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Gillum-DeSantis Debate Is a 60-Minute Bout Over Ring-Kissing, Crime, Trump, Race and Algae Blooms

| October 21, 2018

Ron DeSantis, left, and Andrew Gillum during Sunday's debate. (© FlaglerLive via CNN)

Ron DeSantis, left, and Andrew Gillum during Sunday’s debate. (© FlaglerLive via CNN)

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.

“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.”

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.

““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’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.”

–News Service of Florida

32 Responses for “Gillum-DeSantis Debate Is a 60-Minute Bout Over Ring-Kissing, Crime, Trump, Race and Algae Blooms”

  1. Blue Wave says:

    Better get your water wings on republicans! A blue wave is coming!

  2. Keep Flagler Beautiful says:

    I tried to watch the debate with an open mind, but Gillum’s snarky attitude throughout really turned me off. He strikes me as someone who feels entitled. I just wish that when he made that snide comment about the “good schools” DeSantis attended (memo: DeSantis grew up modestly and worked his way through college), that DeSantis had turned the tables and mentioned how Gillum took a college course in China on how to build a socialist society/government. I never thought much of that until I heard what Gillum has planned for our medical care if he gets elected. To take away private insurance, even if it’s provided through an employer, and lump Floridians into a cooperative with California and New York is insanity. It’s a bankruptcy waiting to happen. If it ever comes to that point, I will absolutely leave Florida and take my cash and investments elsewhere. I’ve worked too hard to stick around while some upstart with presidential aspirations ruins what the people of this great state have built, and that’s an economy bigger than that of either Switzerland or Saudi Arabia. De Santis may have been more gentlemanly last night, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t the smarter, more suitable candidate. This independent voter has decided on DeSantis.

  3. Jimbo says:

    DeSantis is a Trumpeter as proven time and time again. Just remember everything DeSantis has done as a congressman for Flagler county….Nothing…Now he wants to be our governor. Ron has been a follower while in government and hasn’t shown the ability to govern with out a puppeteer guiding him.

    Over the past couple years I have tried to contact his local office. (Via Email) Getting the standard “Thanks for your email” response and never to be heard from again. He was our congressman only because he had an address here.

    I have yet to hear what Ron will do for Florida if he was governor. Whats his plan? All I heard last night was about the the everglades and algae. What are you going to do for me? What about my SS and Medicaid? Are you going to cut it. Because I have had two heart attacks, will you drop me or make me pay 10 times more than average? Oh yea, I’ll just show up to the emergency room.
    The wrong republican made it through the primary. DeSantis should never have gotten this far based on his non-productive term in congress.

    And yes, I have been a republican for over 40 years. We need to get back to some sensible government. I see Gillum as the best option available for Florida a this time.

  4. Michael Cocchiola says:

    Gillum all the way! He will represent all Floridians. De Santis did nothing for Florida or Flagler in his six long years as our representative. He spent his time with the ultra-radical “Freedom Caucus” trying to legislate our health care and Social Security away. He spent his time personally up Trump’s ass trying to prove his loyalty to his leader, even above state and country. DeSantis is a practicing Trump Brownshirt hoping to get a better job. He cares nothing for Florida and its citizens.

  5. gmath55 says:

    $1 billion Florida tax hike? Andrew Gillum proposes increasing state corporate tax!

    Kurt Wenner, vice president of research at Florida TaxWatch, said that if a business is forced to pay more in taxes, it can raise prices, reduce employment, reduce costs or investment, or reduce profits.

    Gillum said he would put that extra revenue toward education, including a minimum teacher salary of $50,000 and raising pay for veteran teachers to the national average. Gillum also plans to invest in early childhood education programs and vocational training.

    Give teachers a raise. Wouldn’t we all want a raise. Give me a break!

  6. gmath55 says:

    Medicare for all. Sounds good! But, critics are skeptical that such savings would materialize, leaving taxpayers on the hook if they don’t. They also worry about other negative consequences, such as mass retirements of doctors unwilling to accept lower fees.

