Hundreds of supporters — including a Chihuahua festooned in red, white and blue — gathered in the parking lot of a popular wing joint this weekend in the Democratic stronghold of Broward County to cheer on Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis in one of the country’s most closely watched races.
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was among the 17 victims slain on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, had already whipped the crowd into a near-frenzy by the time the 40-year-old former congressman took the stage Sunday afternoon.
“We got any patriotic, America-loving Republicans here?” Pollack shouted, as he tossed out “Keep Florida Great Vote DeSantis” caps. The blue hats were also emblazoned with “Wings Plus,” the name of the restaurant hosting the Sunday rally and a popular venue for GOP political events.
Accompanied by his wife, Casey, and two young children on stage, DeSantis quickly attacked his opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, focusing on an FBI inquiry into Tallahassee government that has become a cornerstone of the Republican’s campaign.
As the smell of fried chicken wafted over a parking lot jammed with supporters, DeSantis decried Gillum as a “radical,” “corrupt” politician whose city is plagued with crime.
Gillum has steadfastly maintained that he is not the subject of the probe and that he has done nothing wrong, a position DeSantis mocked to the crowd’s delight. Crowd members chanted “Lock him up!” and echoed a refrain that President Donald Trump used in his 2016 campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
When asked to respond, the Gillum campaign said the mayor has “been transparent and upfront” and is “being smeared by one of Rick Scott’s political hatchet men,” referring to Chris Kise, a Republican lawyer who represents lobbyist Adam Corey, a central figure in the investigation. Kise has released documents to the press about such things as Gillum receiving a ticket to the Broadway hit “Hamilton” from an undercover FBI agent.
But the DeSantis strategy of linking crime and corruption with the Tallahassee mayor has resonated with Judi Bougie, a 71-year-old Coral Springs Republican who was familiar with the attacks on Gillum even before Sunday’s rally.
Awaiting DeSantis’ arrival at the event, Bougie told The News Service of Florida she looks at “the pros and the cons” of each of the candidates.
“I don’t like what he’s not done for Tallahassee,” she said. “There’s a lot of crime up there.”
Bougie mentioned “the play tickets,” Gillum’s “pro-abortion” stance, and his plan to raise taxes as reasons she’s supporting DeSantis.
Gillum’s tax plan would increase the corporate income-tax rate, which he says would affect just 2 percent of the state’s largest businesses and would raise more than $1 billion. The Democrat wants to use the money to raise teachers’ salaries.
Gillum is “against a lot of the things that I am for,” Bougie said.
But at Marie’s Place, a Tamarac hair salon not far from the DeSantis rally, first-time voter Cristina De Paula said Gillum’s proposals have earned her endorsement.
De Paula, 18, attended high school not far from the Parkland campus where 14 students and three faculty members were killed in one of the country’s worst school shootings. De Paula said she frequently attended events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High prior to graduating this year.
But it’s also Gillum’s demeanor and “his way of handling situations” that appeals to the Florida Atlantic University student.
“He’s been going to a lot of colleges,” said De Paula, who was born in Florida and whose mother, salon owner Maria, immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic more than two decades ago.
Gillum’s call for stricter gun laws in the wake of the school shooting — which De Paula said had “a very, very, very big impact” on her election decisions — helped cement her allegiance to the Democrat.
“On certain issues, we didn’t feel heard. … We expected something very different,” she said, referring to students’ futile attempt to force Florida lawmakers to ban assault-style weapons in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre.
“I’m not saying we have to ban guns. For me, I don’t understand why you have to have a full arsenal at home,” De Paula said.
Of Gillum, she said, “we’ve been able to make that connection with him and hopefully we’ll be able to really make our vote count.”
On Saturday, former teacher Elise Kohen stopped to chat before casting her first ballot as a Floridian.
Kohen, who retired to the Sunshine State from New Jersey, said she eagerly endorsed Gillum.
“I want to vote for the person that will best represent the issues I believe in,” Kohen, 67, said outside a public library in Tamarac.
Kohen said immigration and racism are the top two issues for her this election cycle. Trump has been castigated for anti-immigration stances and has called out the National Guard as a caravan of mostly Central Americans migrants winds its way toward the U.S.-Mexico border.
Gillum, who is black, and his supporters have repeatedly accused DeSantis of racism. The day after the Aug. 28 primary election, DeSantis drew widespread criticism for saying that Florida needs to build on the success created by Scott and not “monkey this up” by electing Gillum.
“This is a country of immigrants, and not one Republican will stand up against Trump,” Kohen said.
The environment and education are also important for the retiree.
Immigration — and DeSantis’ proximity to Trump — is also the major concern for Weston Wynton, who said he moved from Jamaica to South Florida 15 years ago.
“I don’t support Trump and his corrupted, small-minded way of looking at immigration,” Wynton, 55, said.
Gillum “is smart, intelligent and has an agenda that will benefit the people,” according to Wynton.
“That is why I voted for Andrew Gillum. Not because he is black,” he said.
While Gillum anecdotally appeared to have solidified support among Democrats in Broward, their enthusiasm for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — who’s in a heated battle against Scott — was tepid.
