Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis made a surprise appearance at Luke Bryan’s concert in Jacksonville — days after being snubbed by former President Donald Trump as he plots his 2024 comeback.
Bryan was in Jacksonville, Florida, on Friday as part of his “Raised Up Right” tour. The country music superstar was forced to postpone three previously scheduled stops in the Sunshine State due to Hurricane Ian, eventually rescheduling and switching venues. Video from Friday’s show posted to social media showed Bryan simply walking onto the arena stage with the lights on and no music playing as the show began, a departure from the pageantry typical of Byran’s performances. Bryan then started talking to the crowd about the deadly storm before calling the Florida governor onto the stage.
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The crowd erupted in cheers as DeSantis appeared, throwing hats into the crowd before asking if everyone was “excited to be in the free state of Florida?”
“The state of Florida had to deal with the major hurricane last month, and it’s not easy to deal with. It’s hurt a lot of people,” DeSantis, who is up for reelection in November, said onstage. “Though I can tell you this, show me any other state that can rebuild bridges in three days. I don’t think you can find that.”
The GOP governor went on to encourage everyone to vote, prompting more cheers and chants of “USA” from the crowd.
He then praised Bryan for his previous generosity, noting how he had contributed to his Florida Disaster Fund, to which the country music star replied that he planned to give more. Bryan then revealed that he would donate all proceeds from his rescheduled show in Estero, Florida, to the fund.
“Because of the hurricane, they had to use the venue that I was performing in as a shelter. Well, we’ve been going back and forth, we didn’t know if it was too soon to play or not but the area of Estero said, ‘Get your a** to Estero,’ so, we’re doing a concert,” Bryan said. “So, what we’re going to do is give a large portion of the proceeds in Estero, Florida … to everybody that’s bought tickets, kept the ticket, and spending the money … I’m donating that money to the great state of Florida.”
Over $50 million has been raised towards the Florida Disaster Fund as of Friday, according to the governor’s office, one month after Hurricane Ian made landfall. The Department of Labor allocated $30 million in a National Dislocated Worker Grant for Floridians without work due to Hurricane Ian.
“Thanks for letting me crash the party last night, Luke Bryan!” DeSantis wrote on his social media accounts Saturday.
While Bryan did not offer an explicit endorsement of DeSantis when the latter urged concertgoers to vote, the appearance did serve as a high-profile moment for the governor, who is considered a top GOP name for the 2024 presidential election.
DeSantis’s rise to be the leading Republican choice for the White House has irked his top competitor: Trump, who is the only person to outperform the governor in 2024 polls. The two men’s political alliance deteriorated as DeSantis emerged as a leading competitor for the GOP nomination next election cycle.
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Those issues came to a head this week, when Trump’s camp announced plans for an election week event in Miami for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). DeSantis was not included in the announcement, and a Trump spokesperson said at the time that the Florida governor was not attending.
While Trump and DeSantis aides downplayed reports of tensions between the two camps, the governor’s team said that they were not informed of the rally prior to it being announced. Many in DeSantis’s orbit also alleged that the move was an intentional snub, something Trump’s team denies.