    Trillions in savings would be one of a range of possibilities for how Medicare for All enactment could play out. But it’s not the only one, and independent analysts say it’s far from a sure thing that Medicare for All would save as much money as Gillum hopes it will.

    The statement is partially accurate. We rate it Half True. Politifact Florida.

  7. Richard says:

    If Gillum is elected there won’t be any businesses left in Florida to help pay for increasing the corporate tax rate from 5.5% to 7.75% and socialist agenda as they will RUN not walk away from Florida to other more tax friendly states. Way to go Gillum!

  8. Keep Flagler Beautiful says:

    Friendly message to Jimbo: How many times have you contacted ANY Florida legislator’s office, either at the state or federal level? I have done so maybe a dozen times, and I get the same “Thanks for your email response” from all of them, from Bill Nelson to Marco Rubio to all the rest. After that canned response arrives? Crickets. And if you write to them about a specific issue, stating either a pro or con position, the reply is totally noncommittal: “If it should come up for a vote, I will keep your comments in mind.” It’s exasperating. Every last one of them is afraid to take a public stand.

  9. atilla says:

    Gillum is another one who figures YOU OWE ME…..

  10. Sherry says:

    Education is the very foundation of “All Human Civilization”. An excellent teacher should be developed and treasured as what they are. . . the guide and giver of the knowledge required to create that civilization.

    Teachers are not coal miners or even CEOs. Teachers are fundamentally much more important than that. Dismissing teachers as “just some one else who wants a raise” is incredibly short sighted.

  11. gmath55 says:

    @ Hey! Jimbo – Gillum has been classified as a progressive, and is considered to be a politician in the mold of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the highest-ranking elected official to support his primary candidacy. All politicians have their pets right Jimbo.

  12. Percy's mother says:

    For those who think “MEDICARE FOR ALL”!!!! is a good idea . . .

    Perhaps you aren’t aware . . . those on Medicare PAY A MONTHLY PREMIUM for mandatory Medicare coverage. At present, I think the monthly premium is around $135.00 give or take. PLUS, there’s the additional cost of a supplement because Medicare doesn’t cover everything. Combined that adds up to around a $400+ a month PREMIUM FOR MEDICARE coverage.

    MEDICARE IS NOT FREE. Seniors pay for it every month from social security as well as their own remaining funds. So . . . is MEDICARE FOR ALL a good thing? You’ll end up paying for it.

    So, do you want the government automatically taking the mandatory monthly premium for MEDICARE FOR ALL out of your paychecks? Think it through logically people.

    All these pie in the sky promises are going to cost everyone . . . nothing is ever free.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Actually, yes. It’d be a hell of a lot cheaper than the monthly heist of my paycheck by insurance and medical providers, who pad their robberies for obscene profits to boot, which is not the case with Medicare. Nobody’s asking for “free.” Just fair.

  13. Mr G says:


  14. mark101 says:

    Gillum has the right mindset regarding the increase of teachers salaries, but can we handle a large tax increase to support raises for 175,225 teachers in this state as of the 1017-2018 data on the FL State Education website the avg salary in the state is $48,168. Per Gillum Sep 18, 2018 “”“Under my plan we are going to pay a starting salary for teachers of $50,000 and increase the salaries of teachers and teaching professionals to the national averages”. “At a press conference Tuesday, Gillum said 98 percent of corporations would not pay more in taxes in order to fund the $1 billion his plan requires, and none of that money would come from Floridians’ own taxes. ” But corporations get their money from guess who, their customers

    I have NO issues with trying to get to the national average . Nationwide, the average salary for public school teachers was $58,353 in 2016. That’s $1.78 billion needed.

  15. JimBo says:

    I don’t accept any Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or TV commercial information when I decide on my voting. I research each candidate myself. History follows these people and its easy to look up their past performance.or lack of.

