Gillum: DeSantis' monkey comment says it all

During a CNN debate between Florida's gubernatorial candidates, Andrew Gillum (D-FL) responded to Rep. Ron DeSantis on his "monkey it up" comment.

Posted: Oct 22, 2018 7:31 PM
Updated: Oct 22, 2018 7:52 PM

Hours after a new CNN poll found him trailing by double digits in their race to become the next governor of Florida, Republican Ron DeSantis leapt out of the gates to attack Democrat Andrew Gillum in his opening remarks at their first debate.

DeSantis, a former GOP congressman who resigned to focus on this contest, began the CNN debate by calling Gillum a "failed mayor" and alleging that he was "involved in corruption" before the Democrat had a turn to speak.

"Well, that was a mouthful," Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, deadpanned in response.

Few campaigns in 2018 have run so directly parallel to the broader national political fight -- and this, like so much else in the era, had the feel of a brawl. DeSantis spent more time on the offensive, perhaps feeling he needed to change the trajectory of a campaign that's found him consistently on the back foot, while Gillum sought to downplay accusations of impropriety, while talking up his health care plan and casting himself as the more competent choice to lead the state.

The rapid-fire, one-hour debate kicked off with a sharp exchange -- initiated by CNN's Jake Tapper, who moderated from Tampa -- over climate change and its outsized effects on a state that was slammed only a couple weeks ago by yet another devastating hurricane and is currently at war with a harmful algae bloom.

DeSantis denied claims he denies the science behind the issue, saying, "I don't want to be an alarmist. I want to look at this and do what makes sense for Florida," and touted his recent endorsement by the Everglades Trust.

Gillum, who has the backing of the Sierra Club, called the Republican "an election year environmentalist."

"What Florida voters need to know is that when they elect me governor, they are going to have a governor who believes in science," he said, "which we haven't had for quite some time in this state."

DeSantis was also forced to confront concerns that he has tried to use Gillum's race against him. The most high profile incident came in the first 24 hours after the primary, when DeSantis went on Fox News and warned Floridians not to "monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda" and voting for Gillum, who stands to be the state's first African American governor.

The Republican vigorously denied that his comment was about race, saying, "Floridians can know that I'll be a governor for all Floridians."

Gillum responded, "He has only continued in the course of his campaign to draw all the attention he can to the color of my skin. The truth is, I've been black all of my life. So far as I know, I will die black."

Though his upset victory in the primary was driven by an endorsement from President Donald Trump, DeSantis sought to keep some space from the President, never quite answering whether he considered Trump a good "role model," and instead talking up the administration's decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Gillum, who also called DeSantis a Trump "stooge," took the question as an opportunity to tie his opponent to the President

"Donald Trump is weak," Gillum said. "And he performs as all weak people do: they become bullies and Mr. DeSantis is his acolyte. He's trying out to be the Trump apprentice at every turn. He's tweeting at him and he's talking to him. He's showing up. He's complimenting him."

After the face-off ended, Trump tweeted to declare for DeSantis "a great debate victory tonight against Andrew Gillum."

Early on in the course of a rollicking hour, the candidates also broke into a heated exchange over suggestions from the DeSantis camp that an ongoing FBI investigation into public corruption in Tallahassee has implicated Gillum in wrongdoing.

Gillum has repeatedly said that FBI told him he was not a focus of the probe, which centers on the relationships between developers and lobbyists in the state capital, including one with longstanding connections to Gillum. In the course of the investigation, Gillum once unknowingly attended the Broadway hit musical "Hamilton" in the company of an undercover agent.

"Did you pay for the Hamilton tickets?," DeSantis asked.

Gillum insisted he's always paid his own way as he came up as a young political star, but never directly answered DeSantis. His campaign has said the ticket was given to him by his brother Marcus, who attended the show with him, the agent and a lobbyist friend, Adam Corey, who volunteered as finance chair on Gillum's 2014 mayoral campaign.

"We all have friends that sometimes let us down," Gillum said of Corey, while also pushing back at DeSantis with a suggestion this, too, was a racial dog whistle: "I'm a hard working person," he added. "I know that may not fit your description of what you think people like me do."

The candidates' exchange over health care was less bruising, but pushed DeSantis into a political corner inhabited by many Republicans this midterm season, as he effectively pitted himself against the party's own efforts to dismantle Obamacare.

Though those efforts, both in Congress and the courts, succeeded in changing the law and ending coverage regulations for people who have pre-existing conditions, DeSantis said, he would push through statewide legislation to counteract them.

"I will sign a bill to take care of people with pre-existing conditions," he said, before pivoting to jab repeatedly at Gillum's support for "Medicare for all" single-payer health care. DeSantis warned that it would end current programs, many of them popular -- which is true, though single-payer advocates argue the replacement would be more comprehensive.

Gillum flinched a bit, not defending the program which is a non-starter in Florida and most states around the country, instead seeking to talk up his plans to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. DeSantis opposes that, but has not yet released a health care plan of his own. His campaign website's "issues" page makes no mention of it.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1032931788
Lake556911009
Allen41692692
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Hamilton36588417
Elkhart29398461
Tippecanoe22901226
Vanderburgh22556400
Porter19356325
Johnson18471389
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Clark13226195
Madison13149344
Vigo12614253
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Warrick7860156
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Grant7242179
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Morgan6761141
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Marshall6209116
Cass6016110
Henry5900110
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Noble581488
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Jay200932
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Ohio57911
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1108902

Reported Deaths: 20166
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1287491467
Cuyahoga1158082211
Hamilton814091250
Montgomery525571043
Summit484351001
Lucas43359820
Butler39018606
Stark33338929
Lorain25675505
Warren24595303
Mahoning22376603
Lake21211388
Clermont20124253
Delaware18856136
Licking16663222
Fairfield16576204
Trumbull16551482
Medina15612271
Greene15284248
Clark14237306
Wood13292200
Portage13251215
Allen11914239
Richland11607211
Miami10849225
Wayne9146223
Columbiana9034230
Muskingum8906135
Pickaway8664122
Tuscarawas8650250
Marion8642138
Erie8056165
Ashtabula7161179
Hancock6999132
Ross6945161
Geauga6838151
Scioto6534106
Belmont6157174
Union584649
Lawrence5732102
Jefferson5679158
Huron5546122
Sandusky5442126
Darke5420129
Seneca5350128
Washington5320109
Athens523960
Auglaize502187
Mercer487385
Shelby476895
Knox4572112
Madison444366
Ashland435797
Putnam4336103
Defiance432399
Fulton432174
Crawford4040110
Brown402461
Logan387677
Preble3856105
Clinton379166
Ottawa373681
Highland359865
Williams348278
Champaign344859
Guernsey324953
Jackson318254
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285450
Hardin275365
Henry273467
Holmes2702101
Coshocton269060
Van Wert247264
Adams243256
Pike242835
Gallia240750
Wyandot234556
Hocking220563
Carroll197348
Paulding176542
Meigs148440
Monroe136344
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan109624
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
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