DeSantis fundraised in Michigan on Monday amid Florida COVID surge

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis raised hundreds of thousands of dollars toward his re-election campaign Monday during a series of fundraising events in Northern Michigan, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The events were held in the Petoskey area as Florida experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases that topped the state's hospitalization records when the state reported 11,515 hospitalized patients as of Tuesday

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown here in Salt Lake City in July, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars toward his reelection campaign Monday, Aug. 2, 2021 during a series of fundraising events in Northern Michigan, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The former Florida congressman was elected governor in 2018 and is running for re-election in 2022. DeSantis' popularity among Republicans over policies that avoid mask mandates and COVID business restrictions has increased over the past year, sparking speculation regarding the governor's viability as a running mate with former President Donald Trump in 2024 or as a presidential candidate if Trump doesn't run.

While the exact amount raised in Michigan Monday for the political committee Friends of Ron DeSantis is still unknown, a source said the total could be north of $1 million.

DeSantis' office staff referred questions about the trip to individuals in the governor's campaign, who did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser, who owns property in Petoskey's Bay Harbor neighborhood, declined to say Wednesday whether he attended the fundraiser. 

Florida campaign finance law requires campaign committees to file monthly reports on or before the 10th day of each month. So contributions DeSantis received Monday in Michigan don't have to be reported in Florida until early September.

In July alone, DeSantis received several contributions from Michigan residents including $10,000 from a southeast Michigan woman and $2,500 from a Petoskey communications group founder, according to disclosures from Friends of Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis has vowed not to impose a mask order or business restrictions during the rest of the coronavirus pandemic and has said he believes hospitalizations in Florida will drop in the next couple of weeks. The governor has said the spike is seasonal, driven by Floridians opting to spend more time indoors to escape the summer heat and humidity. 

Some experts have speculated Michigan's fall spike last year was driven by similar behavior, as colder weather forced more residents indoors. 

Last month, Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she has no plans to reimpose a mask mandate in Michigan "in the near future and maybe not ever."

Whitmer in March spent $27,521 in campaign money to fly to Florida in a private jet to visit her father, who the governor said was battling a chronic illness. Her visit to West Palm Beach came as cases were beginning to spike in Michigan and after her administration encouraged residents not to travel out of state because of the virus. 

After the trip was revealed, Florida's chief financial officer, Jimmy Patronis, sent Whitmer tourism pamphlets and encouraged her to share her experience in Florida publicly. 

"More importantly, however, don't be a stranger!" wrote Patronis, a Republican appointee.