    As I mentioned, I have been a life long Republican but after the republican primary and watching DeSantis Trumpeter commercial, I decided that Florida needs someone who can decide on his/her own and not follow the leader because they kneel to them. You watch, if DeSantis loses, Trump will be out there saying he was a weak candidate or degrading DeSantis in some way. If he wins, Trump will take credit and expect DeSantis to kiss the ring.

    Is Gillum perfect? – NO, but at this time a better choice for Florida.

    Lets see how the Republican “Mob” responds to my comments.

  16. jake says:

    For all you liberals (the I wants & the gimmes), Gillum is your man. For any self-respecting responsible tax paying voter, DeSantis is the answer.

  17. snapperhead says:

    One thing always lacking in the health care policy debate is why are Americans getting so fat? Look at health care costs and the ever increasing portion of porkers roaming the landscape the last 30 years.They parallel each other. Medicare for all or private insurance, the costs of taking care of a nation growing more and more obese isn’t going down any time soon. Murica-Git R Dun

  18. Percy's mother says:


    In response to my post, you’re talking about your once beloved Obamacare, which I seem to remember you thought was so great when it was first proposed. I also remember a more recent (last few years) post you made about your family having reverted to sharecropper status due to the enormous costs of “Obamacare” which all you democrats were cheering about early on (until the reality set in, and which Republicans knew was going to be the case).

    Then you realized the truth. You couldn’t keep your doctor. It wasn’t cheap and in fact it is bankrupting anyone who has it. AND as well, it’s basically catastrophic coverage. It’s not health care for all as your hero Obama touted. Perhaps one day you will realize you’ve been hoodwinked on so many levels by the Democrat (socialists).

    There is a small book by Milton Friedman I’d like you to read. I was forced to read it as part of my bachelors degree education. It’s quite interesting in that in short form it explains how capitalism works and that capitalism isn’t evil and/or what you hear the Democrats yelling about all the time. There are certain people who post on here yelling about how evil Capitalism is (without knowing anything about it) and for them, I would suggest a trip to Venezuela, which used to be a very wealthy country. I would recommend Milton Friedman’s book aside from taking a college course in macro and micro economics. It’s a small enough book to be a weekend or long evening read.

    We are both immigrants, I was a Democrat all my life until one day back in 2011 I realized the truth. By that time, I was moving into “getting older)”. I’m glad I saw the light and the lies put forth by the Democrats who basically cater to people who haven’t been educated in the way this type of economy works. My hope for you is that your eyes will be opened somehow to the truth.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      While I’m flattered by your valiant attempt to be my biographer, I’m lucky enough to not yet be dead so I can correct you on a few points: while Obamacare has had its issues, they’re of a different order of magnitude altogether than what prevailed before Obamacare. The ACA did and continues to protect me from bankruptcy after I got a bit ill. Premiums got steep but we found a way to calibrate them to our needs while still getting protection despite my pre-existing sins. If the focus had been on improving Obamacare rather than plundering it at every turn, as your saintly truth-tellers have done, we’d have a more decent system than we do now, its essential flaw being that it remains primarily a subjection to insurers as opposed to an actual health care safety net. But again: the alternative is the do-nothing condemnation to bankruptcy and oblivion that we had before Obamacare, and that we would get again if your friends get their way. Pass. I wish you well in your journey to the truth, which you seem to have attained. I prefer to remain a skeptic, even and especially regarding the things I prize most: settling for less is too much much settling for me. As for Venezuela, is that golden age of its capitalism back when it was hopping from dictatorship to dictatorship, or when it was an annex to Exxon’s empire? I’m sure its current condition is nothing another U.S. occupation couldn’t fix. Maybe we could get Paul Bremer or David Petraeus out of retirement to give us that splendid renewal.

  19. Percy's mother says:

    Capitalism and Freedom, written by Milton Friedman.

    A small book, short weekend read.

    One of the best books I was forced to read during my bachelor’s degree endeavor.

    For those who post negatively about Capitalism without really knowing anything about it, get educated.

