Monday, September 24, 2018

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Racism quickly becomes issue in governor’s race

GOP nominee begins campaign by saying voters shouldn’t ‘monkey this up’ by choosing African American

  • APTOPIX-Florida-Primary

    Andrew Gillum, standing with his wife, R. Jai Gillum, addresses his supporters after he won the Democratic primary for governor on Tuesday in Tallahassee, Fla.His GOP opponent, Ron DeSantis, said voters shouldn’t “monkey this up” by choosing Gillum, throwing the issue of racism into the campaign.

    Associated Press

  • APTOPIX-Florida-Primary-1

    DeSantis

    Phelan M. Ebenhack

  • Florida-Primary-2

    FILE - In this July 31, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis during a rally in Tampa, Fla. Florida voters are going to the polls, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, to select nominees to replace Republican Gov. Rick Scott in an election that’s caught the attention of Trump. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

    Chris O'Meara

  • Florida-Primary-3

    Rachelle Clegg holds an Andrew Gillum cutout as she cheers on gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum at his watch party at Hotel Duval in downtown Tallahassee, Fla., Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. (Joe Rondone/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)

    Joe Rondone

  • Florida-Primary-4

    FILE - In this Aug. 27, 2018, file photo, Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam speaks at a rally in Tampa, Fla. Florida voters are going to the polls to select nominees to replace Republican Gov. Rick Scott in an election that's caught the attention of President Donald Trump and could see the daughter of a former governor win the nomination for the office he once held. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

    Chris O'Meara

  • Florida-Primary-5

    FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2018, file photo Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham thanks a campaign volunteer, Juan Sabater, 20, of Miami as she speaks to voters in an early "Get Out The Vote" tour in Miami Lakes, Fla. Graham is trying to fend off four challengers as she seeks to become Florida’s first woman governor and to take the seat her father, Bob Graham, held from 1979 to 1987. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

    Brynn Anderson

  • Florida-Primary-6

    FILE - In this Aug. 27, 2018, file photos, Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, right, addresses the media near the scene of a mass shooting at The Jacksonville Landing in Jacksonville, Fla. Florida voters are going to the polls to select nominees to replace Republican Gov. Rick Scott in an election that's caught the attention of President Donald Trump and could see the daughter of a former governor win the nomination for the office he once held. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

    John Raoux

  • Florida-Primary-7

    FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, file photo, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham speaks to voters in an early "Get Out The Vote" tour, in Miami Lakes, Fla. Florida voters are going to the polls, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, to select nominees to replace Republican Gov. Rick Scott in an election that’s caught the attention of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

    Brynn Anderson

  • APTOPIX-Florida-Primary-8

    Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum celebrates his victory with supporters during his election watch party at Hotel Duval in Tallahassee, Fla., Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. (Joe Rondone/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)

    Joe Rondone

  • Florida-Primary-9

    Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, right, kisses his wife Casey at an election party after winning the Republican primary Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. DeSantis won Florida's Republican nomination for governor Tuesday, with the help of President Donald Trump's endorsement to overtake an opponent with a long history in Florida politics. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

    Phelan M. Ebenhack

  • Florida-Primary-10

    Andrew Gillum supporters Richard Lopez and Mara Cooper watch the screen as election results come in showing their candidate winning the Democratic primary for governor on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

    Steve Cannon

  • Florida-Primary-11

    Andrew Gillum supporters celebrate his winning of the Democratic primary for governor on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

    Steve Cannon

  • Florida-Primary-12

    Andrew Gillum kisses wife, R. Jai Gillum as he addresses his supporters after winning the Democrat primary for governor on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

    Steve Cannon

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Racism immediately became an issue in the Florida governor’s race Wednesday 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 clear the high-profile race in the nation’s largest political battleground state was going to be nasty and racially charged. Gillum, a far-left Democrat seeking to become the state’s first black governor, and DeSantis, a Trump-endorsed Republican, are political opposites, both seeking to gin up turnout among the party’s most ardent supporters.

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.

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.”

Democrats immediately decried DeSantis’ comment as racist, but the DeSantis campaign clarified 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.

Gillum called the comment a form of “gutter politics” that he said comes from the “Trump school” of trying to “fire up the base.”

DeSantis came from behind in the GOP primary with the help of Trump to beat Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who campaigned longer, raised more money and built party establishment support.

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. Gillum spent the least of the major candidates but won the hearts of those who consider themselves progressives and got a late boost from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

They’re seeking to succeed Gov. Rick Scott, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits and is instead challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

In a state sure to be a battleground in the 2020 presidential vote, the governor’s race will essentially be a referendum on Trump.

“We’re going to make clear to the rest of the world that the dark days that we’ve been under coming out of Washington, that the derision and the division that have been coming out of our White House, that right here in the state of Florida that we are going to remind this nation of what is truly the American way,” Gillum told cheering supporters.

DeSantis also came out fighting, criticizing Gillum as “way, way, way too liberal for the state of Florida.”

“That is not what Floridians want,” DeSantis declared.

DeSantis based nearly his entire primary run Trump and acknowledged his endorsement was the key.

“With one tweet, that kind of put me on the map,” DeSantis said.

Trump weighed in Wednesday on Twitter saying that not only did DeSantis win but that “his opponent in November is his biggest dream.” He called Gillum a “failed socialist mayor” who has “allowed crime and many other problems to flourish in the city.”

Tallahassee has had one of the Florida’s highest crime rates in recent years though it has been going down.

Gillum brushed off Trump’s tweet, saying, “I’m a Democrat, but I have to tell you that not much what Donald Trump says is actually based in fact. The president does not scare me. If he’s going to tweet at me he should @ me. And he ought to know he should be prepared to receive a response when appropriate.”

DeSantis, who turns 40 next month, is a former Navy lawyer who won his seat in 2012 running as a Washington outsider. He entered the governor’s race a month after Trump’s December tweet that he would make “a GREAT governor.” Later Trump held a rally for him in Tampa.

Gillum, meanwhile, relied on a grassroots campaign in the big-money Democratic primary.

Gillum was a 23-year-old Florida A&M student when he became the youngest person elected to the Tallahassee City Commission in 2003. He was elected mayor in 2014. He’s a gifted public speaker who did well in debates, often receiving the most applause, but the FBI is investigating Tallahassee city hall for alleged corruption. Gillum has said he’s not a target.

Their policy differences are pronounced: DeSantis is pro-gun, and anti-tax; Gillum boasts about beating gun rights groups in a lawsuit and is calling for an increase in corporate taxes.

Gillum didn’t make race an issue in the primary. But he acknowledged in a recent interview that it would be “big” to be Florida’s first black governor.

“I have been really slow to try to think on it because it’s too big,” he said. “There will absolutely be a part of this that I can’t even put words to around what it might mean for my children and other people’s kids. Especially growing up for them in the age of Donald Trump.”


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