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    Florida Gov. DeSantis may remain governor while running for president

    Florida lawmakers on Friday cleared the path for Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to run for president without resigning as governor, approving the measure as part of a broader elections bill.

    The bill, which passed on a mostly party-line vote in the Republican-controlled legislature, stipulates that a rule requiring political candidates already holding office to resign does not apply to anyone running for president or vice president.

    Coming ahead of DeSantis’s expected bid for the nation’s highest office, Republicans said the change simply clarified existing state law. Democrats decried it as a carve-out for DeSantis and questioned whether he could effectively govern while campaigning.

    DeSantis is expected to launch his 2024 presidential campaign after the state’s legislative session ends in May. He is poised to be a top rival of former president Donald Trump in a Republican primary that is also slated to include former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson and former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley.

    The measure, passed by the Senate on Wednesday and the House on Friday, brings Florida in line with most other states, which don’t require officeholders to resign before running for a federal post. It would also allow DeSantis to keep his job if he loses the presidential nomination or the general election.

    State Sen. Travis Hutson (R), who sponsored the amendment, said candidates for a federal office who hold a local or state elected position should be able to “window shop” and have their seat remain safe. Hutson said he believed DeSantis would “run the state without any issues” while campaigning.

    “If for some reason the governor is not going to win the president of the United States, I think he’s done a great job as our governor and I think he should stay here as our governor,” Hutson said before the Senate vote.

    Democrats protesting the change suggested DeSantis could neglect his duties as governor while running.

    State Sen. Tina Scott Polsky (D) said Florida lawmakers had previously implemented resign-to-run requirements “so people could focus on their campaign and not be negligent about their current office.”

    “How is it that … the governor of 23 million people is going to spend a year and a half going around this entire huge country and not govern the state?” she said in the Senate Wednesday. “Isn’t that a dereliction of duty, and we are giving him the pathway to do so?”

    DeSantis’s office did not immediately respond to a request from The Washington Post on Friday afternoon.

    The elections bill contained various other changes to Florida law, which Republicans characterized as improving efficiency and protecting voter information. Democrats objected to changes they said could suppress voting, such as a provision prohibiting non-U.S. citizens working for voter organizations from handling voter registration applications.

    During a lengthy debate Friday, House Democrats, who unanimously opposed the bill, said it would make it harder for people to cast ballots in Florida, a charge Republicans rejected.

    The bill, which had been passed in the state senate Wednesday, will move to DeSantis’s desk.

    DeSantis, who has signed into law measures such as a six-week abortion ban and a law restricting discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools, drew early conservative support. But his momentum has slowed, The Post reported this month, as donors and activists have contended with some worries about his viability in a general election and Trump has increased his lead over DeSantis in some polls.

    This spring, DeSantis went on a book tour across the country, promoting his memoir and testing the waters in states such as Iowa. He is now on an overseas trip to Japan, South Korea, Israel and the United Kingdom that his office billed as an international trade mission.

    Trump’s campaign has used DeSantis’s post as governor to attack him, going after DeSantis this week for traveling.

    “Ron DeSantis has spent half his time the past two months campaigning for president outside of Florida … while Florida taxpayers pick up the tab!” a Trump campaign statement said.

    Democrats in the statehouse had a similar message. Rep. Angie Nixon (D), who opposed the bill, said the measure would allow DeSantis “the ability to not do his job.”

    “Floridians are concerned. They’re concerned that our governor has already launched an unofficial presidential campaign, and if he is not forced to resign or run, he will continue to neglect his duties; i.e., be out of the state pandering to Ohio voters when part of [Florida] is underwater,” said Nixon, referring to historic flooding in Fort Lauderdale this month. “We need the governor of Florida to focus on Florida, which is what he took an oath to do.”



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