Florida governor candidates Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis have exchanged sharp personal barbs in a heated second — and final — debate before voters take to the polls next month to determine which candidate will lead their state for the next four years.
The pair dragged one another through the mud on the debate stage at Broward College in Davie, Florida, where they were asked to describe their plan for the state on issue ranging from the environment, immigration, healthcare, and education.
But, they repeatedly returned to personal attacks in the process, suggesting the race has turned into an all-out verbal brawl as the candidates enter the home stretch of an election that has drawn national attention as something of a proxy to larger political headwinds in America.
“We have seen the collapsing of our political discourse,” Mr Gillum, the mayor of Tallahasee, said early in the debate when asked about a string of pipe bombs that had been sent to the offices and homes of Democratic leaders across the country on Wednesday. “My opponent, endorsed by him, has run this race very, very close to the Trump handbook, where we call each other names, where we run false advertisements”.
Mr DeSantis, a former US congressman with the backing of President Donald Trump, repeatedly attacked Mr Gillum over text messages that were recently revealed showing the Tallahassee governor communicating about receiving tickets to the play Hamilton that were provided by an undercover FBI agent.
“He wants you believe that he’s not under investigation,” Mr DeSantis said. “Why would an undercover FBI agent posing as a contractor give you a ticket to Hamilton?”
The Democrat has repeatedly insisted that he has been told he is not the subject of an FBI investigation, but recognised that his handling of the situation has led to problems. There is no indication that the FBI is investigating Mr Gillum.
“I take responsibility for not having asked more questions,” Mr Gillum said during the debate, noting that he was under the impression that his brother had returned the favor for the Hamilton tickets by giving Beyoncé and Jay-Z tickets to the individual they received the play tickets from. “But let me tell you, I’m running for governor. In the state of Florida we have many issues. And tickets to Hamilton ain’t one of them.”