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Florida governor eyes possible presidential campaign from Buffalo

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Rick Bowmer
Associated Press

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped into town Tuesday and flew away with probably tens of thousands of dollars for his 2022 re-election fund.

While the money is for next year's governor's race, DeSantis is often mentioned as a presidential candidate in 2024. That's especially true if another Florida politician, who currently lives in Mar-A-Lago, chooses not to seek a second term.

Tuesday's event at Sinatra's on Kenmore Avenue in Buffalo was sponsored by developer and restaurateur Nick Sinatra and State Republican Chair Nick Langworthy. Tickets were $5,000 each for drinks and dinner.

Why did Buffalonians show up and contribute?

Among the attendees was lawyer and former New York State Attorney General Dennis Vacco. Vacco said his law firm does business in Florida.

"A very substantial presence in the State of Florida. We have a very large office in Jacksonville," Vacco said. "So we do a lot of business in Florida and we respect what Governor DeSantis is doing in Florida and we're looking to grow our law firm and our service to our clients in Florida. So this is just a natural event for me to attend."

Eastman Machine President and CEO Robert Stevenson also stopped to talk after the event.

"He's got an election coming up next year, which is what he's geared towards and I think it's going to be a tough election," Stevenson said. "Florida's the third-most populous state and it's gaining people all the time and they said it's one of the states that has the most influx of population the last couple of years. He said, 'I credit that to the climate we've created in Florida. People aren't coming there to hide. They want to be in Florida.'"

Stevenson said DeSantis pitches the Sunshine State as a great place to do business, with low taxes and well-maintained infrastructure, and a government that spends a lot less money than New York.

"They have in the sense of what he did mention is that New York State has 3 million less people than Florida has. Florida's half the budget. And yet, the infrastructure down there is great," he said. "I do winter down there. The roads are great. The schools are great, from what I hear from local residents. And in New York, we seem to be always trying to figure stuff out and trying to get things repaired and we're spending many more tax dollars to do it."

Stevenson said DeSantis said little about his state's COVID problem other than that to say it's all up to school parents to decide issues like masks.

According to the Florida Dept. of Health, as of the day of the fundraiser, 71% of those 12 and over in Florida are vaccinated and the positivity rate is just over 21%. Numbers from the CDC released a few days earlier say that 66.8 percent of those who are eligible have riecieved one dose with 57 percent of the state's population being fully vaccinated.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.