A prominent entrepreneur in two communities donated to the DeSantis campaign – $ 25,000 and $ 50,000 between 2018 and 2019 for a total of $ 125,000, according to the campaign’s financial records.
Exceptional vaccine clinics have allowed about 6,000 people to overtake tens of thousands of elderly people on waiting lists in Manati and Charlotte counties where the driving took place.
“I’m an active Republican, so I’m a fan of the governor, but I think it could have been done better,” said Harvey Goldstein, a staunch Charlotte Republican.
DeSantis denied CNN’s request for a camera interview about the story. Meredith Beatrice, director of the governor̵
Florida, where demand for vaccination exceeds supply since the state began implementing it in late December, faces challenges to spread vaccines across the country.
3 million have received vaccines
Bowe told a public meeting of county commissioners that DeSantis was calling Rex Jenson, CEO of the parent company of the Lakewood Ranch community, to arrange a vaccine – and that Jenson was calling on her to help set up the device. A news release on the Manati County website said it aimed to vaccinate 3,000 people in three days.
Jensen’s spokeswoman, Lisa Barnott, told CNN that their involvement in the vaccine was only “to help identify a site that can accommodate 1,000 people a day.”
Some residents of Manati County say they are outraged by Bo’s actions.
“The whole thing hit me with politics, favoritism, elitism and racism,” Ken Schultz, a resident of Manati County, told CNN.
Bow apologized after intense criticism of the vaccination site, but told another public meeting of county commissioners on Feb. 18 that if given the opportunity again, “I will do exactly what I did this time.”
CNN asked Bau for comment on the investigation, but received no response.
It turns out that such a clinic was set up in a 55-year-old closed-type community called Kings Gate in Charlotte County, which also invited residents of another resort-style community called Grand Palm to be vaccinated.
“When we deliver vaccines, the mechanism has to be as honest as possible and we can’t play favorites,” Goldstein said. “I think that was a mistake.”
Vaccines and political connections
Kings Gate and Grand Palm have something else in common.
Neal Communities spokeswoman Leisa Weintraub told CNN by email that the company was not participating in the vaccination site at Lakewood Ranch and said the company would have no further comment.
“Neil Communities, the prime minister of Southwest Florida, a private home builder, has been asked by Florida Gov. Ron Desantis to help with a community vaccination event in Charlotte County,” the news release said.
Between 2018 and 2019, Neil donated $ 125,000 to friends of Ron DeSantis PAC, according to campaign finance data. Records also show that conservative donor Richard Wheeline, who has family ties to Lakewood Ranch, donated $ 900,000 to PAC during the same period.
CNN turned to Uihlein and received no response.
The Uihlein family has owned the Schroeder-Manatee Ranch (SMR) since the early 1900s and is developing Lakewood Ranch on the SMR property, according to the Lakewood Ranch website. SMR, a once-operating ranch, went into community development in 1994. According to the website, Lakewood Ranch is the fastest-selling, multi-generational community planned by the general in the United States.
Call a federal probe
Democrat Charlie Christ sent a letter to acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson on February 21, asking the Department of Justice to investigate DeSantis and whether the vaccines work in favor of DeSantis’ political allies and donors.
“The parent company of Lakewood Ranch is owned by one of the largest Republican donors in the country, including by contributing more than $ 900,000 to the governor,” Christ wrote in the letter.
The congressman told CNN, “If you’re Spanish or black or (a) brown, you won’t get those pop-up vaccines that the governor gives to people who are in wealthier, whiter, and more Republican parts of Florida.”
Asked for comment, the Justice Ministry spokesman did not say whether he was investigating and declined to comment further.
The mayor challenges the governor to the vaccine clinics
In a statement to CNN, Governor Meredith Beatrice, director of strategic initiatives, said nearly half of Florida’s vaccine distribution points for adults were in Broward and Palm Beach counties, “which are not known as Republican fortresses.”
Beatrice also said the state has partnered with places of worship earlier this year and with historic black colleges and universities, Navarro pharmacies and CVS y Mas to help reach underserved communities.
But Carlos Hernandez, the mayor of Hialea, a predominantly Spanish and working-class city, said he did not buy the governor’s explanations for the pop-up sites.
Hernandez broke a press conference hosted by DeSantis in his city last week, the day the governor announced the partnership with Navarro and CVS y Mas and said he had been trying to talk to DeSantis since the start of the pandemic.
“Governor, the mayor of Hialea.” How are you, sir? Hernandez shouted after DeSantis had finished his press conference.
As soon as DeSantis came out, Hernandez approached the governor’s office and said he did not believe the policy was not involved in spreading the vaccine in Florida.
“I need help for my people in the city of Hialea. I’ve been saying this since this thing started,” Hernandez said. “It’s sad that he (DeSantis) says politics is not involved. Come on. You know what? Give me the vaccines.”
CNN’s Christina Carega contributed to this report.