  20. GT says:

    If Gillum is a fan of Bernie Sanders we don’t want him. Vermont is the most screwed up state in the country
    they don’t have any jobs, they have one of the highest numbers of drug users in the country and they tax everything to pay for welfare and unemployment, if your house happens to look out onto a valley or a mountain
    or a lake you pay a View Tax! I come from New England don’t let this happen to Florida. All the thing this guy wants to do will drive big companies out of the state and cost all of us more in taxes.

  21. Sherry says:

    Ahhhhh. . . . i just cringe when I hear anyone say things that indicate “their particular TRUTH is the ONE and ONLY”. That kind of cult like, brainwashed thinking is precisely what dividing our country.

    While there are some “scientifically proven facts”, and some fact and video “proven lies”. . . TRUTH is nothing more than relative “perception”. Therefore, your truth, Percy’s Mother. . . no matter how passionately presented . . . is no more valuable than anyone else’s. Simply because other educated people have learned different “perspectives” and reasoned out different points of view does not mean “you” are absolutely right and “they” are absolutely wrong.

    I believe the path to a healthy, evolving civilization and culture is someplace in the middle. “My” continuing education, and experience in actually living in Democratic Socialists countries, has taught me that “Capitalism” in isolation can be taken to a very greedy extreme. There must be a humane element to political decision making that includes “The Common Good.” .

  22. Pogo says:

    @Pierre Tristam

    Friedman’s opus and Moa’s little red book – tributes to one person’s ability to mislead a world. Friedman could have condensed his so-called contribution to this: You’re very special, just like everyone else. We’re all in this alone – grab much too much or you’ll get nothing at all.

    The spectacle of Randian atheists making common cause with grifting evangelist preachers, aka the Republican base, ought to embarrass both, but never bothers either one.

    For a scholarly take on the great man:

    Who Was Milton Friedman?

    Paul Krugman – February 15, 2007

  23. mausborn says:

    Desantis actually means “Of Satan”. This guy is incredibly detached from the actual working people of Florida if he believes anything has actually gotten better in the last year and a half.

    The media might try to fool you into thinking the economy is successful, but how much of that success has actually been felt by us and our families? By the working class people of Florida? How can a pampered millionaire know how hard Floridians bust their ass every single week, 40 hour weeks or 2 jobs, just to make the bills at the end of the month. This guy’s just gonna be another fly in the swamp, living in the pockets of corporations and special interests. What we need right now is a wave of progressives to take over our politics, like the old days of Teddy Roosevelt. We need to rip power back from the corporations, and place it into the hands of the PEOPLE. A hard-working, honest, progressive man like Andrew Gillum has every ounce of my support, as well as my vote in November.

  24. gmath55 says:

    If Andrew Gillum becomes governor there won’t be corporations in Florida. You think companies want to be around to pay the higher tax? You won’t have to worry about 40 hour weeks and two jobs because the companies will be laying employees off. If the corporations stay they will just raise their prices and pass it along to the consumer. If you vote for Andrew Gillum it will be a lost for Florida.

  25. Keep Flagler Beautiful says:

    Mausborn: Where did you go to school? DeSantis translates as “saintly.”

  26. Sherry says:

    Right On mausborn! The last thing we need in Florida is more “tourist serving” minimum wage jobs. Ask yourself. . . are you honestly better off today than you were 2 years ago?

    Desantis has done ZERO for Flagler county, and he is nothing but a pawn in the trump game of tax cuts only for the wealthy..


  27. Idiocracy is Here says:

    Yeah, cuz there are no corporations in the high-tax states of New York, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, etc, etc.

    They’ve all left, huh?

  28. Dwayne says:

    I am proudly voting for Ron DeSantis, not the communist Gillum.

  29. palmcoaster says:

    I am not voting for this RDS front door mat of a communist POTUS.

  30. palmcoaster says:

    Do we all believe that Rusia is a communist country?…of course it is. Do we all see and then believe that the current POTUS and his accolades like DeSantis bow, venerate and hold secret meetings with Russian Putin endangering our national security? Of course…So then come and tell me who is the communist at the helmet then!. Sure not Gillium or any of the democrat candidates of today or ever before them.

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