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Senate signs off on Ladapo as Florida's surgeon general

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Brendan Farrington
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ appointment of Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo was confirmed by the Senate, despite objections from Democrats who criticized his handling of the pandemic.

Senate Republicans on Wednesday approved the nomination of Dr. Joseph Ladapo as Florida Surgeon General amid criticism from Democrats that his opposition to coronavirus mandates is too aligned to the politics of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The confirmation vote followed party lines, 24-15.

Ladapo, who was appointed by DeSantis in September, has drawn scrutiny over his shared resistance with the governor against COVID-19 mandates for vaccines and masks and other health policies endorsed by the federal government.

His confirmation capped a legislative process that had Ladapo appear before two Senate committees for hearings that grew contentious when Democrats accused him of dodging questions and not doing enough to promote vaccines.

During a recent committee hearing, Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, said she “can’t believe” there’s not a better candidate for the state’s top doctor.

“This candidate has not been recommended by his prior employer, is part of a right-wing anti-science fringe medical group, does not have public health experience, and has turned his position political," Polsky said.

Democrats have voiced frustrations during committees saying they felt he wasn’t giving clear answers. During one meeting, Democrat senators left the room and abstained from voting because of that frustration.

Sen. Doug Broxon, R-Pensacola, says he thinks Ladapo was treated unfairly and has confidence in the doctor's ability.

“I believe to the best of your knowledge you’ve expressed what you know, and I am very proud that you’re the doctor of the state and frankly I think most Floridians, if they’ve heard this testimony and have heard your expanded answers, they would agree with me," Broxon said.

The surgeon general also serves as the secretary of the state Department of Health.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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