Tampa city council candidate Blake Casper gave over $200K to DeSantis, and helped reopen Florida at onset of pandemic

Casper said he doesn’t regret his efforts to reopen Florida just two months after the first COVID-19 case was found in the state.

click to enlarge Blake Casper - Photo via Caspers Company/Website
Photo via Caspers Company/Website
Blake Casper
A candidate for Tampa City Council is also a major donor to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who he collaborated with to open up the state as COVID-19 first arrived and took thousands of lives in the beginning of the pandemic.

Campaign finance data shows that Blake Casper, who filed to run against councilman Bill Carlson in District 4 at the last minute, has made several major donations to the governor’s political action committee.

In total, he’s donated $214,200 to the governor's Friends of DeSantis PAC. Casper’s most recent donation was for $100,000 in November of 2022. And he gave a total of $114,200 in 2021. Casper’s family made its money off of owning and then selling several McDonald’s restaurants in the Tampa area. He now owns Oxford Exchange, among other businesses.

“I’m a big supporter of Ron and his policies, and as you can see from the donations I fully support him,” Casper told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

Casper, a registered Republican, has been a prolific donor over the years, including giving over $100,000 to Trump in 2020. He's given tens of thousands of dollars over the years to both Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. In 2020, he gave $2,800 to former Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, whose disastrous senate term was marked by accusations of insider trading.  Since 2020, he's given $7,800 to Florida GOP Congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna, who once praised the hosts of a QAnon conspiracy theory show.

Other political contributions that Casper has made include $10,000 to the group Conservatives for Principled Leadership and $2,500 to the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee. He also gave $1,500 to Tampa Mayor Jane Castor during her 2019 election campaign.

Castor is a former Republican who switched to Democrat before she ran for mayor. In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Castor said she'd “more than likely” be supporting Casper during his race.

Casper also sat on DeSantis’ “Reopen Florida Task Force Industry Working Group” which was formed in April of 2020—just months after COVID-19 swept the nation and quarantine orders were issued.
During the early rise of the pandemic, when questions were still remaining about how the virus was even transmitted and people were still disinfecting groceries, the task force was discussing how to increase tourism and bring back revenue as quickly as possible.

On April 29, 2020, the task force, which consisted of Casper and other Florida business leaders, issued a report saying that businesses should begin reopening at partial capacity and stay at home orders should begin to be lifted, despite medical professionals saying that staying home would save lives.

At the time, the report acknowledged that tens of thousands of Floridians had been infected and that at least 1,200 had died.

By May 4, when DeSantis and Casper’s task force was drawing national criticism for pushing the rapid reopening, which came a year before vaccines were available to the public, the death toll climbed to at least 1,399.

Now, at least 84,927 people have died from the virus in Florida.

Casper said that DeSantis made the right decision in 2020.

“I still believe that what Ron did with reopening and keeping us open during that time period was very beneficial for Florida and I think we're still benefiting from his policies,” Casper said.

When it was pointed out to Casper that the decision to reopen so quickly drew widespread criticism and that the deaths continued to escalate, Casper stood by the decisions he made with the task force.

“I think we did our work and presented our findings and I think that was it,” Casper said.

Florida will probably never have the real death numbers from COVID-19, mostly because DeSantis manipulated them, and medical experts believe that the state's actual deaths are probably higher than what is known.
Casper said that he’s looking forward to seeing how his campaign will develop over the next couple of months.

“I'm excited to get in the race and be a part of the democratic process in our city and I think it's gonna be a great campaign,” Casper said. “Bill is a good friend and I think we’re gonna have a lot of fun debating and talking about the issues of Tampa.”

He said that regardless of who wins, he thinks the process will benefit their district and the city.

Early voting for Tampa’s elections begins on Feb. 27 and ends on March 5. Election day is Tuesday, March 7, with the polls closing at 7 p.m.