“People vote with their feet,” he said at a press briefing at the Cape Coral High School on July 8. “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.”
“Yes, we’ve created a citadel of freedom here that has attracted people, and we’re proud of it. But let’s just be clear. California is driving people away with their terrible governance,” he added.
DeSantis made the remarks in response to a 30-second ad campaign that newsom launched on July 4, rallying Sunshine State residents to move to California, a state he said still “believe[s] in freedom.”
“Freedom is under attack in your state,” Newsom said in the 30-second ad that aired on Fox News targeting the state’s legislative acts, such as a 15-week abortion ban and a bill barring classroom instruction on sexual orientation in kindergarten through grade 3.
Both Newsom and DeSantis face gubernatorial reelections this November. The ad has fueled speculation that Newsom is positioning himself as a contender in the 2024 presidential race, although the governor himself has disavowed such intentions. DeSantis, while enjoying growing support among Republican voters, hasn’t said if he will run.
“Everyone wants to talk about me and Florida,” DeSantis said at the Friday press briefing when asked about Newsom’s Florida ad. “I’m just sitting here, little old me, doing my job.”
He took a swipe at the California governor’s apparent violation of his own pandemic restrictions, noting that Newsom had dined at the $350-per-person French Laundry restaurant even when the state was in lockdown.
It was “to basically rub his citizens’ noses in the fact that he was treating them like peasants,” said DeSantis.
Newsom later apologized for attending the 12-person dinner, calling it “a bad mistake.”
Despite the California governor’s call for Floridians to join his state, DeSantis noted that the traffic appears to be going in the other direction.
A recent analysis by Moody’s Analytics shows that red states have been outpacing blue states in economic recovery. Florida from July 2020 to July 2021 gained over 211,000 residents, placing it second only to Texas in net population growth, census population estimates show. Roughly 262,000 residents left California over the same period, the second largest population decline next to New York.
Companies are also flocking to Republican states where tax policies and regulations are more business-friendly.
Florida ranked as the second-best state for business in a Forbes survey of about 700 CEOs and business owners, while California came at the bottom of the list.
“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,” said DeSantis. “You now see a lot of them. I can tell you if you go to California you ain’t seeing many Florida license plates.”
“It’s almost hard to drive people out of a place like California given all their natural advantages, and yet they’re finding a way to do it,” said DeSantis.