Gov. Ron DeSantis reaching into Trump World to staff his administration

By: - April 19, 2019 7:00 am
Trump and DeSantis

Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. Ron DeSantiis campaign web site photo

Ron DeSantis won Florida’s governorship by cleaving to President Trump. He’s maintained those ties by attending Trump events, frequently conferring with the White House, and by bringing former Trump insiders to Tallahassee to help staff his administration.

To keep us all up to date, here’s a rundown, so far, of Trump administration people who are now in Tallahassee working for DeSantis:

Helen Aguirre Ferré, DeSantis’ director of communications, is a veteran figure in Florida’s journalism and political scenes. She is a Miami Shores native who worked for the Republican National Committee, wrote columns for English- and Spanish-language publications including the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, hosted public affairs programs on the Miami PBS affiliate and Univision, and served as chairwoman of the Miami-Dade College board of trustees. In the White House, she directed media efforts which targeted Latino and African-American news organizations from the inauguration through August 2018, when she took a communications job at the National Endowment for Art. Ferré has been inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.

Corrections Secretary Mark Inch served fewer than nine months as head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons – a casualty, according to a report in The New York Times, of infighting between former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner over prison reform and control of his department. The retired major general spent 35 years as a military police officer, including stints overseeing detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq; as commander of the Military Police school at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; and commandant of the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. DeSantis described Inch as an exceptional leader who has dedicated his life to serving and protecting our country at home and abroad.” In his new job, Inch oversees 96,000 inmates and 166,000 people under active supervision. He controls a budget of $2.4 billion.

Mary Mayhew – DeSantis’ pick to run the Agency for Health Care Administration – spent even less time than Inch in the Trump administration: a spare three months running the federal Medicaid program. In an interview with a health care  industry publication, she explained that the Trump administration’s push to move more decision-making out of Washington and toward the states made the Florida job more attractive than federal service. Earlier, Mayhew spent seven years running health programs for Maine Gov. Paul LePage – himself such an ardent foe of Medicaid expansion that he refused to enforce a citizens’ initiative mandating expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Mayhew, meanwhile, has testified against the idea of expanding Medicaid to cover more needy families  in numerous states, including Florida. During a Florida Senate confirmation hearing, Mayhew defended deep safety-net program cuts in Maine as necessary to stop budgetary “hemorrhaging.” A federal audit concluded that Mayhew’s department failed to investigate deaths of dozens of people with developmental disabilities, according to news reports.

Justin Caporale, director of external affairs in the DeSantis administration, claims the distinction of having the F-word slung at him by CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta; it involved a Twitter direct message that Acosta later claimed he’d misdirected during a Trump rally last year. After overseeing advance work for the Trump campaign, Caporale took a job as a special assistant to the president and director of operations in the East Wing, working for Melania Trump. He left after problems emerged with his security clearance, according to published reports. In his new job, Caporale plans events for the governor.

Tim Page, now deputy secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, parlayed a role in the 2016 Trump campaign into a job as confidential assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. He served between January and November 2017. Page next became executive director for the Southeast division of the Consumer Energy Alliance,  a corporate-backed lobby group, then joined DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign – reportedly, to line up surrogates to speak on behalf of the campaign. The 2016 alumnus of Appalachian State University operated a landscaping business between graduation and the Trump campaign.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.