“I’m very conflicted,” Kohen said of Nelson. “I know he’s been here a long time. I don’t see him campaigning on things that he’s accomplished.”
But De Paula, a self-described “conservative Democrat,” wasn’t torn at all. Her face lit up when asked about the Senate race.
“I love Rick Scott,” she said, adding that she’s heard about the governor — who’s been in office since she was a 10-year-old — throughout her school days.
Back at the Wings Plus parking lot, Frank McCrory said he voted for Clinton two years ago because he was “kind of scared of Trump.”
But Gillum’s policies are even more frightening, according to the 64-year-old Miami Lakes retiree.
“I don’t think raising taxes on corporations or Medicare for all is a good thing,” McCrory said, adding that Gillum “seems like a nice guy, but obviously has some clouds over his head.”
–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida
Republicans prey on ignorance. “The racist believe he’s a racist” . Lol, Yessssssssss Andrew!
If the shoe fits.. DeSantis is too emotional to be my governor. It’s obvious someone who is guilty will always respond with anger instead of listening to the truth. I don’t want someone leading my state like Desantis. That’s why I took my 18 year old behind and voted blue across the board.
As an independent, DeSantis lost my vote after watching his early juvenile campaign ad (aka rendition of inserting his head up Trumps tush) . What may have seemed cute to hard core Republicans turned off independents. If you think your wise enough to be Governor then act like it and run on your merits not by riding the coat tails of someone that many think is a deranged lunatic. DeSantis needs the Independents to win. He clearly looks like the weaker of the two candidates in debates Where Gillum radiates with confidence, DeSantis resorts to mud slinging. The fact that Gillum wants to increase the pay for our educators is a sign he has his priorities right. It’s sad that the same people that shape the minds of our children have to work a part-time job at Walmart to make ends meet.
I am trying to think of one thing that DeSantis himself accomplished in Congress….. Nothing. He’s a follower and not a leader. Look at Rick Scott’s record and you will see a number of things he has accomplished for Florida as Governor. That’s how you lead.
As a representative of us here in Flagler county, debatable if he even lived here, DeSantis didn’t represent us, he represented himself and is just a puppet of Trump. I haven’t heard anything that DeSantis will do for us other than issues around immigration. He has already shown he is for removing preexisting conditions no matter what he says now. He has also shown he is for changing medicare and raising eligibility.
If DeSantis gets elected, it will be a major step backwards for Florida. Hold onto your wallets if he gets in.
Vote for Rick Scott and Andrew Giilum.
You know…politics. I am so over all of it. Why waste was little time I have here on this planet worrying about people that don’t know me, will never know me, and only say appealing things when it’s election time. As soon as they are elected, they will do what they want. Every politician does. It’s no secret they are all controlled by at least one lobbyist somewhere. You know who they care about? THEIR families, not mine, not yours. Cynical, maybe but show me one “big stage” politician that actually does 100% of what they say they will, not even Trump or Obama have (Trump changes stances more than he changes his socks and Obama ignored many things that should’ve been dealt with).
It doesn’t matter who is elected governor, neither will have executive control. There are still branches of government at the local level that operate similar to the Federal level. What has Rick Scott done that impacted me personally? Nothing. What will Gillum do? Nothing. What will De Santis do? Nothing. They are just the face of the state, so the real question is, who do you want as your face? I know who I’m picking.
I’m not a great supporter of De Santis but it’s better than a lying, cheating, Obama wannabe who should be behind bars like him and Hillary.
I Love the Poorly Educated says
“What has Rick Scott done that impacted me personally? Nothing”
Au contraire mon frère. Ask any worker apart of the state retirement system and they’ll tell you differently. When was the last time Gov Scott gave a raise? When Scott took office he made these employees start paying into their retirement. That’s fine if you’re actually getting pay increases to off set the contribution.
If we want to prevent the further contamination of our states coastal waters, beaches and also make health care more affordable for all Floridians, then we need Gillium, Nelson and Morley at state level and in county and city we better seat McDonald Dennis, Gentile Youd, Howell and Tipton and Janet McDonald back in the school board.
Many retired folks migrate to Florida, myself included, for the weather, quality/cost of living, and avoiding taxes that cripple even the wealthiest up north. Nj, CT, NY, MA and even RI, run by the Dems, have driven people out of states and put them in precarious financial straights with union pensions, irresponsible financial management, and elements of social decay. Expect the same here if Gillum gets in..you get what you voted for!!
Again we the voters are faced with yet another, pick the best of the worst.
For all those who buy into the medicare for all/single payer healthcare. You should talk to a Vet who has to use the VA. I have My dental through the VA. I have had an impacted infected wisdom tooth since 1 Sept that they keep giving me antibiotics for cause they have no appointments. Have had to go to the Emergency room twice to get abcess drained as the VA isn’t always open. Still haven’t gotten to see the “specialist” For the record I have a 100% rating. Now, what have I gotten for this 2 month wait you ask? Just Bills from the Medical doctors as the Health Insurance will NOT cover it as it was DENTAL related, yet I have 100% Coverage from the VA. You to can have this and more………..
This is still funny!
Ron DeSantis has released an ad indoctrinating his children into Trumpism