Florida's Andrew Gillum wows audiences in debate with troubled Trump-backed Republican
Florida’s candidates for governor met in their first debate on Sunday night, a meeting that was delayed by Hurricane Michael. Republican Ron DeSantis came out of the gate attacking Democrat Andrew Gillum, but his own record and his closeness to Donald Trump—DeSantis dodged a question on whether Trump is a good role model for kids—gave DeSantis a lot to (try to) defend.
CNN’s Jake Tapper—and the state of Florida’s particular vulnerabilities—get some credit for putting a question about climate change right up front, prompting DeSantis to try to have it both ways (a habit of his throughout the campaign). “I don't want to be an alarmist. I want to look at this and do what makes sense for Florida,” said DeSantis, which in his book means denying climate science and the human causes of climate change while saying he’ll promote “resiliency” efforts for specific effects of climate change on Florida. Gillum doesn’t have to thread such a tricky needle:
«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 predictably also ran into trouble addressing his racist comments, especially the morning after the primary when he changed the story from his win to having urged Florida voters not to “monkey this up” by electing Gillum. That’s not the only thing DeSantis has to answer for on race, though, and he doesn’t have much of an answer:
Mr. DeSantis, who has declined to return campaign contributions from a supporter who was forced to apologize for calling President Barack Obama a racist slur, said he served in Iraq with military personnel of all races. “I will be a governor for all Floridians,” he said.
Gillum, by contrast, could be a lot more blunt: “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.”
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