DeSantis at Basque Fry: ‘We need to restore sanity in this country’

Gun Rights

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis faced an estimated crowd of 2,000 conservatives Saturday at Northern Nevada’s annual Basque Fry – an event that has been solidly Donald Trump country for years.

Many attendees wore Trump shirts and hats while listening to DeSantis’ case for why he should get their vote instead of the former president in February’s 2024 Republican presidential-preference primary.

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Watch: Hear from voters at 8th annual Basque Fry

Voters shared their thoughts on the upcoming Republican primary at the 8th annual Basque Fry in Gardnerville.

Jason Bean, Reno Gazette Journal

His 45-minute campaign speech never mentioned frontrunner Trump by name.

DeSantis made it clear, though, that he thinks Trump is more focused on himself than delivering on the overall vision they both seek: beating back what they call radical leftist government that they believe is destroying cities and the nation.

“At the end of the day, leadership is not about entertainment, it’s not about brand building,” said DeSantis, wearing a plain blue short-sleeved button-down shirt and jeans. “Leadership is about producing results for the people that you represent.”

Under a blue sky with snow-topped mountains behind him, he said he’s running for president because he wants to reverse societal declines brought on by “the dumpster fire of woke ideology” that is afflicting cities like San Francisco – and that he thinks his record in Florida shows success after success in doing just this.

“We need to restore sanity in this country,” DeSantis said. “We need to restore a sense of normalcy to our communities. We need to make sure our institutions have integrity.”

Holding a cordless microphone, the 44-year-old governor talked casually and quickly, running through numerous problems he sees in the country and how his administration handled them in Florida. These included bureaucracies being too sluggish in responding to disasters, prosecutors who don’t prosecute certain crimes, and school curricula informed by race and gender ideologies.

DeSantis peppered his remarks with Nevada-specific details that generated applause and laughs. He said that Friday night he went to the Reno Rodeo, where his two oldest children stayed to watch bull riding.

While most of the upbeat crowd stayed under large white tent structures, about 100 attendees stood in the direct sun for his entire speech. More than a few took selfies with DeSantis in the background.

Disappointment rippled through the crowd early in the day when Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony mentioned in passing from the stage that Gov. Joe Lombardo would not be attending.

It was later announced that Lombardo would be staying in Las Vegas for Saturday night’s Golden Knights parade to celebrate their victory in hockey’s Stanley Cup championship.

Two other speakers on the printed program also didn’t show up: U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei and former National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch. A representative from Never Back Down – the PAC supporting DeSantis and co-hosting the Basque Fry – told the RGJ that Amodei had a scheduling issue and Loesch missed a connecting flight.

These unfilled spots led to a lengthy break for lunch where people lined up to eat stewed and fried lamb’s testicles along with sausage and fries.

Other speakers included talk show host Dave Rubin and political operative Steve Cortes, who’d worked on Trump’s campaigns in 2016 and 2020 but who now advises Never Back Down.

Democrats held a news conference Friday in Reno to criticize DeSantis as extreme and linking him to Trump.

“(DeSantis’) MAGA agenda is full of dangerous policies that I believe will hurt Nevadans, including banning abortion, cutting Social Security and Medicare, turning the Silver State into a nuclear waste dump, and peddling baseless claims about the 2020 election,” said Reno city council member Devon Reese.

DeSantis’ record in Florida “is against everything we stand for here in Nevada, and his assault on reproductive freedom and the right to have free and fair elections will not be tolerated.”

At Saturday’s Basque Fry at Corley Ranch, DeSantis did not mention his signing of a law in April to ban abortion after six weeks – nor did he mention Social Security, Medicare, nuclear waste or the 2020 election results.

In perhaps a reference to Trump’s evidence-free claims about widespread voter fraud, DeSantis said it was time to stop making excuses for poor election performances.

Most speakers mentioned how DeSantis squeaked by with a victory margin of less than 1% in 2018’s Florida governor’s race while in 2022, he won with more than 19% of the vote and claimed victory in the Democrat-stronghold of Miami-Dade County.

“We had a red wave in Florida,” he said. “We showed what it means to win and win big. For the first time since the era of the Civil War, there’s not one single Democrat elected to statewide office.

“That’s called winning, and that’s what we need to do.”

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