JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Republican Party of Duval County organized a flotilla on the St. Johns River Saturday to honor Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Boat after Boat paraded toward the Main Street Bridge, starting around noon, as some state party leaders watched from the deck of the USS Orleck.
GOP leaders said it was the first big, organized flotilla for the governor and more than 1,300 boats registered for the event, which coincided with Jacksonville’s Bicentennial and a quarterly gathering of The Republican Party of Florida in the River City.
PHOTO GALLERY: Over 1,000 boats participate in DeSantis Flotilla
“The boating community really supports our governor, and I think it’s a great way to show support. It’s a different way. People take notice,” said Christian Ziegler, vice-chair of the state GOP.
Many of the boats flew American and DeSantis flags -- with some passengers dressing like the American flag themselves.
But despite the enthusiasm on display, Duval County Democratic Party Chair Daniel Henry said not everyone is happy with the direction Florida is heading.
“It’s interesting for it to be happening on our city’s bicentennial,” Henry said. “I think that for many that live here, I think that they’re more focused on what the governor could be more focused on -- what the governor could be doing to make their lives a lot easier to live.”
He mentioned high housing costs and inflation.
According to real estate brokerage firm Redfin, rents and home prices in Jacksonville rose more than 20% from 2021 to 2022.
“Duval County is a big priority of ours. There are a lot of votes in this area, and it’s really a battleground area,” Henry said.
Records from the Supervisor of Election’s Office show DeSantis lost to Democrat Andrew Gillum in Duval County in 2018 by about 17,000 votes, a result Republican organizers are hoping to see reversed this November.
A few Gov. DeSantis flags were displayed on the USS Orleck Saturday, and according to the IRS, nonprofits like the naval museum ship are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in any campaign for a candidate. The local GOP says they’re allowed to hang the flags because they leased the ship for their event.
A representative from the USS Orleck said the nonprofit was hosting rather than campaigning itself, and they would gladly host a Democratic event, as well.