David Jolly, a former GOP Florida Representative, said he is considering moving out of his home state because of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ conservative policies.
Jolly spoke with TIME magazine on Thursday about how Florida has become less desirable for some individuals because of DeSantis’ values that continue to be reflected throughout the state.
“It’s in the air, it’s everywhere, it’s amazing,” said the Florida native, who disagrees with the governor’s policies. “It’s between neighbors, it’s when you go to restaurants, when you go to schools. You’re on one side or the other, and people know it.”
Concerns from Floridians and others have been raised about the way DeSantis is leading the state. The governor passed strict measures that some deemed against diversity and inclusivity. Last year, he cracked down on LGBTQ+ rights by signing the Parental Rights in Education bill into law to ban teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in certain school grades in the state.
Most recently, he signed bills banning gender-affirming care for minors in the state and restricting discussion of personal pronouns in schools, according to the Associated Press. He also signed a bill on Monday that defunds diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) departments at Florida public universities, saying that “DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination.”
Newsweek reached out by email to DeSantis’ media office for comment.
On Saturday, Jolly said during an interview on MSNBC that “culture wars have two sides… to do all of these things reflects a certain cruelty and darkness of one’s personal ethos. I think Ron DeSantis is now going to be seen as that.”
In another interview on Sunday with MSNBC host Alex Witt, Jolly explained the future he hopes his children, ages 2 and 4, would have. The former congressman said he wants them to grow up in a community that’s inclusive, exposes them to diversity and allows his family to “make decisions about which value set to orient our children around and ultimately give them the opportunity to make their own decisions.”
“What has happened in the DeSantis era, the DeSantis administration is not just the attack on the LGBTQ+ community, the migrant community, the African American community, the denial of science and history, but it has brought back the implicit biases that as a nation we have been trying to move away from ever since the civil rights movement,” Jolly said. “He has brought that back. You feel it. You feel unwelcome, and it is a real decision to make whether to raise children in the state of Florida.”
Is DeSantis Driving People Away from Florida?
The governor continues to have a certain appeal among members of his own party, despite the criticism, and even though he hasn’t announced that he will run for presidency in 2024, some Republicans are already rooting for him over former President Donald Trump, who announced his 2024 presidential bid last November.
Still, his conservative direction in Florida has had a set of consequences. For instance, Disney World Resort announced on Thursday that it will not proceed with its plan to build a new campus in Orlando, Florida. In a letter to community leaders, Walt Disney World President Jeff Vahle said that several dynamics have changed since the project was announced, including a change in company leadership and evolving economic and business conditions.
Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings called Disney’s decision “unfortunate” and said in a statement that this is a result of the lack of an “inclusive and collaborative work environment between the state of Florida.”
Florida has been the center of an ongoing feud between Disney and DeSantis that began last year after the Parental Rights in Education bill was signed into law, which Disney condemned and said at the time that it plans to help revoke it. In an effort to push back against the company, DeSantis signed the HB 3C bill, stripping Disney of its special government agency rights and tax privileges in Florida.
On Saturday, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued a travel advisory for Florida because of the governor’s “aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.”
“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the NAACP said. “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”
The NAACP advisory comes after DeSantis blocked an Advanced Placement course in African American Studies from being offered in high schools in the state. His office at the time said in a letter to the College Board that the “content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”