By Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida
Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis shredded each other Sunday night during a nationally televised debate, as the gubernatorial candidates appeared in their first face-to-face showdown little more than two weeks before the Nov. 6 general election.
The hour-long CNN debate in Tampa, hosted by Jake Tapper, is evidence of the attention garnered by the race between Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor who’s trying to make history as Florida’s first black governor and who’s backed by prominent progressives across the country, and DeSantis, a former congressman whose pedigree boasts of a Harvard law degree and a stint as a Navy attorney.
The two men couldn’t be farther apart on the political spectrum, or on their stances on issues, sniping throughout the debate about the environment, health care, and, of course, President Donald Trump, whose support helped boost DeSantis to a GOP primary victory in August.
Tapper questioned DeSantis about his opposition to a sweeping state law, passed after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. The law raised the age from 18 to 21 to purchase all guns and banned the sale of “bump stocks,” devices that can be placed on semi-automatic firearms to make them fire more rapidly.
“The congressman was against the piece of legislation because he’s wholly owned by the NRA,” Gillum said. “He’s not going to stand up to the National Rifle Association. That’s why they’re running all these ads against me, because they want the man that they bought.”
But DeSantis, who resigned from Congress last month to devote his efforts full-time to running to replace outgoing Gov. Rick Scott, countered by raising the issue of Tallahassee’s crime rate, a point he hammered throughout the match-up.
“His record as mayor is one presiding over a city that’s out of control in terms of crime,” DeSantis said, citing a report that found Tallahassee had a historically high murder rate last year.
“All right, well, Ron is being Don. And that’s Donald Trump, neglecting all sense of reason and facts,” Gillum retorted, insisting that Tallahassee is experiencing a five-year low in crime.
Tapper also brought up a tongue-in-cheek television ad that featured the Republican candidate “schooling” his two young children about Trump. The CNN host asked DeSantis if he thinks the president is “a good role model for the children of Florida.”
DeSantis said he and his wife, Casey “were poking a little fun at ourselves” with the ad, then launched into praise of Trump for relocating the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump followed through on a campaign promise to move the embassy, the former congressman said.
“To me, when you give your word, and you follow through with it as an elected official, that is the model that we’re supposed to do. He was right to move the embassy to Jerusalem,” DeSantis said. “I know Andrew didn’t support that … but to me that was true leadership.”
Gillum gave a more direct answer to the question about Trump being a good role model.
“No, he’s not. Donald Trump is weak. And he performs as all weak people do: They become bullies. And Mr. DeSantis is his acolyte,” Gillum, who was a surprise victor in August’s Democratic primary, defeating four other opponents, including former Congresswoman Gwen Graham.
But DeSantis said his relationship with Trump would help Florida, which relies on federal support for water projects, transportation funding and military installations.
“You need to be able to work with the administration to be able to get the dollars we deserve,” said DeSantis, who repeatedly referred to Gillum as “Andrew” throughout the debate.
“Andrew can’t do that. He wants to impeach Trump. He’s always saying bad things about him. I’m not going to be involved in the Washington food fight anymore. I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt. But I think I will be better positioned to advance Florida’s priorities because I have a productive relationship with the administration,” DeSantis said.
But Gillum, who has harshly criticized Trump and has in fact called for the president to be impeached, disagreed.
“This is not Russia. You should not have to kiss the ring of the president of the United States for the president to see to the good will of the third-largest state in all of America. This is a democracy. We can dissent. We can disagree. And when it comes to working together, we can do that, too,” the Democrat said.
To illustrate his point, Gillum said he and Scott, a Republican trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, worked together as they dealt with the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Michael, which caused massive damage this month in the Panhandle and the Big Bend region.
DeSantis also hammered Gillum about an FBI probe into public corruption in Tallahassee. Lobbyist Adam Corey, a longtime friend of Gillum with whom the mayor says he has severed ties, appears to be at the center of the investigation. A trip to Costa Rica in which Gillum’s campaign said he paid cash for his portion of a rental house shared with Corey and others, has made the mayor a subject of scrutiny, but Gillum insists he is not the target of the FBI investigation.
“He’s used the office to benefit himself,” DeSantis said.
But Gillum lashed back, accusing DeSantis of spending $145,000 on taxpayer-funded trips before he resigned from Congress and refusing to provide the receipts for the travel.
“I don’t take free trips from anybody. I’m a hardworking person. I know that may not fit your description of what people like me do,” Gillum said.
Tapper also raised the specter of racism, asking DeSantis about a donor “who called Obama the N-word” and about the phrase “monkey this up,” which DeSantis said when referring to Gillum the day after the Aug. 28 primary.
DeSantis pointed to his past work as a prosecutor and said the race of victims was irrelevant.
“Floridians can know that I’ll be a governor for all Floridians. If we disagree tomorrow, maybe two weeks later we’ll find some common ground,” he said.
