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Ron DeSantis speaks to a crowd at the Knights of Columbus in Elmhurst, Ill
Ron DeSantis speaks to a crowd at the Knights of Columbus in Elmhurst, Ill., on Feb. 20, 2023. Chris Sweda / Tribune News Service via Getty Images

DeSantis gets caught up in Chicago police politics

Invite to conservative Florida governor causes FOP friction.


ELMHURST, Ill. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis entered and exited this area after speaking before law enforcement Monday. But he left a few political scars in his wake.

Chicago Fraternal Order of Police leader John Catanzara, who was instrumental in trumpeting DeSantis’ event both publicly and privately, faced political backlash and criticism from Chicago mayoral hopefuls over the event. And Catanzara ended up skipping the DeSantis speech to instead head to Las Vegas.

Catanzara, who faces his own re-election within the FOP in upcoming weeks, had excitedly talked about DeSantis’ visit excitedly in a union meeting, including about how to get access and other logistics, according to a source close to the union.

“It all blew up for him,” the source added.

The fallout came after DeSantis was booked to talk before the same FOP (among others) that endorsed mayoral candidate Paul Vallas, who has polled around the top of the field in recent polling of the nine-way race.

On Friday, Vallas took aim at Catanzara saying, “there is simply no place in Chicago for a right-wing extremist like Ron DeSantis, and I am disappointed in FOP leadership for inviting him to speak to officers.”

Catanzara said it was “100 percent inaccurate” that the FOP invited DeSantis and not the other way around. DeSantis on Monday spoke before FOP groups in three different cities.

Catanzara confirmed to NBC News he didn’t attend DeSantis’ speech and instead left for a seminar in Las Vegas. When asked if he was pressured to leave, he said via text, “This was scheduled way before the speech.”

For weeks, Vallas has confronted accusations from opponents that he is really a Republican, something that could be a liability in a campaign for local office in deep-blue Chicago. The mayoral election is Feb. 28.