Florida Governor Ron DeSantis traveled to New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois on Monday to highlight his “law and order” policies. The final stop of the day included a stop to deliver a speech that was merely promoted (not hosted) by the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the city’s largest police union. Predictably, that caused a stir, particularly among Illinois Democrats vying for the title of Chicago mayor. The current mayor, Lori Lightfoot, finds herself in a close race with U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García and a former Chicago schools superintendent named Paul Vallas.
Even before DeSantis delivered his Illinois speech, Democrats in the state were in full freakout mode, sending candidates scurrying to denounce his visit. Even Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker got in on the act, calling on “every candidate hoping to hold public office in the Land of Lincoln” to denounce DeSantis’ speech before it was even heard.
And even though the event was not organized by the Chicago FOP, it prompted Vallas, who was endorsed by the group, to distance himself from them. He denounced DeSantis on Friday and ripped the Chicago FOP, issuing a statement claiming he “wholeheartedly” agrees with Pritzker.
“There is simply no place in Chicago for a right-wing extremist like Ron DeSantis, and I am disappointed in FOP leadership for inviting him to speak to officers, Vallas said. “DeSantis’ record of trying to erase the LGBTQ community, banning books on Black history and much more is not in line with my values, the values of our community, or the values of the rank and file police officers who I believe have no interest in getting swept up in culture wars and national Republican Party politics.”
Vallas then turned his attention toward criticism of the police in his statement. “I want to build trust between all of Chicago’s communities and the police by holding everyone accountable, because that is the only way we can make our city safer. This decision by the FOP leadership makes that job harder.”
None of this would be happening if DeSantis didn’t live rent-free alongside Donald Trump in Democrats heads as the single greatest threat to humankind. Or so the rhetoric goes.
The Chicago mayor’s race is only the latest political dustup outside of Florida featuring DeSantis.
About three hours west, in Iowa, DeSantis looms over the state’s first-in-the-nation political caucuses, there too. Stories over the weekend noted the seeming absence of former President Donald Trump from the campaign trail there (though he does have an Iowa campaign organization in place), even though other candidates are starting to hit the campaign trail there. National Public Radio noted earlier today that a handful of potential GOP candidates, including Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, Mike Pence, and others have already hit the trail, but all eyes are on DeSantis:
Though several would-be candidates including Trump were in Iowa last year campaigning for midterm candidates, these first impressions at the outset of the GOP presidential primary are important. That’s especially true as many in the GOP wait to see whether Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proceeds with a White House bid.
As the 2024 presidential election cycles continues to loom larger and larger in the national psyche, DeSantis will command an increasing amount of attention over the potential GOP field – and the longer he waits to make an official announcement, the more it sucks the oxygen out of the room for his competition, simultaneously fueling opposition from Democrats. It’s a situation that DeSantis is likely to exploit for as long as possible.