Learning the midterm lessons from Florida

In what was overall a frustrating and disappointing night for Republicans, Florida stands out as an outlier; one, however, that can be replicated in states across the country according to Bearing Arms contributor, Second Amendment supporter, and school safety advocate Ryan Petty, who joins Cam & Co to talk about the incredibly strong showing for pro-2A candidates from Ron DeSantis down to those legislative candidates who’ve given the GOP a supermajority in both chambers of the statehouse.
To give a better perspective on just how historic Tuesday night’s results were, Ryan shared some eye-popping numbers with me. DeSantis carried 62 of the state’s 67 counties, and managed to flip seven of them from blue to red. That’s remarkable in this day and age of tribal hostility towards the other party, but DeSantis managed it across Florida on Tuesday night. Even in Democratic strongholds like Broward and Orange counties, where Democrat Charlie Crist still received a majority of the vote, DeSantis improved on his 2018 numbers by double digits.
DeSantis had political coattails as well. As I mentioned, Republicans now have a supermajority in both chambers, and the GOP swept all statewide offices as well as making big pick-ups in congressional races.

As DeSantis — now a top presidential contender for 2024 — put it during his jubilant victory speech: “We have rewritten the political map.”

Across the board — Sen. Marco Rubio also had a big night, dispatching Rep. Val Demings with ease with a 16-point win. DeSantis’ power play with the Legislature on redistricting resulted in the GOP picking up four congressional seats in the state. All three Republicans on the Cabinet easily won as well. And Republicans now command super majorities in the Florida Legislature in an election that saw several Democratic incumbents get ousted.

Shift — “To be honest I have enjoyed our battleground status because it makes campaigning a lot of fun,” said Christian Ziegler, vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida moments after DeSantis had come out to thunderous applause at the Tampa Convention Center. “But right now I think what you saw tonight is Florida officially moved from a battleground state to a conservative state. That’s what we saw tonight. This was a big win.”

Petty says DeSantis has done several things very well. First, he’s picked his political battles wisely; engaging on education issues that matter to parents and fighting to keep the state open during the COVID pandemic, to name a couple of examples. But DeSantis has also been capable; Ryan pointed to the governor’s recent handling of the response to Hurricane Ian as one reason why DeSantis isn’t just liked but is trusted by so many Floridians. And while Florida may have certain unique characteristics (including an influx of conservative voters fleeing blue states), Petty says there’s no reason why other conservative governors can’t do the same.

Petty says that another reason why DeSantis is so trusted is that he follows through. Gun owners are certainly hoping so, given that DeSantis pledged to sign constitutional carry into law before he’s through being governor. Petty expects that the issue will, in fact, be taken up by the legislature next year, and he says he’s planning on speaking with several lawmakers to urge them to move forward.

Petty brought up another pro-2A measure that he’d like to see lawmakers pass as well; repealing the 2018 law approved after the murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that raised the age to purchase any firearm in the state from 18 to 21. Ryan’s daughter Alaina was one of the victims on February 14th, 2018, but he tells Bearing Arms that he’s seen no evidence the law has actually worked to reduce crime. Moreover, Petty says he’s very concerned that young adults under the age of 21 are being harmed by the law and are unable to protect themselves with a gun as a result of being blocked from buying a rifle or shotgun for self-defense. The law is already the subject of a court challenge brought by the NRA, but Petty says that he’ll be lobbying lawmakers to simply get rid of the statute altogether.

An historic night for Republicans in Florida should result for a great year for Second Amendment advocates in the state. If it doesn’t, then we’ll have to have a serious conversation about the GOP taking gun owners for granted, but Ryan Petty seems pretty confident that we’re going to see some real progress in protecting the right to keep and bear arms when lawmakers return to Tallahassee.

A note from Cam: Now that the midterms are over, we need to look ahead to the threats gun owners face in Washington, D.C. and statehouses around the country, as well as support pro-Second Amendment officials and legislation to protect and secure our right to keep and bear arms. If you want real in-depth analysis and exclusive content and wish to support our mission, join BearingArms VIP today and use promo code VIPWEEK to receive 45% off your membership!