Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum speaking at St. Petersburg College last Friday, Oct. 19
By J.A. Jones, Staff Writer
TAMPA – Gubernatorial candidates Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Congressman Ron DeSantis met for the first time at a Tampa debate Sunday night, as moderator CNN’s Jake Tapper stated that Florida’s race revealed “just how divided the nation is right now.”
Introductions began with DeSantis briefly introducing himself and thanking his wife before immediately accusing Gillum of wanting to raise taxes and being a failed mayor overseeing a crime-ridden city embroiled in corruption.
Gillum, in line with the “when they go low, we go high” Democratic methodology, used his introduction to focus strictly on his family’s background, fighting for everyday citizens, and his pride in being a Floridian, not mentioning DeSantis at all.
Some of the topics covered during the first debate included:
When Tapper brought up DeSantis’ statement that he was not a climate-change advocate, DeSantis said he didn’t want to be “an alarmist” — although he would be “there for” northwest Florida; his words to residents were, “You guys are, resilient; we will rebuild.”
He then went on to call for “resiliency” in South Florida, stating he didn’t want to follow Gillum’s path – enacting a “California style energy policy” that would raise electricity rates. He affirmed having a plan to halt toxic algae and restore the Everglades, reminding Tapper that the Everglades Trust endorsed him.
Gillum called himself “a candidate who believes in science” which Florida hadn’t had in a long time. DeSantis by asking “What’s so California about believing that Florida should lead in solar energy as the Sunshine State? We should be a global leader and teach the rest of U.S. what it is lean into challenges of green economy.”
He also asserted he would go after the “biggest polluters” who had given DeSantis over $300,000 in campaign contributions, stating, that “for twenty years we’ve handed over the keys of environmental protection in this state to the biggest corporate producers, ”and calling DeSantis “an election year environmentalist” who voted 33 times against clean water.
Gillum has gone on record stating his desire to ensure all Floridians through Medicare and has been accused by DeSantis as having a far-left socialist platform because of it.
Gillum did acknowledge that he wanted to extend health care to the 800,000 Floridians currently uninsured, accepting the Medicaid expansion’s 6 billion dollars — which other states were accessing, but Florida was “leaving on the table.”
DeSantis called Gillum’s plan of “Medicare for all” a “euphemism” that actually abolishes care for seniors, Tricare for military families, and those who get insurance from employers — instead forcing them onto a single-payer system where the government would ultimately choose their healthcare.
Gillum called DeSantis’ version of his healthcare plans “revisionist” – stating that DeSantis voted over a dozen times against the Affordable Care Act, and adding how DeSantis told a cancer patient “you can always go to the emergency room.”
In response, DeSantis argued that most people covered by Medicaid expansion would not get care by doctors — who didn’t accept new Medicaid patients — and that in reality those people would be going to the hospital for care.
Beginning with the subject of the minimum wage, Tapper noted that Disney will be moving their workers to a $15 minimum, and asked DeSantis his feelings on minimum wage.
DeSantis avoided Tapper’s question, saying “I want to Florida’s economy to continue going”– instead mentioning Gillum’s desire to raise taxes and bringing up a study that said Gillum’s plan would necessitate either enacting a 38 percent sales tax or imposing a state income tax.
He also said Disney could raise their minimum to $15 only because they’re doing well. He said he believed it was important to keep taxes low and said the minimum wage should be left to the state constitution’s current plan — to base the minimum on inflation.
He also mentioned cities in which the $15 minimum has not worked, resulting in lost hours for workers and businesses leaving those cities.
Gillum reminded him that 44 percent of Floridians couldn’t make ends meet, and that of 67 counties, 36 were doing worse now than in 2007. “We’ve got to build a more robust economy that makes way for people to have one job rather than multiple jobs as a way to make ends meet,” he affirmed.
When Tapper brought up the fact that Gov. Scott’s program had brought 1.5 million new jobs, Gillum pointed out that these were low wage jobs.
Gillum also stated that under the recent “Trump tax scam” the wealthiest three percent of corporations walked away with 6.3 billion dollars — and he wanted a billion to be invested in Florida since teachers’ salaries were the 45th lowest in the country.
DeSantis pointed out that under Gillum, Tallahassee has become the unsafe and that he has failed the people of Tallahassee, but Gillum refuted that with by saying that while his city is in a five-year low in its crime rate, and as the eighth largest city in Florida, is actually 28th in crime.
Tapper did bring up the corruption investigation under the FBI involving Gillum’s former campaign treasurer and asked Gillum whether Floridians should trust him. Reminding him that neither he nor his city government is under FBI investigation, Gillum stated he has welcomed the FBI and made all records publicly searchable.
He also pointed out that DeSantis has gone out of his way while in Congress to protect Trump and block the Mueller probe, calling him a conspiracy theorist who has gone as far as to “suggest that some deep state” is undermining Trump.
Tapper dropped the bomb by questioning DeSantis about retaining money from the campaign donor who called Obama “the n-word” and about his statement that Florida voters shouldn’t “monkey this up by electing Mayor Gillum.”
DeSantis’s response was that in while serving in the military, “when we were downrange in Iraq, it didn’t matter, your race, we all wore the same uniform, we all had that American flag patch on our arm,” and that while working as a prosecutor with law enforcement, “it didn’t matter the race of the victim.” He went on to say this should let Floridians know he would be the governor for all Floridians.
He then called on Gillum to disavow the Dream Defenders, attacking him for having “stood by” and “stood with” the group, stating that their stances – including divesting and boycotting Israel, and calling their strong stance on police brutality an “attack” – was “divisive.”
In return, Gillum stated that his relationship with Israel was beyond his approach, that he’d been to the country three times, and had the support of many rabbis in his community (as well as Tallahassee having a sister city in Ramat HaSharon, Israel). He also accused DeSantis of moderating a xenophobic, racist Facebook page – which DeSantis denied.
Tapper asked Gillum on whether he believed the 850,000 undocumented immigrants should be granted citizenship; Gillum denied this, stating that he believed Florida needed comprehensive immigration reform rather than terrorizing and families.
DeSantis accused Gillum of wanting to abolish immigration and customs enforcement in favor of establishing a sanctuary state – calling Gillum’s ideas a “wet kiss to the drug cartels.”
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