It appears that California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Florida ad buy has struck a nerve.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis devoted several minutes of a Friday press conference to escalating his cross-country rivalry with Newsom, a Democrat and outspoken critic of governance in red states like Florida. Both are considered possible presidential contenders.

“I can just tell you this, I was born and raised in this state, and until the last few years I rarely if ever saw a California license plate in the state of Florida. You now see a lot of them. I can tell you if you go to California you ain’t seeing very many Florida license plates,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis’ remarks come less than a week after Newsom unveiled an ad urging Florida residents and businesses to come to California, “where we still believe in freedom.”

At his press conference, DeSantis brought up Newsom’s infamous unmasked dinner at the French Laundry during the height of the pandemic in November 2020. He said that California’s governor did it “to basically rub his citizens’ noses in the fact that he was treating them like peasants.”

From there, he moved on to California’s school performance during the pandemic.

“In California, they locked kids out of school, and they had the lowest … percentage of in-person learning of any state in the country of the 2020-21 school year because the teachers union runs that state,” DeSantis said, citing, a site that aggregates school data.

DeSantis described Los Angeles and San Francisco, where voter concern about crime is a top-tier political issue, as places that have been “destroyed with drugs and crime and homeless.” He said that in Florida, “we believe that when people commit crimes they belong behind bars, not released back onto the street.”

Florida’s governor said that while California saw declining tourism during COVID-19, Florida saw a tourism boom. He added that California’s masking policy and vaccine card requirements drove people away from the state.

“Let’s just be clear, California is driving people away with their terrible governance,” DeSantis said.

He said that California had never lost population until Newsom came to office, “and now they’re hemorrhaging population.”

“It’s almost hard to drive people out of a place like California given all their natural advantages, and yet they’re finding a way to do it,” DeSantis said.

California’s population has declined slightly, in part due to COVID-19 deaths and federal immigration policy as well as an increase in domestic out-migration, according to the California Department of Finance.

In a statement Nathan Click, Newsom’s campaign spokesman, responded:

“For Desantis, ‘freedom’ means government forcing rape victims to bear the child of their attacker. ‘Freedom’ in Florida means any 18 year old can buy an AR-15 and unlimited ammunition, no questions asked. Governor Desantis’ idea of ‘freedom’ is 40,000 Floridians dying because of the policies he put in place during the pandemic. DeSantis’ take on freedom is simply un-American.”

©2022 The Sacramento Bee. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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