Organized labor, more specifically organized police labor, is lining up behind Rep. Ron DeSantis in support of his bid to become the next governor of Florida.
The International Union of Police Associations just backed the Republican with a rare political endorsement. Writing to DeSantis in a public letter, union president Sam Cabral noted that while “we very seldom make political endorsements in state elections,” the organization got involved “in this campaign because of the extreme positions embraced by Mayor Gillum.”
“We felt we could not remain neutral,” Cabral added, and with that one of the most influential special interests has given the Republican candidate an important boost and a slew of persuasive talking points. DeSantis has made policing a central theme in the final stretch of the campaign.
It has very much become Republicans and the police versus Democrats and challenger Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a narrative bolstered by the union that represents “100,000 active duty rank-and-file law enforcement professionals” across the country.
That union has echoed DeSantis' criticism of Gillum, zeroing in on the Democrat’s decision to align himself with a civil rights group called Dream Defenders. Started after the death of Trayvon Martin, the organization is a gold mine for opposition researchers. For instance, the Defenders pan the police and the prison system as having “always been about safety for the haves while wreaking havoc for the have-nots.”
Gillum hasn’t disavowed the organization so far and DeSantis hasn’t let up in his criticism.
“He will not disavow them because this is who he is,” he told Breitbart News, an outlet particularly sympathetic to this messaging. “I mean when they are saying he is part of the movement they are not lying. He is one of them.”
DeSantis regularly makes this argument on the campaign trail, even organizing a news conference with Northeast Florida sheriffs. And the Republican Governor’s Association bolstered that message recently by recruiting law enforcement from around the state to criticize Gillum.
Conventional political wisdom suggests the combined pro-police message will play to the advantage of DeSantis. It is also at the same time a referendum on whether throwback tough-on-crime rhetoric or progressive far-left rhetoric holds sway in the Sunshine State.