Republican Nominee, Florida Senate District 13
State Senator for District 12 (first elected in 2016)
Former Representative in House (2000-2007, 2010-2016)
Mayor-Administrator, City of Belleview (1982)
Funeral director and consultant
College of Central Florida, A.A., 1972
Florida State University, B.A., Psychology and Sociology, 1974
Miami-Dade College, A.S., Funeral Services, 1975
Republican incumbent Sen. Dennis Baxley of Eustis, squares off against Democrat Stephanie Dukes of Clermont on Nov. 8 to represent Senate District 13. The newly drawn district includes Lake County and southwest Orange County. Neither candidate faced primary challenges.
A state senator since 2016, Baxley is well-known as a hard-right conservative. He was one of the original sponsors of the state's "Stand Your Ground" law, which passed in 2005 when he was a member of the state House. While Baxley's Senate-sponsored Parental Rights in Education bill died in committee, he became an outspoken advocate for the House version of the bill that critics dubbed "Don't Say Gay." The law attracted national attention for purporting to ban classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through the 3rd grade.
“To think that our educational model is going to take over and recreate this society in a different way is traumatizing to me,” Baxley told the website Know Your Candidate in September. He said using school “as a social promotion platform to train children to behave or think in a certain way, I think, is misguided. I think parents need to be a part of that equation, and we’ll have a free society if we honor that.”
However, PolitiFact reported that the Florida Department of Education confirmed that sexual orientation and gender identity “are not included” in curriculum taught in the state’s K-3 classrooms. PolitiFact also cited a Florida professor who said she was “not aware of any K-3 grade teacher that is campaigning or ‘social engineering’ students to be LGBTQ such that it could be studied to tell whether or not such a campaign could be successful.”
PolitiFact staff said it tried to get Baxley to provide evidence of this "social engineering," but he never responded to their request.
The Advocate in a story about the "Don't Say Gay" legislation said Baxley has a "deeply anti-LGBTQ+ record." Journalist Joe Henderson in a commentary about the "Don't Say Gay" legislation in February wrote that Baxley "is never shy about sponsoring looney laws."
In the past, Baxley has also sponsored legislation that would have allowed Florida schools to teach “different worldviews” on issues like evolution and climate change.
Here's where Baxley stands on some other key issues.
Baxely has made some radical statements about abortion, such as claiming abortion has led to immigrants replacing Western Europeans.
"When you get a birth rate less than two percent, that society is disappearing," Baxley said on Miami's WLRN. "And it's being replaced by folks that come behind them and immigrate, don't wish to assimilate into that society and they do believe in having children. So you see that there are long-range impacts to your society when the answer is to exterminate.”
He told VoxPopuli in a July interview that there are better ways to deal with unplanned pregnancy than "destroying our children." (Baxley has five children, two of whom are adopted, includig one with disabilities, plus eight grandchildren.)
But asked if he planned to introduce legislation for a total abortion ban, Baxely dodged, saying only, "there’s still some conferring on what is the best way to deal with the challenges.”
He said there will be discussion around the state constitution's privacy clause, which has protected abortion in Florida, and clarification about what the clause applies to. It's his view that the privacy clause wasn’t intended for abortion, but for personal information. “It’s hard for me to see the application from its original intent.” In September, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office filed a document that said the state Supreme Court should reverse its position that the privacy clause in the state constitution protects abortion.
In terms of supporting legislation to prohibit the use of medical abortion pills and or prevent women from traveling out of state to obtain abortions, Baxley said he was “quite nervous and anxious about women having abortions alone” and would want them to have the “best medical care.”
Baxley didn't offer any specific proposals to assist women who give birth to children they hadn't planned for or couldn't afford, only that he was against expanding Medicaid because it was expensive.
Speaking with the website Know Your Candidate in September, Baxley said he generally prefers a “more open” healthcare system that isn’t determined by the federal government, intimating that the private sector can do a better job of fostering healthcare without governmental control. He said healthcare should be accessible to all, but provided no elaboration on how that can be achieved.
