Gov. Ron DeSantis will test his political reach in Tuesday’s election primaries in the unlikely arena of school board candidates.
The Republican governor is stepping into the non-partisan field to support 30 hand-picked candidates in 18 counties, including Flagler, Volusia and Brevard.
“These school board races will reverberate in significance,” DeSantis told supporters in Jacksonville Sunday night.
Historically, school board elections have been nonpartisan in Florida since approval of Amendment 11 in 1998. According to state records, about 64% of voters approved an amendment that year that dropped political affiliations from school board races.
In a statement to News 6, DeSantis explained his decision to back the candidates is based on the individual candidates who agree with his philosophy — no mention of political affiliation has ever been made.
The governor said in part: ”These pro-parent, pro-student local school board candidates are committed to the DeSantis education agenda.”
According to his campaign website, the agenda “is a student-first, parent-centered initiative focused on setting Florida’s children up for success, ensuring parental rights in education, and combatting the woke agenda from infiltrating public schools.”
UCF Professor Dr. James Clark said it is very unusual for a governor to get involved in local school board races.
“We haven’t seen anything like that before,” Clark said.
Clark told News 6 he views the primary as a dress rehearsal for the November general election.
“I think it will show his influence and what kind of following he has statewide,” Clark said. “He’s putting his prestige on the line in 30 elections.”
DeSantis spent the last Sunday before the Tuesday primary in Volusia, Duval, Miami Dade and Sarasota Counties, delivering speeches that took aim at the Biden administration, inflation and what he called the “threat of woke indoctrination” in Florida classrooms.
Clark told News 6 the school board endorsements will provide a preview of how the governor’s brand will play this fall and beyond.
“He has identified races and people where he wants the incumbent of challengers defeated, and he’s going after them,” Clark said. “So this isn’t going to be a test for Trump in Florida but for Gov. DeSantis.”
Statewide polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. People in line at 7 p.m. will still be allowed to vote. Anyone who arrives after 7 p.m. will not be able to cast their ballot.
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