At the Republican Party of Florida’s Statesman’s Dinner on Thursday, numerous high-profile Florida Republicans and guest speakers – including former collegiate swimmer Riley Gaines and conservative pundit Ben Shapiro – lauded the policy work and culture of “The Free State of Florida.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Keep Florida Free” moniker was center stage throughout the evening.
California Governor Gavin Newsom and his crumbling state along with Florida Democrats were the butt of the jokes throughout the night.
“Florida is an amazing place to live but California is a dumpster fire,” said Shapiro.
Florida Senator Rick Scott also took part in Democrat-bashing.
“Thank God for the Florida Democrat Party ” Scott noted. “I mean how can you be so incompetent” – while referencing the 2021 scandal where the Florida Democrat Party allowed health insurance to lapse for their employees and never notified them.
Shapiro joked that if Andrew Gillum had defeated DeSantis in 2018, Florida would “be in a very different place. First, the governor’s mansion would be filled with crystal meth.”
Religious themes were present throughout the night, as well.
Gaines, in particular, asked why it appears the country is declining quicker.
“Why is this happening?” Gaines asked. “As a Christian I know why. The Bible tells us that it’s entirely spiritual warfare. It really is moral versus evil. But we know who wins. That’s really what keeps me going.”
Similarly, Shapiro reflected on the Exodus story and how “righteous action is the antidote” to cultural victory.
Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez – following Gaines’ story of competing against a man who identifies as a woman – noted that “God picks your pronouns.”
Florida Senator Rick Scott ripped into blue states while noting that Floridians “Believe in God, believe in hard work, and have the best people in the country.”
The fervor of the night consisted of extolling a victory lap for Florida. But the speakers still had their sights set on the 2024 election cycle.
“The stakes have never been greater,” said Christian Ziegler, Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. Ziegler was the introductory speaker and emcee for the night. “Losing is not an option.”
Ziegler continued by noting the extreme divide between the radical Democrats and the Florida Republican Party.
“Democrats aren’t just content with teaching our children to hate America or sexualize their minds, but they are openly in favor of mutilating children,” Ziegler said.
Before the event started and attendees were making their way into the hotel ballroom, videos sent in from various presidential candidates were playing on the screens. Notably, applause and cheers from attendees only came during the videos sent in from former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Despite no mention of 2024 predictions, it was a night where Trump and DeSantis were each held in high esteem among the attendees, seemingly not tipping their hand as to whom they would support in the presidential primary.
“Donald Trump taught us how to fight,” Ziegler said. “Shifting the Republican Party from a social club to a fight club. And Ron DeSantis has taught us how to lead.”
It was unanimous, however, that the room was unified in the goal of defeating Democrats and Democrat policies.
“When Biden started releasing people into our state, Florida fought back,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. “When Title 42 was expiring, can’t someone do something? Florida fought back.”
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis made the joke that his official 2024 prediction is that “A Florida man is going to be the nominee.”
The evening concluded with an announcement from Ziegler that Miami will host the third Republican presidential primary.