It’s a real East Coast-West Coast war.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis unloaded on California Gov. Gavin Newsom Friday, accusing his cross-country nemesis of overseeing the decline of the Golden State while treating his constituents like “peasants.”
DeSantis launched the attack at an unrelated press conference after being asked about Newsom’s recent Florida ad blitz that denounced his performance and urged Sunshine Staters to move west.
Both DeSantis and Newsom face gubernatorial re-election votes in November — but speculation about their 2024 presidential aspirations continues to flare.
The Republican firebrand said Newsom’s approach to COVID-19 lockdowns handicapped California’s ability to weather the economic damage wrought by the pandemic.
“As he was locking down his citizens, he would then go and have these extravagant dinners at the French Laundry to basically rub his citizens’ noses in the fact that he was treating them like peasants,” DeSantis said.
The Floridian has relished in juxtaposing his state’s recent population increases and California’s ongoing losses.
He mocked Newsom’s relocation pitch to Florida residents in his television spots, asserting that U-Haul traffic is only headed in one direction.
“I was born and raised in this state and until the last few years I rarely saw a California license plate in the state of Florida,” he said. “You now see a lot of them. I can tell you if you go to California you ain’t seeing many Florida license plates.”
In urging Sunshine Staters to move to California, Newsom argued that DeSantis has enacted a series of damaging policies that were tarnishing his state.
The Californian zeroed in on several of his rival’s signature legislative acts, including a ban on classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through the fourth grade.
Newsom, who previously belittled DeSantis’ outspoken manner as hollow theatrics, also bashed Florida’s newly enacted ban on abortions after 15 weeks.
“Freedom is under attack in your state,” Newsom said in the ad. “Republican leaders — they are banning books. Making it harder to vote. Restricting speech in classrooms. Even criminalizing women and doctors.”
DeSantis’ in turn portrayed California as a decaying shell of its former self.
“When families are uprooting from the Pacific Coast to go almost 3,000 miles in search of a better life, that’s telling you something,” he said.
“For the entire history of California they never lost population,” DeSantis continued. “Until this recent governor got into office. And now they’re hemorrhaging population. It’s almost hard to drive people out of a place like California given all of their natural advantages. And yet they are finding a way to do it.”
California’s Department of Finance reported in May that the state’s population decreased by 117,552 in 2021 after a larger decline by 182,083 in 2020.
Census data shows that Florida’s population increased by 211,000 between July 2020 and July 2021.
Newsom, who denies any current designs on higher office, has grabbed the Democratic Party megaphone in recent months and positioned himself as a leading culture war combatant.
DeSantis has also brushed aside questions about his Oval Office plans amid escalating chatter over a backroom rift with former President Donald Trump.