DeSantis’ first live virtual rally hosted by Indian American community leader Danny Gaekwad attracted over 100,000 viewers
Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who started the tradition of celebrating Diwali with the Indian American community at the Governor’s Mansion when he became governor in 2019, will do it again on Oct 26.
“We had a massive crowd come to (state capital) Tallahassee,” recalled DeSantis, who is running for reelection, at a live virtual rally hosted by Indian American entrepreneur and community leader Danny Gaekwad on Oct 20.
“Most of the people were from other parts of the state. It was a long long travel, but they did and so we were happy to start the tradition,” he said. “Covid interrupted that a little bit, but we said we are definitely going to keep it on target, so we’re looking forward to doing that.”
DeSantis’ first live virtual rally held on the community based digital technology ‘We Must Meet’ attracted over 100,000 viewers. People who missed the live rally, can now view it on this link: https://wemustmeet.com/governor-ron-desantis/
American and Hollywood singer actress Mary Millben who is a story of the American dream, and a brand rooted in God, sang America’s and India’s national anthems at the virtual rally.
DeSantis, who is facing Democratic nominee, Charlie Crist in the Nov 8 gubernatorial election, said he was “just really looking forward to continuing the success in Florida.”
Noting Florida today has the second lowest unemployment rate and the largest budget surplus in the history of the state, the governor said he would continue to keep a great focus on education through 12 state universities.
The Republican leader, who is considered a frontrunner for the GOP nomination for president in 2024, also answered questions about issues related to Indian Americans during a discussion moderated by Gaekwad.
In response to a question about how he could assist small hotel owners protect their investment, earn a living and keep their staff members employed in the face of fierce competition from Airbnb vacation rentals which don’t have to follow ADA compliant, licensing permitting, taxing and inspection standards, DeSantis said the issue was pending before the next legislative session.
“There’s a lot of issues and it’s just not the same thing as a standard hotel and so there’s a lot of people that are talking about it and I’m sure you’re going to see at least some sort of address by the Florida legislature,” he said.
Asked how the Asian American Hotel Owners Association and the Indian American business community can support his tireless efforts in dealing with the hurricane recovery, DeSantis said hotels can be a big part of efforts to provide temporary housing.
They could also contribute to the Florida disaster fund run by the state’s First Lady, which has raised $46 million so far. “That money has been used to help people who have been displaced. We started with police and fire. We are going to do stuff for teachers as well as the broader community,” he said. “That is a way you can be helpful if you want to do the charitable angle.”
Asked about the education policies — an issue of great interest to Indian American parents — he had put in place, the governor said, “Sure in the state of Florida we believe in high-quality education. We also think it should be attainable for people.”
“I am not a big fan of kids having to go 100,000 dollars in debt to get a four-year degree. If you’re going to MIT and you’re going to be an engineer, you’re going to be fine. But there are a lot of fourth tier private colleges that are charging an arm and a leg.”
“So I have not let our universities to raise tuition since I have been governor. If you are in state in Florida, it’s about $6200 for tuition. And We have bright student scholarships with which you can pay all of it or most of it.
“And also we have a lot of senior citizens. Grandparents can qualify on behalf of their grandkids for in-state tuition in the state of Florida. We believe it’s got to be affordable. We believe it got to be high-quality,”
“Just now university of Florida just hit number five for public universities in the country. So you have UCLA, Berkeley Michigan, Virginia and then the University of Florida. That was not true 25 years ago. So we like the progress we are making academically,” DeSantis said.
Noting there is a major shortage of phsysicans in the state and in the country, as evidenced by the pandemic, Gaekwad asked on behalf of Indian American physicians how 10,000 or more residency spots can be created with alternate licensing pathway to allow them to legally work and take care of citizens.
“Well, it has been an issue because you know, Flordia has slots for graduate medical education and there’s a federal component to this where they are limiting basically what you can do,” DeSantis said.
“We can maybe potentially do some of our own stuff independently of that but of those slots that have been available are far less than what’s needed in a growing state and in fact, we have people graduate medical shool from Flordia who can’t get a residency so they end up going to other states,” he said.
“And we know once you go to another state for your residency, the chances of you coming back diminishes greatly, so there’s definitely a need for more residency slots. I work with different physician and hospital groups to figure out some solutions that I think the legislature will provide some in the next legisulature sessions,” DeSantis said.
Noting that India had become the 5th largest economy, having just surpassed the UK economy last month, Gaekwad asked if the governor would consider opening an enterprise Florida office in India to start cultural, educational, and business relationship in a big way.
“Yes, so I think I’ve actually have been talking about once we get into the selection doing a trade mission to some of our allies in Asia,” DesSantis said.
“And i think its important because if you look at China, we have the incentive as the United States to work with countries like India and Japan, Australia, South Korea, to have an economical alternative to just feeding the Chinese beast,” he said. “So I think India is a huge part of that and I think the extent we could have more business ties with Florida and India.”