But Gillum pushed back, saying DeSantis “let us know exactly where he was going to take this race the day after the election” with the “monkey up” comment.
“The truth is I’m black. I’ve been black all my life. So far as I know I will die black,” he said, adding that “the only color people care about is the blue-green algae” and red tide contaminating Florida waterways.
Health care was another flashpoint early in the debate, as DeSantis challenged Gillum over his support for “Medicare for all,” or a single payer health-care system. After Gillum supported the proposal, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont progressive leader, endorsed the mayor in the crowded Democratic primary.
DeSantis said the Medicare proposal would fold funding for existing programs — such as the military’s TRICARE, Medicaid and Medicare — into a new program.
“It dumps all those people against their will, regardless of if they want to stay in their current plans, it dumps on a single-payer government system,”’ DeSantis said. “Taxes will go through the roof.”
Gillum did not directly address the criticism, saying instead that he supports expanding Medicaid eligibility and that DeSantis repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act while in Congress. The federal health-care law encourages states to expand Medicaid and requires insurers to cover people even if they have pre-existing conditions prior to obtaining coverage.
“We can build Florida’s economy simply by extending access to health care and guess what?” Gillum said. “It’s not only good for those 800,000 people who would get access, but it’s also good for folks like small businesses who right now can’t afford to get access to health care.”
— Staff writer Christine Sexton contributed to this report.
Odd to see the commenter who is accusing Gillum of supporting violence against journalists.
Does this individual have their fingers in their ears whenever Trump encourages violence against the press?
The hypocrisy is galling.
Also, just because folks want Gillum to be the subject of an FBI investigation, doesn’t mean he IS. Wanting it to be true doesn’t make it true.
Disagree on policy by all means, but the making stuff up has GOT to stop!
If Republican voters actually cared about corruption, they would be more appalled by the President and his cabinet.
They only care when it is the other guy.
(Not saying Dems are perfect in this regard, just that there should be no Trump voters who pretend to be concerned about corruption. Their votes say otherwise.)
Ms. Julie, you’re going to have to come up with something other than your assertions. An assertion is only that, it isn’t a fact. No, I do not need my fingers in my ears, because what you assert is utterly untrue – it’s not a fact. Meanwhile, the attack on a reporter by a Mob at the gillum rally is utterly true and proven. I didn’t make it up, and unlike Dem-Socialists, I don’t need to make up incidents of violence from the Dem-Socialist side, there’s plenty of video evidence already.
As far as “urging violence” from Pres. Trump, please give documented proof of incidents (NOT mere links to “articles” from fake news media, there must be actual visual video proof or documented statements). There’s been no incidents of a Trump supporter or fan physically attacking a news journalist – if there was any evidence, there wouldn’t be enough broadcast time in 24 hours for the MSM to blare it for weeks. Yes, Mr. Trump has (correctly and accurately) pointed out the “fake news” journalists at his rallies – because they write utterly untrue and proven-wrong stories about him every day – they blatantly lie (and are proud of it) in their broadcast and newspaper stories. CNN alone has broadcast utter lies as news stories – even when called out by other liberal news organizations. They’ve had to fire at least three reporters for lying about Trump in “news” stories. It’s true that Trump supporters have given these “journalists” the one-finger salute (hardly violence in any dangerous form), but no journalist has been tackled or hit by any Trump supporter. Jim Acosta, one of Trump’s most vicious critics, even had Trump supporters taking selfies with him and getting Acosta’s autograph at a Trump rally. Violence? – offer proof.
On the other hand, we have MANY documented incidents of Dem-Socialists attacking Trump supporters or Republicans: A Republican congressman at a congressional baseball game was shot by a radical Dem-Socialist – and he was trying to shoot them all. Trump supporters and Republicans are repeatedly screamed at in public, their MAGA hats ripped off, or sheer physical assaults.
AND we have Mad Maxine Waters (“yell at them and tell them they’re not welcome anywhere!”), Eric Holder (“we kick them”), and Hillary Clinton (“after we gain power, civility can happen again”) ALL endorsing violence and un-civil treatment of all Replublicans. (I’ll be happy to provide all their documented statements on request).
AND there is the video evidence of the Dem-Socialist MOB that attacked a gay reporter at a gillum rally, gillum never even pausing in his speech to stop them.
ALL of this is documented and proven, not open to debate whether it happened or not.
So – the violence and screaming is all on the Dem-Socialist side. Your party leaders endorse it and encourage it, they never condemn it. That alone speaks volumes.
As far as corrruption, If Dem-Socialists cared about it, they’d stop doing it – and they themselves would have impeached and imprisoned obama for treason and sedition in his first term. Hillary would be in jail, along with most of obama’s administration. All that may yet happen. Corruption is an embraced Dem-Socialist lifestyle, not simply a character failure.