FLORIDA'S COVID RESPONSE
Baxley told Know Your Candidate that he supported Gov. Ron DeSantis's approach to managing the pandemic, which included keeping businesses open and prohibiting local governments from enacting public health measures, such as mask and vaccine mandates and punishing school districts that attempted to implement mask mandates for children too young for vaccines. Since 2020, more than 82,000 people in Florida have died from Covid-19. Florida currently ranks 13th in the nation for Covid-19 deaths (383 per 100,000).
SECOND AMENDMENT/GUN SAFETY
Baxley has been a long-time defender of the Second Amendment and told Know Your Candidate that it’s needed to protect all other rights. “Without that, our Constitution means little,” he said. He added that strong supporters like himself “understand that if you cannot act to protect yourself and others from harm then you’re not free.”
Baxley has attributed America's epidemic of mass shootings not to guns but to "people who are deranged or evil in their intent to destroy others,” that it's people’s “violent nature,” which needs to be managed and controlled, not access to firearms. He believes people are best protected by an "armed society" but also a "polite society" that stops violence before gets out of control. “If people can’t control it, people wind up serving time for irresponsible acts," he said.
Baxley is a proponent of personal responsibility. He told Know Your Candidate that there are those who believe that there are some in prison because they’re poor, they couldn't hire a good attorney and, as a result, received longer sentences. “There is an element of that that is true and I think we have to help them have that representation. But, at the same time, you’re accountable for your own behavior.” He said “drug culture” and poverty, more so than racism, are driving people to commit crimes.
Baxley said he is interested in helping formerly incarcerated people re-enter society because they may not have a plan. “Recidivism is costing us billions of dollars.”
He said he’s opposed to "defunding the police" and that departments need more funding and officers need better training. He said there is "adequate accountability" in terms of police brutality.
Baxley said that the U.S. should enforce its borders to maintain order, but that he is pro-immigration as long as immigrants abide by an orderly system and that the U.S. protects its citizens’ interests first. “We actually need the expansion and growth, and every wave of immigration has been a success in bringing new ideas, new workforce. But it’s always been done in an orderly fashion.”
"Global warming is real," Baxley told Know Your Candidate, which is a reversal for him. But he said “the idea that we are going to control the weather of the world” is difficult. While he doesn’t discount ideas that have been put forth to address climate change, he said the government doesn’t know best and doesn’t have all the answers. He said society has a “conservation responsibility but to say that we are in charge and we can make these decisions and change the planet in this way, I think, is naive."
Baxley opposes limits on speech, telling Know Your Candidate,“I’m very much in favor of this move to allow citizens to speak without detriment to their lives simply because of the things that they believe and positions that they’ve taken and the values that they share.”
Asked about hate speech, which has been associated with increased violence against Asians, Jews, Latinos, Blacks, and the LGBTQ+ community, Baxley dodged, saying "What is hate speech*?" and called it a "made up term." He said political speech raises questions and encourages debate.
However, Forbes reported on an analysis by the anti-bullying group Ditch the Label that examined 263 million social media sites, forums and blogs in the U.S. and U.K. and found that anti-Asian comments shot up 1,662 percent from 2019 to 2020 as the pandemic swept the country, and Covid-19 was referred to as the "China virus" and "kung flu." The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism released data in August showing a 224 percent rise for Asian hate crimes along with a 21 percent increase in hate crimes overall for the third year in a row in 2021, with Black people, LGBTQ+ people, Jews and Latinos the most targeted groups.
Baxley said the internet was "overreaching right now and controlling and measuring what people say," adding that the private sector was influencing the Big Brother-type of government. "I don't believe we have free speech if we're going to regulate what they say."
[*Editor’s note: According to the American Library Association, there is no legal definition of hate speech under U.S. law, but it is generally viewed “as any form of expression through which speakers intend to vilify, humiliate, or incite hatred against a group or a class of persons on the basis of race, religion, skin color, sexual identity, gender identity, ethnicity, disability, or national origin.” Hate speech is protected by the First Amendment and protections extended by the judicial system.]