Racism quickly becomes an issue in Florida governor's race
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Racism immediately became an issue in the Florida governor's race today as both nominees made predictions: The Democrat said voters aren't looking for a misogynist, racist or bigot, while the Republican said voters shouldn't "monkey this up" by choosing his African-American opponent.
Only hours after their primary election victories, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis made it clear the race is going to be a nasty contest between two candidates who couldn't be more opposed politically.
Asked if he's afraid of President Donald Trump's support for DeSantis, Gillum told CNN that his race is about uniting the state.
"I actually believe that Florida and its rich diversity are going to be looking for a governor who's going to bring us together, not divide us. Not misogynist, not racist, not bigots, they're going to be looking for a governor who is going to appeal to our higher aspirations as a state, "Gillum said. "DeSantis can do the bidding of big business and big lobbyists and Donald Trump and his divisive rhetoric."
Meanwhile, on Fox News, DeSantis called Gillum an "articulate" candidate, but said "the last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting this state. That is not going to work. It's not going to be good for Florida."
The Florida Democratic Party immediately decried DeSantis' comment as racist.
"It's disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles," said party Chairwoman Terry Rizzo in a statement emailed to reporters.
The DeSantis campaign clarified in an email that his comments were directed at Gillum's policies, not the candidate himself. "To characterize it as anything else is absurd," his spokesman Stephen Lawson said.
DeSantis came from behind with the help of Trump to beat Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who campaigned longer, raised more money and built the support of the party establishment.
Gillum upset a field of five that included former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who was hoping to become the state's first female governor and win the office once held by her father, Bob Graham.