET
By Michael Moline
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Dem leader: Loss in GOP primary could weaken Gov. DeSantis with Legislature
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Fentrice Driskell leads Democrats in the Florida House. Credit: FL House

Would losing the Republican presidential nomination mellow Gov. Ron DeSantis?

The leader of the state House Democrats doesn’t necessarily think so, but she does think the balance of power between the Capitol’s Plaza Level and Fourth Floor might shift.

The Plaza contains the governor’s office; the House and Senate chambers are on the Fourth Floor.

“Tallahassee was broken in a lot of ways before this governor, but this governor in particular has found ways to exploit that brokenness and bend it and wield it to his advantage in a way that we’d not seen before,” Fentrice Driskell, representing the Tampa area in the House, said on a Zoom call with reporters Monday.

“Should DeSantis lose the Republican primary, he comes back here, he’ll have to face all of these problems that he’s either ignored or created in Florida. And I think he comes back to a Legislature as a lame duck [governor] and he’s also weaker. So, I don’t know that the Legislature is going to play ball with him in the same way that they have previously,” she continued.

DeSantis will retain the power to veto budget items dear to individual House members and senators, retaining that leverage, Driskell said. And the Republican Party will retain control of the “triumvirate” of Florida governance: the executive, including governor’s office and independently elected Cabinet members, the House, and the Senate, she added.

“There are no real checks and balances in terms of making sure that the voices of all Floridians are heard,” she said.

Republicans won supermajorities in the state House and Senate last year. They used their power to push through severe restrictions on abortion, permitless carry rights for gun owners, and insurance reforms that have done little to control premiums while crimping policyholders’ ability to sue for non- or underpayment of claims.

DeSantis trails Donald Trump in the latest FiveThirtyEight average of national polls, with 14.2% support to 55.5% for Trump.