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Florida’s cost of protecting Governor Ron DeSantis mounts as he became GOP presidential hopeful

MIAMI (AP) — The cost of protecting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, his family and visiting officials has spiked over the past year as the Republican presidential hopeful embarked on an aggressive travel schedule and entered the GOP primary.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in a report released this week that it spent more than $8 million protecting the governor from July 2022 to June 2023. That was nearly 70% more than the $4.8 million was reported last year. The total FDLE protection cost, including Florida first lady Casey DeSantis, their family, the governor’s mansion and visiting dignitaries, was $9.9 million, compared to $6.1 million the previous year.

Florida law requires the Department of Law Enforcement to provide security for the governor and his immediate family whether he is in the state or not.

DeSantis press secretary Jeremy Redfern said the governor has demanded more security as his notoriety has grown.

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“His track record as the most effective conservative governor in U.S. history has also earned him a heightened threat profile, and FDLE has increased the number of protective agents to ensure the governor and his family remain safe,” Redfern said in a statement. .

DeSantis has traveled extensively since announcing that he was running for the GOP presidential nomination. In recent weeks, DeSantis has dismissed concerns about hurdles he faces in growing his following. His polls are stagnant as some question his campaign’s central message that he is better suited to defeat President Joe Biden next fall.

The charges tallied in the Aug. 15 report spanned just over a month after he ran for office on May 24. During that time he traveled to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Arizona, Oklahoma, Nevada and Texas.

He and his staff were involved in a car accident in Tennessee in which one of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers drove DeSantis’ car, but was not injured.

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Before he officially launched his campaign, he traveled to Israel, New York and California, among others.

The annual report provided to the governor, his cabinet, and the legislature does not provide a cost breakdown, stating only that salaries to protect DeSantis totaled $5 million, while transportation and expenses totaled $3 million.

The Associated Press requested DeSantis’ calendar, itinerary and other details in March, but his office has so far declined to release them.

The stated cost for dignitaries visiting the state nearly tripled from $154,095 to $457,242. Not all of those dignitaries have met DeSantis. Included in the expenses are visits from Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been in a public battle with DeSantis over Florida’s adoption of new educational standards, including instructions that enslaved people benefit from skills they learn.

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