Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, waves during an inauguration ceremony with his wife Casey and son Mason, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. Republicans will begin their third decade dominating the state's Capitol. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Republican DeSantis sworn in as Florida's new governor

January 08, 2019 - 12:34 pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Former Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis was sworn in as Florida's new governor on Tuesday with promises to keep taxes low and to make schools and the environment a priority.

In a speech filled with naval references, the former Navy officer also promised to be tough on illegal immigration and to appoint Supreme Court justices who won't "legislate from the bench."

DeSantis took his oath in front of Florida's historic Old Capitol. His predecessor, Republican Gov. Rick Scott attended, along with former Republican Govs. Jeb Bush and Bob Martinez and former Democratic Gov. Bob Graham. Scott was to be sworn in as a U.S. senator later in the day.

DeSantis praised Scott's work over the previous four years.

"Your laser-like focus on improving Florida's economy has meant so much in the lives of so many here in our state. You are leaving a strong foundation from which we here today can build," DeSantis said. "It now falls to me to build upon the foundation that has been laid, navigate the challenges — economic, environmental, constitutional — that lie ahead, and steer Florida to a stronger, cleaner and safer future."

DeSantis, with strong support from President Donald Trump, defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum to win the seat. He will work with a firm Republican majority in both branches of the Legislature.

"Let's promote a virtuous cycle whereby low taxes, a reasonable regulatory climate, a sensible legal system and a healthy environment attract jobs, businesses and investment — particularly in the areas of technology, manufacturing and finance," he said.

He also said the environment will be a high priority, citing the need to eliminate toxic algae that grow from Lake Okeechobee pollutants and to address red tide off the state's coast.

"For Florida, the quality of our water and environmental surroundings are foundational to our prosperity as a state." he said. "It doesn't just drive tourism; it affects property values, anchors many local economies and is central to our quality of life. The water is part and parcel of Florida's DNA. Protecting it is the smart thing to do, but it's also the right thing to do."

DeSantis, 40, is the youngest governor in decades and the first to live in the governor's mansion with young children in a half-century. He decided to forgo the traditional inaugural parade. Instead, he and his wife, Casey, will hold a baptism ceremony at the mansion for their 9-month-old son, Mason.

DeSantis is expected to take swift action in the next week on a number of issues. He will appoint the first of three Supreme Court justices on Wednesday and decide whether to suspend Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. Israel has been criticized for the performance of his deputies during the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead. He also has hinted he might take action against other officials.

DeSantis' victory was delayed by a mandatory recount following the close election.

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Associated Press writer Gary Fineout contributed to this report.

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