Lizbeth Benacquisto

DeSantis: Israel has “total right” to run again, “no similarities” between sheriff suspension and Trump impeachment

IMG_2094A day after a key Senate committee handed Gov. Ron DeSantis a major victory in his crusade against embattled Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, the governor pooh-poohed any parallels between his suspension of Israel and Congressional Democrats’ efforts to unseat President Donald Trump.

DeSantis, Trump ally whose endorsement by the Republican president help boost him to a primary election victory and ultimately into the governor’s mansion last year, also told reporters today that Israel, a Democrat who is running for re-election, has the right to seek office again.

During yesterday’s Senate Rules Committee, one of Israel’s supporters, who identified himself as a “lifelong Republican” who voted for the GOP governor, equated suspension of Israel — an elected official — to the ongoing impeachment effort.

Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto quickly shut down that argument, but a reporter asked DeSantis about any similarities after Tuesday morning’s Cabinet meeting.

“I see no similarities between a presidential impeachment and the removal of a county official. This is a provision of the Florida Constitution. It talks about neglect of duty or incompetence. Obviously, we’ve seen multiple failures out of that agency. In fact, that agency, under his leadership, lost the state certification, and now it’s being reinstated under the new sheriff,” DeSantis said. “Look, had we not acted, my fear was that more failures would have put more people at risk. So I think I acted appropriately and I think that the Senate ultimately will come to that conclusion.”

The Rules Committee overturned the recommendation of Senate Special Master Dudley Goodlette, who found the governor failed to present evidence supporting his decision to suspend Israel, one of DeSantis’ first actions after taking office in January. Goodlette, former Republican state representative who is highly regarded in legislative circles, recommended that the Senate reinstate the embattled sheriff.

But voting 9-7 along party lines after a marathon meeting yesterday, the Rules Committee supported the governor’s suspension. The full Senate will vote on the matter tomorrow at 2 p.m.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, DeSantis thanked the committee, which heard emotional, heart-wrenching pleas from the families of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting victims. The families are united in their insistence that Israel be prevented from getting his old job back. Dozens of Israel supporters also attended the meeting, including numerous members of black churches who expressed their allegiance to the sheriff.

“It was a very long day, with that process,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “I also want to thank the Parkland families for coming. It wasn’t easy for them. This has been a long time coming. I think they really showed a lot of strength, and I look forward to the Senate disposing of this matter tomorrow, and look forward to moving on.”

The expectation is for another, party-line vote in the Republican-dominated upper chamber that will result in Israel being permanently ousted from his job.

Israel, who was re-elected in 2016 by more than 70 percent of Broward County voters, remains popular in most parts of the heavily Democratic county. He told reporters after the Senate committee vote last night that he believes he will be re-elected to the seat he held until he was booted by DeSantis in January.

DeSantis was asked if he would remove Israel again, should the sheriff win re-election.

“No, no, no, no. Look, the people can make that decision going forward. But then, what happens will be, they’ll be responsible for whatever decision is made in that respect. It’s not going to be something that is going to matter to me either way. I had to make the decision I had to make. Those folks can make whatever decision that they want to make,” the governor said.

When pressed about removing Israel a second time, DeSantis — a Harvard Law School grad — reiterated his stance.

“Well, obviously if there was another basis, but no. This is this. If the Senate does concur he be removed, there’s nothing in the Constitution that bars someone from then seeking the same office again. Totally has a right to do it,” he said.