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Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez plans to step in as needed while Gov. Ron DeSantis steps away for White House run

'No one should panic,' Florida's second in command says
Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez speaks with Scripps News Tallahassee, May 25, 2023
Posted at 7:34 PM, May 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-26 19:34:45-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The state's second in command said she'll likely take on more responsibilities in the coming months. That's as Florida's governor turns attention to his race for the White House in 2024.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to jet off for a blitz of early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina as soon as next week. But Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez said Thursday that DeSantis will continue to govern.

"Well, make no mistake," DeSantis' Republican cohort said. "He is still governor of the great state of Florida. He's still going to be very involved in making sure that everything that we need to do here in the state of Florida he will be a part of."

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DeSantis, Núñez said, will remain the top dog in state government but that she will step up as needed when he steps away — whether that's for events, meetings, and especially as fall brings a ramp-up to the January legislative session.

"I'll probably look to be more involved in the legislative priorities as we get those underway," Núñez said. "But, again, nothing is going to change from the standpoint of all will be well in Florida. No one should panic. The governor is still very focused on Florida, but he has a tremendous amount of energy, passion and vigor. So, I think he'll do just fine."

Núñez is a native Floridian and mother of three. She served in the Florida House for eight years before becoming DeSantis' lieutenant governor. She also endorsed DeSantis for president earlier this week. The governor sounded to be returning the favor when asked Thursday what would happen if he wins the White House.

"Our lieutenant governor would take the reins — Jeanette Núñez," DeSantis said. "She's done a great job. She's been with us on all these different issues, so you would see continuity in the governor's office."

Núñez reaffirmed that continuity when she spoke Thursday and said that Floridians who like DeSantis would see more of the same.

"I think that Floridians should rest in knowing that he has been confident in me, and he selected me to be his lieutenant governor, not once, but twice," she said. "So, I think that they should also be confident in knowing that I have their best interests at heart as well."

Election 2022 Florida Governor
Incumbent Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, waves alongside his Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez at an election night party after winning his race for reelection, in Tampa, Fla, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Top Democrats, however, are not happy. Nikki Fried, the chair of the state Democratic Party, has serious reservations about Núñez. Fried said the lieutenant governor hasn't been vetted.

"Now we're going to have an individual who's making day-to-day decisions, [who is] going to be implementing all of [DeSantis'] policy perspectives and caring on his legacy," Fried said. "And it's unfortunate that we're going to have to be dealing with a DeSantis 2.0 in Jeanette Núñez."