Florida lawmakers who received endorsements from Trump express concerns about potential retaliation from Governor DeSantis

Florida GOP lawmakers in Tallahassee, Florida are eagerly awaiting to see if Governor Ron DeSantis will take any actions against them for their endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

Over a dozen legislators are currently waiting to find out if DeSantis will eliminate their preferred hometown projects from the yearly budget. This comes after they publicly supported Trump over the governor during the highly contentious GOP presidential primary.

Lawmakers who chose Trump were pitted against an influential governor, known for his retaliatory actions against perceived adversaries and his ability to enforce his agenda through the Legislature. This included taking on formidable opponents such as Walt Disney World and Democratic state attorneys, as well as pressuring lawmakers to pass a congressional map drafted by his own staff.

GOP Rep. Paula Stark of Kissimmee, who supported Trump’s endorsement, admitted that there is always a concern about a potential veto. One of her budget priorities was securing funding for lake cleanups and semiconductors.

“I hope the concern is unfounded,” she added optimistically. “I want to believe that the governor will prioritize the well-being of our state’s citizens, no matter the circumstances.”

Lawmakers passed a budget that is approximately $3 billion more than what DeSantis had initially requested. The governor, who has the authority to veto specific components, has acknowledged the need for fiscal prudence and stated that some adjustments will be made.

The office did not respond to inquiries regarding the criteria he would use to determine which aspects of the budget he would focus on, and it also failed to address lawmakers’ concerns about potential political motivations.

Republican state lawmakers overwhelmingly supported DeSantis even before he announced his presidential campaign. They not only supported the conservative agenda that the governor campaigned on, but also played a pivotal role in fundraising efforts. In a display of unwavering support, many of these lawmakers even travelled to Iowa in January, braving freezing temperatures and knocking on doors to promote DeSantis.

Many of the 14 lawmakers who endorsed Trump, or changed their support to Trump when it became evident that DeSantis would lose the Iowa caucuses, express concerns about the potential impact on their top priorities. According to a text chain called “Superheroes,” which was viewed by POLITICO, several of these members communicated with each other.

GOP Rep. Juan Carlos Porras from Miami acknowledged that he encountered some “contentious” moments prior to endorsing Trump, as fellow Republicans attempted to persuade him to sign a pledge card for DeSantis. However, he ultimately decided to support Trump because it became evident during his 2022 campaign that Trump was the preferred choice among his constituents.

“I made a conscious decision to take a stance from the start, fully aware of the potential risks and the possible consequences,” he explained.

According to Porras, he played a crucial role in obtaining state funding for pro bono clinics through the Cuban American Bar Association. He also helped secure funding for the University of Miami Stroke Center.

“He said that if the governor chooses to engage in politics and harm our residents because of his unsuccessful presidential campaign, he believes that is not the right approach to rebuilding alliances.”

Some state lawmakers who supported Trump are not worried about DeSantis reducing their budget requests. GOP state Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez stated that she endorsed Trump because she believes he is the right person for the current situation. She has known the former president for over a decade when she was a councilmember in Doral. However, she also mentioned that she has been respectful and supportive of DeSantis as the governor. Rodriguez represents the Keys and has given priority to environmental funding in the budget.

“I’m not overly concerned about it because his constituents are also my constituents. So if he decides to harm anyone, it will ultimately affect his own supporters. It’s not directly affecting me,” she expressed. “There’s always a lingering thought of whether it will have consequences. Will he target those who supported his opponent? But I’m not fretting about it. If that’s the path he chooses to take, it’s entirely his decision.”

Lawmakers’ concerns are rooted in previous encounters. Back in 2022, DeSantis had the then-Senate President Wilton Simpson join him on stage while he eliminated a staggering $3.1 billion from the budget, which included a $50 road-widening project in Simpson’s district. At the time, Simpson publicly maintained that it was not a personal matter. However, when DeSantis replicated this approach and slashed Simpson’s priorities after he assumed the role of agriculture commissioner in 2023, Simpson expressed his bewilderment, stating that there was “no plausible justification to single out agriculture in a year when we possess billions of dollars in reserves.”

According to POLITICO, GOP Senator Joe Gruters of Sarasota, a longtime ally of Trump, believes that Governor DeSantis purposely targeted him by vetoing millions of dollars last year because of his support for the former president. At the time, the governor’s office dismissed this accusation as “absurd” and claimed that DeSantis’ budget vetoes were driven by a commitment to conservative governance and fiscal responsibility, rather than political motives.

When asked if he had similar concerns this year, Gruters expressed optimism that his limited number of projects would receive approval.

“I hope that Sarasota will come out okay,” he said, expressing optimism for the future and leaving the past behind.

As the only Jewish Republican in the Florida Legislature, Fine had a set of priorities for this session. These included introducing a bill that would define antisemitism, ensuring consistent funding for Jewish day schools, and addressing the issue of long waitlists for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who require home care.

According to Fine, the bills did not provoke any opposition, and he had one specific request for the budget this year: $20 million to enhance security measures in Jewish day schools. Given DeSantis’ strong support for Israel and his other policies as governor, including facilitating the safe return of Americans after the Hamas attack by securing flights from Israel, it is highly likely that he will approve the funding.

According to Fine, Governor DeSantis vetoed approximately 25 percent of his projects last year, even before he changed his stance. Fine argues that this demonstrates the governor’s thorough consideration of all matters and dismisses the notion that DeSantis uses vetoes as a form of retaliation as merely an interpretation.

He said that not everyone who endorsed him would be exempt from vetoes.

DeSantis may continue to be involved in state lawmakers’ future beyond the budget.

Lawmakers have an upcoming election in November, and there is a possibility that the governor might attempt to involve himself in state races. For instance, Fine, who is running for state Senate, recently received an endorsement from Trump.

According to Fine, he would advise DeSantis to acknowledge that the election has concluded and focus on building positive relationships and progress. He believes that dwelling on the past serves no purpose.

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