The ongoing feud between California Governor Gavin Newsom and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has reached new levels of acrimony, with both leaders seemingly eager to escalate tensions.
Over the past year, Newsom and DeSantis have sparred on various issues, including book bans, abortion, and guns. However, their recent clash took a more serious turn when Newsom hinted at the possibility of state criminal charges against DeSantis.
The provocation came after more than a dozen asylum seekers were flown to Sacramento and left at a Catholic church, mirroring a controversial flight facilitated by the DeSantis administration last fall that ignited a nationwide debate on immigration.
While Newsom has publicly criticized his Republican counterpart in the past, the threat of criminal charges takes the confrontation to a new level, especially now that DeSantis has declared his candidacy for the GOP’s 2024 nomination. The tension between the two governors escalated further after a second flight arrived in Sacramento, carrying migrants who reportedly possessed Florida documentation, according to California authorities.
On Monday, Newsom took to Twitter, referring to DeSantis as a “small, pathetic man” and questioning the possibility of “kidnapping charges,” citing California’s criminal code, which defines kidnapping as transporting someone against their will through force or fraud.
“You small, pathetic man,” Newsom tweeted at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday morning. “This isn’t Martha’s Vineyard. Kidnapping charges?”
However, pursuing kidnapping charges against a rival governor presents significant legal challenges, primarily centered around proving that the other state’s chief executive was directly responsible for luring migrants onto a plane under false pretenses.
Despite these obstacles, Newsom continues to threaten such charges, highlighting the recent arrivals of 36 individuals in Sacramento via two flights. Although neither flight originated in Florida, Newsom squarely placed the blame on the Sunshine State, as he did during last year’s controversy when migrants were flown to Sacramento and Martha’s Vineyard.
Newsom’s previous call for a federal investigation into the earlier flights did not yield any public actions by the U.S. Department of Justice. Consequently, immigrant advocates argue that the consequences of federal inaction last year are now manifesting in Sacramento, with exhausted and hungry individuals arriving in the state.
Chris Rickerd, an immigration and border consultant, criticized the dismissal of the flights as mere stunts last year and emphasized the need to address the issue before it escalated.
A spokesperson for California Attorney General Rob Bonta revealed that the migrants were transported through a program operated by Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, executed by the same contractor responsible for flying migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in September. Bonta condemned the situation, stating, “State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice; it is immoral and disgusting.”
Matt Rexroad, a California-based Republican consultant, told Politico that Newsom’s attacks will supply DeSantis with plenty of campaign trail fodder.
“The best thing that could happen to Ron DeSantis is the liberal governor of California attacks him as he’s running for president,” said Matt Rexroad, a California-based Republican consultant. “And the best thing for Gavin Newsom, who wants to be plan B for the nomination this time or plan A next time, would be to be attacked by the governor of Florida.”
“I’ll call it right now that Governor DeSantis will be making a big deal out of this in Iowa and New Hampshire,” he added.
As the feud between Newsom and DeSantis deepens, the focus now shifts to the legal complexities and moral implications surrounding the transportation of migrants and the potential ramifications for both governors involved.
It’s become heated enough to set up an intriguing potential showdown should the California governor decide to jump into the 2024 race, as some political observers have predicted.