On DeSantis’ turf, Newsom denounced the conservative education campaign

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Sarasota, Fla. (AP) — In an appearance Wednesday on the Republican lawn of Ron DeSantis, California Gov. Gavin Newsom denounced what he called a backward conservative attempt to reshape education in the United States — most notably in progressive institutions like the New College of Florida.

Newsom, a Democrat, met with more than a dozen students and faculty at a library near the New College campus in Sarasota as part of a tour of Republican-led states. — aims to boost his fellow Democrats and criticize what he said were GOP efforts to ban abortion, trample LGBT rights, weaken civil and voting rights, and marginalize people of color.

“I can’t believe what you’re dealing with. It’s just incredibly offensive,” Newsom said. “It’s common with everything he does, which is bullying and intimidating vulnerable communities. Weakness, Ron DeSantis, weakness masquerading as strength across the board.”

Newsom frequently criticized DeSantis, even using some of his unspent campaign money for a television ad in Florida that urged people to move to California “where we still believe in freedom.” DeSantis once joked that Newsom’s “carefully polished hair gel interfered with his brain function”.

Newsom has also been mentioned as a possible future Democratic presidential candidate, a campaign DeSantis is widely expected to launch on the 2024 GOP side in the coming months. Newsom said he will not run for president in 2024, when President Joe Biden will seek re-election. His term as governor ends in 2026, so he can run for president in 2028.

Asked for comment on Wednesday’s visit, DeSantis spokesman Brian Griffin said in an email that the Florida governor is “focused on refocusing Florida’s public institutions of higher education on academics and the truth.” The stunts of political opponents do not matter and have no effect.”

The overhaul of New College, a liberal arts school with about 700 students, began when DeSantis appointed a conservative majority to its board of trustees.. The board replaced the school’s president with DeSantis’ ally, former GOP House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and repealed Its small office focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. More changes are expected to come.

This is part of a broader effort led by DeSantis and a consensus GOP legislature to reshape education at various levels, including getting rid of undergraduate DEI programs, encouraging private school attendance by offering taxpayer-funded vouchers regardless of income, and restricting and banning books. , and limit discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in class. DeSantis aggregates all of these issues and more into a category he called “wake up” that should be dumped in what he calls “the free state of Florida.”

This week, Newsom and his family also visited a black church in Mississippi, met Democrats in Arkansas and toured a museum about the history of slavery in Alabama. The tour is part of Newsom’s goal to reshape the message of the Democratic Party. Which he believes has been too soft on Republicans in recent years.

“There is a word: freedom. No coercion. Academic freedom,” Newsom said. “I’m just trying to wake people up.”

New College students and faculty who attended the meeting spoke of the fear and anxiety many felt about the conservative changes. Mitzi Escalante, a sophomore in sociology and psychology, said the students never expected to become part of a heated political debate that would affect them directly.

“I feel like we’re a pawn,” Escalante said. “I just don’t think education is something we should use as a weapon. It’s just a personal attack.”

Walter Gilbert, former president of the NAACP’s Sarasota chapter, urged students to continue protesting and make their voices heard as the trustees try to push through more changes.

“Sometimes you have to get out there and hold a protest sign,” Gilbert said, referring to how long it takes blacks in once-segregated Sarasota to gain access to local beaches. “You have to do it.”


Associated Press writer Adam Beam contributed from Sacramento, California.