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TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Gov. Ron DeSantis fired up the first day of a gathering of conservative lawmakers in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, issuing a call against new federal mask guidelines.
The governor first joked that the estimated 450 maskless legislators and lobbyists gathered in a ballroom for an American Legislative Exchange Conference apparently did not get the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention memo.
DeSantis then drew a line in the sand against government-imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and its variants.
“I think it’s very important that we say, unequivocally, no to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions and no (to) mandates,” DeSantis said to applause and cheers.
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ALEC's aim is to draft model legislation for introduction in states by conservative legislators.
DeSantis is touted as a potential 2024 presidential candidate and is in a statistical tie with Donald Trump Jr. in one poll. He headlined the first day of this year’s meeting.
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Fighting against a 'Faucian dystopia'
In a 15-minute address, he declared Floridians are “free to choose” how to fight the pandemic, and mocked any pending government issued restrictions as based on “the whims of bureaucratic authorities,” who want to consign Americans into a “Faucian dystopia.”
“(They) care little for our freedom, they care little for our aspirations and little for our happiness. No more! We can’t let it happen going forward,” DeSantis said.
The governor recounted how he had held the line in Florida, rejected mask mandates, kept schools opened and fought back against proposed vaccine passports.
He said he has no intentions to back down should the federal government impose any more restrictions: “I can tell you this. We’ve only begun to fight.”
The remarks came as the virus and its variants are surging across the state. Recently, Florida accounted for 20% of new cases nationwide. DeSantis has attributed the surge to a “summer COVID season.”
'Sounded ... like he was' running for president
ALEC’s national chairman, Stuart Adams, praised DeSantis for setting an example for other leaders, telling the Salt Lake Tribune he thought DeSantis was someone who should run for president.
“It sounded today like he was,” said Adams, president of the Utah State Senate.
While in Utah, DeSantis also had lunch with Utah GOP Gov. Spencer Cox at the home of real estate investor Scott Keller, a regular donor to Republican politicians and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
DeSantis has yet to announce his reelection campaign for governor in 2022. In his most recent campaign finance report, he had $44 million available.
James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on him Twitter: @CallTallahassee
This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: DeSantis mocks CDC, Fauci, raises money at ALEC meeting