- DeSantis is being sworn in for his second term on January 3 in Tallahassee.
- Lots of onlookers will be watching for signs of his national political aspirations.
- Numerous events are scattered over the week, including a candlelight dinner and a ball.
The political world will be watching Tallahassee this week as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida prepares to kick off his second term.
The governor will take the oath of office on the steps of the Historic Capitol on Tuesday at noon, and several other events will be scattered in Florida’s capital over two days.
Eagle-eyed viewers will be closely watching for signs of DeSantis’ national ambitions. DeSantis is a favorite to run for the GOP nomination in 2024 behind former President Donald Trump, who made his White House bid official on November 15.
“When he gives his speech I think that speech — although it will be for Florida — may be telling his projections for 2024,” Jennifer Carroll, who was lieutenant governor under former GOP Gov. Rick Scott, told Insider. “For the inauguration, that would be the thing to look for: What is he going to say in the speech? What is going to be the delivery and the tone?”
The inauguration festivities formally kick off Monday with an intimate candlelight cocktail hour and dinner.
On Tuesday, after the noon swearing-in on the steps of the Historic Capitol, Florida first lady Casey DeSantis will hold “A Toast to One Million Mamas,” in recognition of the 1.1 million women she mobilized in support of her husband.
The final event of the two-day bash is the inaugural ball, which typically takes place at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. The DeSantises want guests to stay late and dance at the ball, and got a band to perform, said a person briefed on the planning who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Five people who donated $1 million will get the “inaugural chair” designation and access to multiple inaugural events, according to a breakdown of sponsorship packages obtained by Politico. The overarching theme is “The Free State of Florida,” the Florida Standard first reported.
“The Free State of Florida” is a motto mirroring DeSantis’ 2022 campaign theme. Ahead of Election Day, his campaign ran ads titled “My Florida Story” that featured people talking about how the governor’s policies on COVID-19, when he pushed to keep schools and workplaces open.
DeSantis carried the state by nearly 20 points on Election Day against former Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist. The victory was a stunning turnaround for the governor, who won his first gubernatorial race by just 33,000 votes.
During his second term, DeSantis will have a supportive supermajority in the Republican legislature. So far, DeSantis pledged to undo sales taxes on certain items and pitched a plan to make it more difficult for teachers to enroll and stay in unions. He has called his priorities for the 2022 session his “Freedom Agenda.”
DeSantis, 44, is currently the youngest state governor in the US, though he’s about to be unseated from that designation by Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders in Arkansas, who is 40.
Over the course of his two-day inauguration, lobbying offices and law firms also are expected to have their own events in Florida’s capital.
Inauguration tickets raise funds for the Republican Party of Florida
The funds collected from ticket sales for the various official inauguration events will go toward the Republican Party of Florida. Under state law, individuals and corporations don’t have limits as to how much they can contribute to state political parties or committees.
The inaugural chairs for the event, The Florida Standard reported, are Brian Ballard of Ballard Partners; Nick Iarossi of Capital City Consulting; Bill Rubin of Rubin Turnbull & Associates; and Jeff Hartley of Smith, Bryan & Myers.
“Both the Governor and First Lady oversaw every detail,” Hartley told Insider of the forthcoming inauguration. “It was put together in a tight timeframe with a small staff who did an unbelievable job of pulling it all together over the holidays.”
Five donors who paid $1 million for tickets will get to attend the candlelight dinner and the ball, receive prime seats to the swearing-in, be able to take a photo with the governor, and get two tickets each to “A Toast to One Million Mamas,” according to Politico.
The toast is taking the place of what has traditionally been a tea with the first lady, according to a Republican strategist who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect invitee information. The event is expected to celebrate DeSantis’ successful endorsements of school board candidates who align with his agenda and to include members of the conservative “Moms for Liberty” group.
Guests of the governor for various events will include conservative media influencers, three people told Insider.
Major fundraising is typical for an inauguration, whether it be at the state or federal level. Numerous corporations that do business with the federal government also helped bankroll President Joe Biden’s made-for-TV inauguration celebrations, Insider reported.
DeSantis released a partial list of donors in 2019 that included now-political foe Disney and the private prison company the GEO Group.
This inauguration, DeSantis is considering turning down donations from Big Tech companies, The New York Times reported.
DeSantis himself has become a prolific fundraiser who shattered records for a gubernatorial campaign, according to the money-in-politics nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets. His political action committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, raised nearly $206 million as of November 2, according to the Florida Department of State Division of Elections.
During Tuesday’s ceremony, DeSantis is expected to appear alongside his wife and Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez.
Other top Florida officials also tend to appear at the inauguration, including the attorney general, the chief financial officer, and the commissioner of agriculture.
The 2023 gubernatorial inauguration is the same day as the start of the new Congress up in Washington, DC, so not all of the Florida delegation will be attending.
“I support Governor DeSantis and am honored to have been invited to his inauguration,” GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida told Insider. “Unfortunately, I have other pressing business in Washington on January 3rd.”
Emails inquiring about attendance were sent to the offices of other Republican members of the Florida delegation, including now-Sen. Rick Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio, as well as Reps. Byron Donalds and Brian Mast, were not answered in time for deadline. An email sent to a representative for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also was not met with a response.
Every inauguration has a different focus and events
DeSantis’ 2019 inauguration had roughly 3,000 guests in attendance, according to The Naples Daily News.
That inauguration included an appreciation event for military veterans and first responders at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum and a legislative luncheon at the state Capitol. The event was a nod to DeSantis’ experience given that he is a veteran who was a lawyer for the Navy.
The events from the last inauguration also included a breakfast at Goodwood Museum in Tallahassee to recognize Nuñez as the highest-ranking Hispanic woman elected in Florida history.
When DeSantis was first sworn in in 2019, he and his wife opted not to hold a traditional inaugural parade. Instead, they held their son Mason’s baptism at the governor’s mansion with water they collected from the Sea of Galilee during a trip to Israel, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
“The pomp and circumstance is fine, but ultimately this is about putting the pedal to the metal,” the governor told the Associated Press about opting not to have a parade.
There will be no parade in Tallahassee in 2023, either. The inauguration for Scott — who was DeSantis’ predecessor in the governor’s mansion, did include a parade. Asked by Insider to talk about Florida inaugurations, Scott smiled as he recounted his first swearing-in over a decade ago.
“It’s fun. We had a parade,” Scott said in an interview on Capitol Hill of the official celebrations he partook in.
The only low point that stuck out was a minor technical difficulty. “I walked out to use a teleprompter and it didn’t work,” Scott said of the communications snafu.
Scott said he kept things low-key after his swearing in.
“They had a ball … but we didn’t have one,” he said, adding, “Every inauguration is different.”