Union Chief: Andrew Gillum Willing to Defend Anti-Police Radicals
Yet another election between a sht sandwhich and a giant d. When will you all learn? If you are D or R, fix your party so the rest of us dont have to suffer. Meanwhile Ill probably not be voting yet again because there is no one on the ballot who should be governor.
Mayor Gillum is not A target in the FBI investigation.
Mayor Gillum is THE target in the FBI investigation.
Funny how Gillum wants to extend Medicaid to 800,000+ people without healthcare. That’s about the same number of ILLEGAL immigrants that are hiding out in Florida.
Obama used the term “monkey up” too while running for President in 2008. There is a video of him saying it. Just do a Google search and it will come up.
I’m sorry. I thought you all were commenting on the debate between Ron DeSantis and Mayor Andrew Gillum. Clearly you saw some fictional version. The real debate showed Ron DeSantis to be a flunky for Trump and Andrew Gillum to be an informed compassionate dedicated leader with a 15+ year record of solid public service.
Nice try Rosie!
Gillum was an embarrassment and lost the debate.
Ron DeSantis was the clear winner of the CNN debate.
Clearly, your version of the debate is fictional. Please go back and watch it again.
Rosie, a ’15+ year record of solid public service’ does not relate to a single accomplishment.
Environmentalists endorse him, but we had a sewage spill during Hermine near a municipal well head and he said nothing to citizens about it. He supported a biomass plant in the poor section of town.
His own fellow commissioner (all democrats) didn’t endorse him. Tallahassee is one of the most economically segregated cities in the nation. Look it up.
He has enriched his friends, taken our crime rate sky high, brought us an FBI investigation, and there may be questions about voter fraud with his family. He has insulted and belittled the largely republican legislature, what do you possibly think he could get accomplished as governor???
Please educate yourself about Andrew Gillum.
Even if, God forbid, Andrew Guilty becomes governor, the state legislative bodies will remain controlled by the Republicans.
So, he won’t get much accomplished there.
On top of that, the federal bodies will likely remain under control of the GOP.
So he’ll be relegated to the status of Alan Williams when he was in the House – not getting any of his agenda passed.
Ms. Rosie, I’m afraid that reality simply won’t conform to your wishes or your view of the debate. You can tell yourself fantasies all day, but reality won’t change one bit. Hillary isn’t president, and little andrew isn’t any sort of public servant, he’s a public thief and is eyebrow-deep in corruption. Hopefully the FBI will be soon be forcing all his dwelling on “color” to just one: prison orange.
I hope at some point soon little andrew will get too arrogant or too desperate and say something publicly that is so indefensible and/or blatantly a lie that there’s no chance to recover – although there’s almost nothing any Dem-Socialist could do to alienate their radical supporters. In the Dem-Socialist world, there are no such concepts as Right and Wrong or Truth and Lying; there is Only What Gets the Job Done, and whatever it takes to win and gain power is just fine.
Here’s a link to GatewayPundit’s story and video: ANGRY DEMOCRAT MOB Assaults Gay Journalist at Andrew Gillum Rally – gillum just keeps on talking and never tells the assaulting mob to stop:
Mayor Gillum has already made the political gaffe that will doom his campaign. He does it day in and day out with his lies regarding crime, the FBI investigation, ineptness in hurricane recovery, saying he has a scientifica edge regarding the environment, Etc.
Absentee ballot voters have Republicans ahead.
No one is claiming that Gillum won the debate. The adages of silence is golden and the silence is deafening speaks volumes.
Ron DeSantis is the clear winner of the CNN debate!
CNN is fake news! If you watched the debate, it was obvious that DeSantis won. Even with Andrew’s silver tongue he wasn’t able to answer direct questions about ICE and immigration. DeSantis showed that he is by far the better candidate. I almost felt sorry for Andrew, but then again, I know his is corrupt. He is way out of his league. I hope Florida will make the right choice.
And the Gannett rags are Fake News too.
Which is why DeSantis wisely chose not to meet with their progressive agenda-driven editorial boards. He told them “fuggitaboutit” this morning, har har har!
It is suspect that CNN releases a bogus poll prior to the debate. I guess this is their way of doing damage control knowing that DeSantis would clearly have a significant increase in the poll numbers post debate.
The only thing this poll shows is the lack of integrity at CNN and this is a perfect example of Fake News.
Ron DeSantis did an exceptional job in the debate last night on CNN!
He exceeded expectations and kicked Andrew Gillum into the next County.
DeSantis exposed Gillum for the left-wing ultra liberal fanatic that he is. He hit a home-run every time Gillum threw something at him that just didn’t stick.
On the other hand DeSantis exposed Gillum for the corruption and incompetence that we experience first hand.
I am disappointed in CNN on their bogus poll. Let us not forget that CNN had Hillary ahead in double-digit numbers prior to the election.
Ron DeSantis was the clear winner of the CNN debate! Good job RonDeSantis!
Two years ago this weekend, CNN announced that Hillary was up by 12%.