Bice: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis raises big bucks at suburban Milwaukee fundraiser

A big-time Florida politician came to the Milwaukee area last week to raise buckets of campaign cash and elevate his Republican presidential aspirations.

No, it wasn’t former President Donald Trump.

It was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Insiders say the fundraiser was held on July 26 at the Fox Point mansion of Kathryn Burke, a local philanthropist and the widow of John J. Burke Jr., the founder of Burke Properties who died in 2019. The Burkes were responsible for such Milwaukee landmarks as the Brise Soleil wings at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Donors at the DeSantis event had to pay a minimum of $1,000 to attend, and the maximum contribution was $25,000 to the Republican governor’s campaign fund. One source said about 50 to 60 people were in attendance.

Burke hosted a high-profile, $2,800-per-head fundraiser for Trump at her Fox Point residence in July 2019.

Officials with DeSantis’ campaign did not return calls or emails this week.

“He’s taking his newfound national fame and running with it,” suggested a prominent Wisconsin Republican. “It’s also very clear that he’s positioning himself to run for president.”

Former Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate agreed.

“DeSantis wants to run for president,” Tate said. “Next to Trump, he’s the second choice of the MAGA faithful.”

Technically, DeSantis is running for reelection next year and has to raise a ton of money across the country. Not so technically, Wisconsin could be a big state in a bust-out Republican presidential primary.

DeSantis has emerged this year as a Republican rock star and top presidential contender for 2024, crafting an image of himself as a leading Trump acolyte. For months, he has touted his COVID-19 response as one that rejected the advice of experts while still holding down Florida’s death rate.

But his state has experienced a dramatic surge in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, prompting Democratic President Joe Biden to urge DeSantis to “get out of the way” of people who are trying to “do the right thing.” Over the past three days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the state has had more than 50,000 new infections and 100 deaths.

More: Infections surging and ‘things are going to get worse,’ Fauci says; Florida breaks another record: COVID updates

One Democratic strategist suggested that DeSantis has gotten his priorities wrong, just like Trump.

“DeSantis’ similar failed record on COVID is only one reason among many he should slink off into the good night instead of trolling for cash from Wisconsin’s funders of fringe fanatics,” said Sachin Chheda, who runs local Democratic contests.

Contact Daniel Bice at (414) 313-6684 or Follow him on Twitter @DanielBice or on Facebook at

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