Oklahoma Gov. Stitt endorses DeSantis in 2024 Republican race, praises ‘dogged conviction’ in COVID-era
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Saturday picked up the endorsement of fellow Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt for the GOP’s 2024 presidential primary — marking a key endorsement for DeSantis as he seeks to replace former President Donald Trump as the frontrunner.
"Governor DeSantis is a strong conservative and principled leader, and I am proud to endorse him for president," Stitt, the governor of Oklahoma, said in a statement.
Stitt praised DeSantis’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing that the Florida governor "did not surrender states’ rights and individual liberties over to groupthink."
"In this election cycle, Oklahomans will remember that DeSantis was one of the few who never backed down in the face of adversity, because DeSantis operated with dogged conviction and shared our values for a limited government and free country," he said.
Stitt went on to praise DeSantis as having "boldly delivered results for the people of Florida that laid the groundwork for a booming economy, an education system focused on student outcomes, and better infrastructure for working families."
"To deliver these same results all across America and unwind the disastrous liberal mandates of the Biden administration is going to demand a candidate who can win and keep winning as a two-term president. I am confident that leader is Ron DeSantis," he said.
Stitt’s backing is the latest pickup for DeSantis in the Sooner State. Earlier this week, 20 Oklahoma state legislators, as well as former NASA administrator and congressman Jim Bridenstine, announced their support for DeSantis’ bid.
The endorsement marks a key voice of support from a governor with a reputation as a strong conservative. Stitt made Oklahoma the first state to ban abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade and has also signed legislation authorizing the "constitutional carry" of firearms in the state.
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Last year, he signed legislation barring males from participating in women’s sports and this year banned all sex reassignment procedures for minors in the state, including irreversible gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies.
The endorsements come as DeSantis seeks to close the gap on Trump, who polls show as the clear front-runner for the nomination. Meanwhile, the field is getting larger with the recent entries of both former Vice President Mike Pence and former N.J. Gov. Chris Christie into the 2024 field.
DeSantis has sought to contrast his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic with Trump’s. The DeSantis campaign this week debuted an AI-generated image depicting Trump hugging Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Trump has shot back, recently saying that Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo "did better" at handling the pandemic than his fellow Republican.