Mayor: DeSantis should take care of Florida, not just family

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s Republican governor recently defended his lack of public appearances during the omicron surge, saying he was with his wife who is undergoing cancer treatment, but a Democratic mayor of one of Florida’s largest counties said Tuesday that elected officials should be able to care for both their families and their constituents.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said he’d been dealing with the hospitalization of his elderly father and the deaths of family members over the holiday season but had still been able to make public appearances to address COVID-19 and long waits for tests.

“Yes, there are times when our families may be ill and we have to take care of our families. However, I do believe that you can do both,” Demings said at a news conference. “You can take care of your family and take care of your extended family, the people.”

Last week, Demings criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis for not making any public appearances in response to the surging virus. Florida on Tuesday had a 7-day average of more than 56,000 cases, the highest ever.

During a news conference Monday, DeSantis said he had been working, even if he wasn’t making public appearances, and that he had accompanied his wife, Casey, to her treatments for breast cancer. He described the attacks as “not effective” and said his team has been trying “to get stuff done.”

“A lot of people, particularly people who have gone through breast cancer treatment, the notion that would be considered a vacation, I think is offensive to a lot of those folks,” DeSantis said. “When you are in a political arena, sometimes you are fortunate in the enemies you have, because these aren’t folks who aren’t shooting straight right now.”

Demings’ wife, U.S. Rep. Val Demings, is running against incumbent Republican Marco Rubio for a U.S. Senate seat.