ORLANDO, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis is about to hit the campaign trail, but today, he was in Orlando addressing families at the Florida Parent Educators Association’s Homeschool Convention.
“Good morning, homeschool convention!” DeSantis told the crowd.
It was his first public appearance since he announced his 2024 presidential campaign.
This convention is not a political event. The Florida Parent Educators Association says it exists to help families with homeschooling.
For approximately 30 minutes, DeSantis discussed familiar topics—parental rights, Disney, and COVID.
“Every school had to be open for in-person instruction,” DeSantis said. “We knew it was the right thing to do, the media was lying about it, the left was lying about it even some republicans were very weak on it but we did the right thing.”
News Channel 8 was one of only a handful of cameras inside the event. Several thousand showed up to hear him speak. It was a diverse, family-oriented group. A DeSantis-friendly crowd.
Now, the question is: Will the applause translate into votes in the primary? This was our first chance to speak directly with voters.
“I’m very grateful for Gov. DeSantis, he’s done a great job in Florida for parents,” said Matthew Rowley.
We asked them about the governor’s botched Twitter Spaces announcement alongside Elon Musk. Many in attendance, including Amy Dearie, told News Channel 8 they didn’t watch the event—at least not live.
“I’ve been on Twitter since ’08 and I’m kind of shocked, like the whole thing I didn’t know about,” Dearie said.
“I listened to his spaces with David Sacks and Elon Musk and I thought he did a great job,” said Rowley.
Patrice Huertas has seen the governor speak at the convention for the past few years.
“I think the majority of us love him as a governor,” said Huertas. “Not that I wouldn’t want to see him run for president, but maybe later— after Mr. Trump. I think there’s really big shoes to fill in the next election, and I just feel like it’s not his time just yet.”
“I love that he’s caring about what they’re listening to and seeing. I’m sad that sometimes it’s projected as if he is trying to ban things,” said Dearie.
We saw a few DeSantis 2024 shirts in the crowd. We talked to as many people as we could, but it’s hard to know who they support overall.
But all the parents did agree on one thing. They want to be the one who decides what their children see, read and learn.