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Jewish Florida lawmaker breaks from DeSantis and endorses Trump

Florida state Rep. Randy Fine was once Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Jewish outreach chair. He backed the governor’s legislative priorities. And he endorsed him for the Republican presidential nomination.

But, on Tuesday, Fine, the sole Jewish GOP lawmaker in the state’s legislature, announced he was switching his support to former president Donald Trump, accusing DeSantis of not doing enough to combat antisemitism in Florida in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war. Fine argued that Trump could better serve the Jewish community in Florida, citing the final straw in his concerns came after DeSantis didn’t respond to a letter asking him to address anti-Israel protests on college campuses since Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7.

Fine, who penned a Washington Times opinion piece laying out his reasoning for backing Trump, told The Washington Post that he has had other conversations with Jewish leaders in Florida who have felt dissatisfaction with DeSantis after recent incidents with white supremacy groups targeting Jewish people in Florida.

“The Nazis are very disturbing and unsettling,” Fine said, “but they’re nowhere near as threatening as Hamas. And so things have just taken on a whole new level of seriousness since Oct. 7.”

Fine also claimed Trump has done more for Israel than any previous president, highlighting his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Trump faced widespread criticism from Democrats and Republicans — including DeSantis, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley — after he referred to Hezbollah militants as “very smart” and criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Fine, however, said Trump’s comments were misconstrued for political gain and should not be considered praising the terrorist group.

“You’ve got English, you’ve got Spanish, you’ve got French and then you have Trump,” he said. “You have to understand what he means.”

Asked about Fine’s endorsement, DeSantis told reporters in New Hampshire on Tuesday that it was “pure politics” and “totally ridiculous,” blaming Fine’s decision on his ambitions to run for state Senate after he was not named as a finalist for the president of Florida Atlantic University.

Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’s campaign spokesman, called Fine’s announcement “nothing more than shameful political theater at a time when Ron DeSantis is leading the charge to support Israel.”

“From working to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, to combating antisemitism throughout Florida and its schools, to securing funding for security at Jewish schools and synagogues, there’s never been a more pro-Israel Governor,” Griffin said. “When Joe Biden stood idly by, Ron DeSantis sent planes to bring over 700 Americans home to safety and called the Florida legislature back for a special session to levy sanctions against Iran and provide further protections to Jewish students and faith communities in Florida. When it comes to standing in defense of Israel, he’s always been a leader who acts and delivers.”

Fine has been one of the governor’s stoutest supporters for years, and one of DeSantis’s go-to lawmakers for promoting his agenda. The Florida lawmaker sponsored or co-sponsored some of the most controversial legislation to come out of Tallahassee, including a bill to limit discussions about LGBTQ issues in classrooms, as well as the Stop WOKE Act that limits race-related discussions in schools and workplaces.

His outspoken support for Desantis’s feud with Disney also earned him a prominent spot in the lawsuit Disney filed against the state. The company claims the state violated its First Amendment rights, and their lawsuit quotes Fine when he said on the House floor: “You got me on one thing, this bill does target one company. It targets the Walt Disney Company.”

Fine was an early endorser of DeSantis during his first run for governor, and stayed closely aligned with him until this week. He represents Brevard County, home to the Kennedy Space Center and birthplace of Moms For Liberty.

The move shocked some in Tallahassee political circles who have known Fine as an ardent DeSantis supporter.

“I literally can’t believe it,” said one fellow Republican state representative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the news.

Fine said that he “fully expects to be punished” for his decision to flip on his support of DeSantis, arguing that while he was not pressured to endorse DeSantis, he understands the political repercussions he could face going up against the state’s leading Republican. DeSantis had previously secured endorsements from 99 out of the 113 Republicans in the Florida legislature, now minus Fine.

“Donald Trump doesn’t sign our bills,” Fine said. “Donald Trump can’t veto our appropriations. But the safety of Jewish children is more important to me than any of that.’

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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