Conservative ‘Moms For Liberty’ activists and FL Democrats gather at summits in Tampa

Florida GOP Gov. DeSantis and Illinois Democratic Gov. Pritzker take competing spotlights

By: - July 14, 2022 12:59 pm

A member of Moms for Liberty speaks at a rowdy Sarasota County School Board meeting in August 2021, to oppose an emergency mask mandate. Screenshot, Sarasota School District broadcast channel.

Florida’s homegrown “Moms For Liberty” activist group, growing as a national force for conservative politics, especially education politics, convenes this weekend in a Tampa hotel for a summit featuring prominent Florida Republicans and former members of Donald Trump’s administration.

In a hotel next door, Florida Democrats will gather for “Leadership Blue 2022” to strategize on mobilizing volunteers, donors and voters around Democratic issues including reproductive rights under attack in Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signs legislation increasing parental access to reviewing school materials and library books on March 25, 2022. Screenshot/The Florida Channel

Keynote speakers at the two events include Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B Pritzker. Both are running for re-election in their respective states, and both are considered potential contenders for the 2024 presidential race.

Moms For Liberty was launched by conservative Florida professionals who are current or former members of local school boards with connections to top state and national Republicans, according to LinkedIn profiles and Florida media reports.

The group advocates for “parents’ rights” to trump school-board decisions in divisive issues such as mask mandates in school, book bans, American race history, and gender identification.

Bridget Ziegler, married to the vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, Christian Ziegler, has been instrumental in Moms For Liberty in Florida. She’s a member of the Sarasota County School Board, where she mustered opponents of mask mandates and other regulation in August 2021 to fight the board’s emergency decision to temporarily require masking in schools amid a surge in COVID-19 infections as the school year opened.

Illinois Gov. J.B Pritzker speaks to teachers at the NEA annual assembly in Chicago, during which a gunman killed seven people during a Highland Park July 4 parade Credit: Gov. Pritzker’s Facebook page

The group’s keynote speakers this weekend include former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a proponent of school choice and school vouchers who served in Trump’s Cabinet until she resigned the day after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the nation’s Capitol, as outlined by the Wall Street Journal and other national news organizations.

Another is Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon who ran for the presidency in 2016, then dropped out and endorsed Trump. Carson served as Trump’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development until the last day of Trump’s term, on Jan. 20, 2021, as outlined by the New York Times and other national news organizations.

The Democrats’ keynote speaker, Gov. Pritzker, was spotlighted on July 4 when he reacted with fury after a gunman with an automatic style rifle opened fire on a parade in Highland Park, killing seven people and wounding dozens more.

Pritzker has since called for a federal ban on certain semi-automatic weapons, and he attended the White House ceremony for the signing of bipartisan gun-safety reforms including expanded pre-purchase background checks, as outlined by the Chicago Tribune and other news organizations. He also supports abortion rights, which are under attack in Florida and other Republican-controlled states following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of the historic Roe v. Wade decision of 1973.

Since July 1, Florida has banned abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy, without exceptions for rape and incest.

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper.