Grassroots alert: Conservatives -- and DeSantis -- score big in FL school-board elections

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Yesterday, the media asked whether Democrats could use their momentum in Florida’s primary to “take down Ron DeSantis.” Today, they may well wonder whether Democrats can even stand up against the Florida governor. DeSantis took an unprecedented interest in local school-board elections in order to advance his education reforms.

And it paid off big-time:

It’s an impressive showing of political strength, as the Palm Beach Post also reports:

Gov. Ron DeSantis took unprecedented steps to influence Florida’s nonpartisan school board races this year and largely was successful, with 25 of his 30 endorsed candidates winning or advancing to a runoff.

That’s an 83% success rate for DeSantis, a sign that the governor’s education message is resonating with many voters.

DeSantis flipped school boards in some counties that had left-leaning majorities, shifting them into solid conservative territory.

Both Sarasota and Duval counties will now have conservative board majorities after DeSantis weighed in heavily on those races. The governor held rallies in both Sarasota and Jacksonville on Sunday. All five of his endorsed school board candidates won in the two counties.

DeSantis wasted no time in emphasizing the victories, not just as wins for conservatives but also as pushback against media narratives over DeSantis’ education policies. The victories show that DeSantis has the mainstream position and that his critics are the extremists, he argued. Parents want education, not indoctrination, and the election results prove it:

DeSantis, addressing a crowd at a Florida GOP event in Hialeah, Fla., noted that because he, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Sen. Marco Rubio ran unopposed, the party was able to focus on other races like school board positions. As a result, he said, conservatives won races all over the state, including flipping the Sarasota school board.

“Parents are sick of the nonsense when it comes to education,” DeSantis said. “We want the schools to educate kids, we are sick of the indoctrination. We want to make sure that they’re teaching them the basics, teaching them to read, write, add, subtract all the important subjects, not trying to jam woke gender ideology down their throat, not trying to do divisive rhetoric like CRT that’s teaching kids to hate each other and hate our country.”

It’s a big victory for DeSantis, but that’s only part of the story. It’s also huge rebuke to the mainstream media that spent the past year painting DeSantis as a reactionary extremist for his parental-rights bill that they falsely dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The Parental Rights in Education legislation polled well, even among Democrats, despite the media’s and Hollywood’s chronic mischaracterization of it, especially in polls that specifically and accurately described the bill’s impact.

With that kind of win, the focus on DeSantis clearly turns to 2024. He’s slowly building a track record of successful activism for conservo-populist issues, and this result is an astounding addition to it. He’s going to be in position after the midterms to argue that Donald Trump may have started the GOP on the path to breaking the political establishment but that he’s the right man at the right time who not only can complete the task but is already well on his way of doing so. DeSantis took on the media and the entertainment industry over the radical sexualizing of elementary school children and won. Big.

My friend and colleague Kira Davis makes the same point at RedState:

Florida’s results may also be a sign of what is to come in November, as other school board races across the country will be on the general ballots. Even if Congress doesn’t get their red wave, America’s school boards just might have a tsunami on the way.

And is this yet another sign of “same but different” when comparing Donald Trump to Ron DeSantis? We’ve been talking a lot about how Trump is still a game changer and is angling to become a “king maker,” with many successful endorsements under his belt so far. What about DeSantis? As a governor, he may not be out there crowning candidates on a national stage. However, in an era where local elections are taking precedence over federal elections, the fact that the Florida Governor has a near perfect track record in picking winning conservatives says a lot about his own “king making” ability where it really counts right now.

At any rate, the question of whether Democrats can “take down” DeSantis seems to be answered, at least for now. The new question is whether they can learn from the experience. Allahpundit has an upcoming post about Democratic nominee Charlie Crist’s initial pitch to the voters that DeSantis clearly has motivated, and that makes it look like the answer to this question is a resounding no.