Republican Party of Florida
- Ron DeSantis kicked off his second term as Florida’s governor with festivities in Tallahassee.
- The DeSantises danced before the crowd to the song “Sweet Florida.”
- Casey DeSantis wore a gold embellished gown.
TALLAHASSEE — Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida’s inaugural ball featured a live band, pink and purple lights, and a photo station, according to guests who were leaving the party on Tuesday evening.
As the crowd watched on, the governor danced with his wife Casey DeSantis — who wore a gold embellished gown — to Van Zant’s song “Sweet Florida,” according to a dozen guests in attendance. The lyrics are specifically about DeSantis and say the governor is “the only one fighting for you and me” and “knows how to lead.” DeSantis would often play the song at campaign rallies.
The event was closed to the press, but Insider spoke with attendees as they exited the facility. A copy of the program viewed by Insider showed sponsors for the event included tobacco giant Altria, ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, CVS Health, Lockheed Martin, health insurance giant Humana, and managed care organization Molina Healthcare.
Tuesday’s event received national attention because DeSantis is widely considered a GOP frontrunner for the 2024 presidential election — should he decide to run. So far, only former President Donald Trump has formally declared his candidacy.
The governor has been mum about his plans but has dodged the question if he’ll serve out all four years as governor.
On Tuesday, he took a victory lap after coasting to reelection in November. The ball was the final event of the two-day inauguration extravaganza. One guest who attended multiple inauguration events overheard people on the plane to Tallahassee calling the festivities “DeSantis-Palooza.”
Beginning around 6 p.m. local time, roughly 4,000 guests dressed in ballgowns, sequins, and tuxedos made their way to the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center for the ball, which featured a brass band with two female and two male singers, multiple guests exiting the event told Insider.
Songs included “My Girl” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” two guests leaving the event told Insider. The governor did not deliver any remarks.
The Republican Party of Florida also put out a statement confirming the Van Zant song and said the DeSantises also danced to Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.”
—Matt Braynard (@MattBraynard) January 4, 2023
The dance floor was in a basketball arena and had a VIP section — which had an open bar — and a general admission that was more crowded. Guests received koozies as party favors, and those in the general admission area said they snacked on finger foods including empanadas and chicken and waffles.
Guests were able to pose at a photo station that had the governor’s seal in the background.
—Katelyn Caralle (@Katelyn_Caralle) January 4, 2023
Bill Diamond of Palm Beach told Insider the food was “very good and very inventive” and raved about the lamb. He called himself a “very big fan” of the governor. Asked what he would think of him running for president, Diamond predicted the governor would win and called him “the future of this country.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, is sworn by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Muniz, left, to begin his second term during an inauguration ceremony outside the Old Capitol Tuesday, January 3, 2023, in Tallahassee, Florida. Looking on is DeSantis’ wife Casey, second from right, and their son Mason.
Lynne Sladky/AP Photo
Several events preceded the ball
At the swearing-in ceremony, Casey DeSantis wore a regal ensemble with white gloves and a satin, lime-green cape dress from Australian designer Alex Perry. The dress is listed for $2,600 at Bergdorf Goodman, the Daily Mail first reported, and people in attendance said the outfit reminded them of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
“I have had clients coming back and saying that was very Kennedy-ish,” one source who attended multiple inauguration events told Insider.
DeSantis, 44, gave a speech geared toward a national audience. Asked about the remarks ahead of the inaugural ball, Florida Rep. Thad Altman, a Republican, said DeSantis was a “national figure.” The Florida House member said he was looking forward to working with DeSantis on conservation and environmental policy to “keep Florida as a beautiful place to live.”
Ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, between 80 to 100 people from the faith community prayed with the governor in the Historic Capitol, Demetrius Minor, minister and public affairs liaison for Tampa Life Church, told Insider. Casey DeSantis and the couple’s son, Mason, were also present, he said, as were Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez and her husband Adrian Nuñez.
The group “prayed for his protection, prayed for continued strength, prayed for wisdom and guidance,” Minor said.
Following the ceremony, Casey DeSantis hosted a “Toast to 1 Million Mamas” at the Governor’s Mansion, as a thank-you to the 1.1 million women she mobilized in support of her husband.
People took tours of the mansion, and both the governor and first lady gave remarks focused on education policy, in which they warned about the influence of the “woke left,” said a source who attended.
DeSantis in the months ahead is expected to double down on policies begun during his first term, in which he limited discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity, particularly in classes up to third grade, and about race.
The festivities officially kicked off earlier, on Monday evening, with dinner at Florida State University that was catered by Carbone, a trendy restaurant started in Greenwich Village, New York, whose parent company has opened up more restaurants in Florida. Carbone’s Miami Beach location is one of the hottest restaurants in the area.
Jeff Zalaznick, co-owner of Carbone’s parent company Major Food Group, talked about how his business was able to expand in Florida while other states closed businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, said one attendee at the dinner. The theme of the weekend was “The Free State of Florida,” and the Monday-night menu was a nod to the couple’s Italian heritage.