TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Saying she “wants to take a page out of Oprah’s playbook,” Florida’s next first lady, Casey DeSantis, charmed an audience of mostly Republican women Monday, the day before her husband, Ron, will be sworn in as governor of the third-largest state in the nation.
“I really look forward to listening,” Casey DeSantis, 38, told reporters after addressing an early-morning crowd in the kickoff of festivities surrounding Tuesday’s inauguration.
The mother of two young children regaled the crowd with tales of her travels throughout the state last year while campaigning for her husband.
Riding around on an electric moped in Daytona Beach during Bike Week --- and winding up surrounded by Harleys --- was just one of the ways she helped her husband get elected.
“I get it. I know how hard it takes. I know there’s a lot that goes into making it happen,” Casey DeSantis, a former morning-television host, said.
Speaking to reporters after the event, titled “Women Transforming Florida: A Tribute Breakfast,” at Goodwood Museum, DeSantis said she hasn’t limited her agenda as first lady to a single issue.
“I’d like to pick more than one,” she said. “I want to take a page out of Oprah’s playbook. She said what makes the best interview are people who listen. So, what I want to do is approach this with humility and say that I might not know all the answers out of the gate. I want to listen to what the people say … and then I want to be able to help in any way that I can to really move the ball forward for the people of this state.”
Much of the morning’s program was devoted to praising women, including Republican voters who helped boost Ron DeSantis and Lt. Gov.-elect Jeanette Nuñez to victory in the 2018 elections.
“I’m inspired to pave the way and encourage young girls and women of all ages in all walks of life to follow their dreams. It’s taken a lot of work. It’s taken a lot of sacrifice,” Nuñez, 46, said. “But most importantly, it’s taken a lot of faith.”
Nuñez, a former legislator from Miami, will become the state’s highest-ranking Hispanic woman in history after taking office Tuesday.
“She is a rock star,” Casey DeSantis said.
The new governor, his wife and their two young children --- 2-year-old Madison and 10-month-old Mason --- intend to move into the governor’s mansion, marking the first time in a half-century since a young family has resided at 700 North Adams St.
Casey DeSantis called it an “honor and a privilege” to live in the mansion.
“The first thing I said was, we need to take all of Florida’s irreplaceable historic artifacts and move them up four feet, right? I was thinking about this beautiful early 20th-century wallpaper. Orange crayon wouldn’t look so good on that. So one of the first steps is to make sure that we baby-proof the mansion to preserve all of Florida’s history,” she told reporters. “Ron and I understand that this is the people’s house. It’s not our house. And so we want to make sure that people have the opportunity to see two young children growing up in the mansion. This is the first time that this has happened in 50 years. So it’s an honor and we look forward to really sharing the kids with everybody and sharing what I’m sure will be some hilarious stories.”
Some view Florida’s political lineup, with Casey DeSantis expected to play an important role in her husband’s administration, Nuñez, incoming Attorney General Ashley Moody and Agriculture Commissioner-elect Nikki Fried, as a reflection of the 2018 elections, viewed nationally as the “year of the woman.”
DeSantis and Nuñez top the “amazing, strong, accomplished females taking leadership roles,” Melissa Stone, a Republican political consultant who was one of outgoing Gov. Rick Scott’s chief advisers, told The News Service of Florida during a break in the Monday breakfast event.
Their presence in the administration will be an inspiration for other women, Stone predicted.
“The more you have a great number of women working together, that is what is going to make a real impression on women everywhere, encourage them and inspire them to take leadership roles,” she said
Expect the female leaders to play an important part in the 2020 elections; politicians of both parties --- including President Donald Trump, whose early endorsement helped boost DeSantis to a Republican primary victory --- consider Florida a must-win state.
When asked how she would boost turnout among women, Casey DeSantis pointed to a focus on issues that “everyone” believes in.
Cleaning up the state’s waterways --- “the lifeblood for our economy” --- is at the top of her list, she said.
“It’s not only for the economy. It’s also about the flora and fauna that call some of the most beautiful areas in Florida home. It’s for the businesses. We have to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can to support their interests. And then it’s also, as a mother, when you talk to people on the campaign trail and they say, ‘I would never let my kid swim in that water,’ or they say, ‘I let my child swim in that water and I wound up in the emergency room the next day,’ that’s not OK,” she said. “We’re gonna fix it. It just needs to be done because it’s the right thing.”
When asked for specifics on her plans, DeSantis smiled.
“Stay tuned. We’re gonna be busy,” she said.