COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis canceled a day of presidential campaign appearances to deal with crises at home as his state mourns a racist fatal shooting in Jacksonville and prepares for a tropical storm.
A day after appearing in Iowa, DeSantis was back in the state capital of Tallahassee on Sunday for a news conference on Tropical Storm Idalia. He urged Floridians to heed the advice of emergency managers. He also offered condolences and condemned the killing of three Black people by a white man who authorities say left behind a suicide note, a will, and writings with racist material.
DeSantis’ campaign schedule had called for him to be in South Carolina Monday for a morning town hall in Kershaw and a barbecue with Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., in Anderson. But Sunday night, his campaign spokesman Bryan Griffin announced the governor was canceling his South Carolina travel. His wife, Casey DeSantis, is still expected to appear at the barbecue but the town hall in Kershaw was canceled.
“In light of the approaching hurricane, the Governor will be staying in Florida on Monday to assist with preparations,” Griffin said.
Asked at his Sunday news conference whether he would be in Florida this week, DeSantis responded, “I’m here. I’m here.”
“We’re locked in on this; we’re going to get the job done. This is important. So people can rest assured,” the governor said, adding that the state is staging personnel and equipment to prepare for the storm.
DeSantis has stumbled on the national stage since beginning his presidential campaign earlier this year and has at times struggled to connect with voters. He returned to Florida from Iowa, where he is campaigning extensively and hoping for a strong showing in the state’s leadoff caucuses. He remains in a distant second place behind former President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination.
The storm is pointed toward Florida as the nation tries to make sense of another mass shooting Saturday, this time at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, where a 21-year-old white man fatally shot three Black people. Federal authorities are investigating the attack as a hate crime.
“Perpetrating violence of this kind is unacceptable, and targeting people due to their race has no place in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.
Cooper reported from Phoenix.
Jonathan J. Cooper And Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press