DeSantis Excites Crowd in Speech to Alabama GOP, Prompts Record Fundraising

While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has not yet announced whether he will seek the Republican presidential nomination next year, appearances across the country, including in Alabama last week, have drummed up excitement among Republican voters.

DeSantis was the special guest speaker for the Alabama Republican Party’s (ALGOP) Winter Dinner in Hoover, Alabama, outside of Birmingham on Thursday.

In a press release, the party noted that demand to see DeSantis was so high, the event was moved from the Birmingham Sheraton to the larger Finley Center in nearby Hoover just days after tickets went on sale.

The party said attendance records were broken alongside fundraising numbers, with over 1,700 guests and nearly $700,000 grossed from the event, according to the release. The previous attendance record was achieved by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the 2011 ALGOP Summer Dinner.

The Governor’s Blueprint

DeSantis shared his “Florida Blueprint” with attendees on topics ranging from school choice to protecting children from woke policies, 1819 News reported.

“You can be right on all the policies, but if you don’t have the courage of your convictions, you’re not going to beat the left,” DeSantis said to the crowd, according to the outlet. “For us, having the courage to lead has been an indispensable ingredient for Florida’s success. Just look at COVID, and I’m proud to say of all the things we’ve done.”

A large crowd gathers at the Alabama Republican Party 2023 Winter Dinner to see Gov. Ron DeSantis.
A large crowd gathers at the Alabama Republican Party 2023 Winter Dinner to see Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Over 1700 people turned out to see Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the Alabama Republican Party 2023 Winter Dinner at the Finley Center in Hoover, Ala., on March 9, 2023. (Courtesy of ALGOP/Grady Thornton)

1819 News also noted DeSantis got perhaps his loudest applause while discussing Florida’s economy and suggesting Alabama eliminate its income tax, which Florida does not have.

“Of course, people want to come to a state where we respect taxpayers, where we’re not going to tax them into oblivion,” he said. “I can tell you, as long as I’m around, we’re not going to have a state income tax. You guys should try it. It works pretty good.”

He also touted his approach to COVID-19 in the state, saying Florida chose “freedom over Faucism.”

DeSantis Seen as Central GOP Figure

The possible 2024 candidate was introduced by Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, who was reelected in 2022.

ALGOP Chairman John Wahl, who serves in a key Republican National Committee (RNC) position organizing southern states before the 2024 elections, noted the excitement the governor brought to the state and Republican Party as a whole.

“The 2023 Winter Dinner was an exciting event, both for the Republican Party and the state of Alabama,” Wahl said in a news release. “I think this was the perfect opportunity for Governor DeSantis to get to know Alabama a little better, and also for our state to meet one of America’s strongest conservative leaders, and someone that I think is going to be a central figure within the Republican Party for years to come.”

In recent speeches in Iowa, DeSantis said that Republicans taking a firm stance in the nation’s culture wars will help win elections, and he pledged never to surrender to the “woke mob.”

While in Iowa, he highlighted his crusade in Florida against leftist priorities, touting such accomplishments as prohibiting mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates, banning the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation to young students, and preventing biological men from competing in women’s sports.

The governor also spoke to a crowd in Staten Island, New York, on President’s Day, touting Florida’s accomplishments in net migration rate, new business formation, education freedom, parental involvement in education, and economic growth during his tenure.

In addition to his increasing appearances in states outside of Florida, the governor has shown an increasing tendency to weigh in on national-level issues, such as chairmanship of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Russia–Ukraine war.

He recently released a memoir, titled “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival.”

When asked about his decision on a presidential bid on Fox News in February, DeSantis said the decision would come after Florida’s legislative session wraps up in May 2023.

“We’re going to sell some books, we’re going to spread the message of Florida. And then on March 8, I have our Legislative Session that’s kicking off,” DeSantis said. “So those are what we’re going to be doing over these next few months as we get beyond that, then we can decide from there.”

Back in Alabama, Wahl added his gratitude for the governor’s visit with Alabama Republican voters as one of DeSantis’ “first major visits after his re-election last November.”

“I am excited about getting the 2024 election cycle started with such a successful event,” Wahl said. “It’s important for the party to have the resources and organization we need to challenge leftist candidates and policies both here in Alabama and in swing districts across the country. The Alabama Republican Party is ready to stand strong as we defend our rights and freedoms, and protect the values that made this nation great.”

Gary Bai and Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.

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