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Disney Will Outlast DeSantis in Florida, Orlando Mayor Says

(Bloomberg) -- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is fighting a losing battle against Walt Disney Co., and a backlash against the Republican’s culture crusade is galvanizing Democrats across the state, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said.

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Dyer was in New York City, where he was promoting Orlando as a burgeoning tech sector and for its new rail and airport projects. He spoke in an interview hours before Disney dropped plans to move 2,000 more employees to Florida. The mayor said his city’s biggest employer would outlast DeSantis.

“DeSantis is going to be gone one way or the other from Florida in four years. Disney’s gonna be here forever,” Dyer, a Democrat running for his sixth term, said. “The pendulum has swung on some of these cultural issues.”

DeSantis, widely expected to announce next week that he will run for the Republican 2024 presidential nomination, has feuded with Disney over the company’s opposition to a Florida law that limited discussion of sexual identity in schools.

Read more: DeSantis Donors Called to Miami Speculate He’ll Launch 2024 Run

The 44-year-old governor and the Republican-led state legislature cut Disney’s self-governing authority by seizing control of a municipal district originally run by the company that builds and maintains infrastructure at the Disney World theme park complex near Orlando. Disney sued DeSantis last month, saying he engaged in a “targeted campaign of government retaliation.”

DeSantis’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chilling Effect

Dyer said he worries about the chilling effect the governor’s public campaign against the company may have on Orlando’s ability to attract business.

Disney employs about 70,000 people in the Orlando area. The company in a note to employees on Thursday said it’s canceling the relocation of 2,000 employees from California to a corporate campus that it no longer plans to build near Orlando. Disney didn’t mention the DeSantis dispute, saying only that conditions had changed since the move was announced almost two years ago.

Still, Dyer emphasized that the city’s pipeline of interest from businesses is strong, and factors that go into relocating are longer dated than a governor’s term.

“I don’t think what he’s done is going to be irreparable when he’s gone, unless he’s able to do it to the entire country,” Dyer said. “Orlando is different. We continue to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion, even though that can’t be in the vocabulary of the state government anymore.”

Florida has also banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, prohibited school diversity programs and allocated funds to transport undocumented immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities, all policies pushed by conservative Republicans.

On Tuesday, Jacksonville, Florida’s largest city, elected a Democrat mayor for only the second time in 30 years. Donna Deegan, a former television news anchor, defeated a Republican endorsed by DeSantis.

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