Florida's costs for protecting Gov. Ron DeSantis rise as he became GOP presidential hopeful

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Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis shakes hands with fairgoers after taking part in a Fair-Side Chat with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds at the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

MIAMI – The costs for protecting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, his family and visiting officials rose sharply over the last 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 to protect the governor from July 2022 to June 2023. That went up nearly 70% from the $4.8 million reported the previous year. FDLE's total protection costs to include Florida first lady Casey DeSantis, their family, the governor’s mansion and visiting dignitaries were $9.9 million, up from $6.1 million the previous year.

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Florida law requires that the department of law enforcement provide security for the governor and his immediate family whether or not he is in the state.

DeSantis' press secretary, Jeremy Redfern, said that the governor has required more security as his prominence has risen.

“His record as the most effective conservative governor in American history has also earned him an elevated 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 been traveling widely since he announced he was running for the GOP presidential nomination. In the past few weeks, DeSantis has dismissed concerns about hurdles he faces trying to grow his support. His polling numbers are stagnant as some have questioned his campaign’s central message that he is better suited to defeat President Joe Biden next fall.

The costs tallied in the Aug. 15 report include a little more than a month after he declared his candidacy on May 24. In 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, with one of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s agents driving DeSantis' vehicle, but was not hurt.

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

The annual report provided to the governor, his cabinet and Legislature does not provide a breakdown of the costs and just listed that salaries to protect DeSantis totaled $5 million while transportation and expenditures totaled $3 million.

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

The costs listed for dignitaries visiting the state nearly tripled from $154,095 to $457,242. Not all of those dignitaries met with 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 education standards, which include instruction that enslaved people benefited from skills that they learned.

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