Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican former congressman Ron DeSantis faced off in the Florida governor’s debate in Tallahassee on Sunday night, and the pair argued over President Donald Trump, the economy and environmental protections, among other issues.

Although Gillum, 39, has been a vocal critic of Trump, the Democratic candidate and Mayor of Tallahassee said he was prepared to work with the president in order to help fund vital projects for Florida.

“That’s just not the way it works,” responded 40-year-old DeSantis, who was endorsed by Trump and who resigned from his five-year term as a representative for Florida’s sixth congressional district last month in order to focus on his gubernatorial campaign.

On Twitter Sunday night, Trump praised DeSantis and slammed Gillum, claiming the Tallahassee mayor wants to turn Florida into “the next Venezuela.” This is a talking point that many hard-line conservatives have echoed amid fears of Gillum’s positions on many issues, which several people have compared to socialist viewpoints.

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DeSantis and Gillum went on to exchange several tense statements over the course of the evening.

Gillum, who is African-American, blasted his opponent for constantly mentioning his skin color, and specifically brought up one remark that DeSantis drew much criticism for.

Earlier in his campaign, DeSantis was accused of racism after he warned his supporters to not “monkey up” the race by electing Gillum.


“The congressman let us know exactly where he was going to take this race the day after he won the nomination,” said Gillum of DeSantis. “The ‘monkey up’ comment said it all. And he has only continued over the course of his campaign to draw all the attention he can to the color of my skin.”

Gillum continued: “And the truth is, you know what: I’m black. I’ve been black all my life, so far as I know, I will die black,” he said, as some members of the audience laughed. “But this is the point: the only color that the people of the state of Florida care about is the blue-green algae flowing out of the east and west side of this state, and they deserve a governor who is going to protect this environment after 20 years of environmental degradation.”

Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott is famously a climate change denier, something he has been particularly criticized for because of the fact that the state is believed to be one of the first U.S. states that will bear the long-term consequences of global warming.

DeSantis responded to Gillum’s jab by going after the Tallahassee mayor’s relationship with law enforcement. “[The people of Florida] also deserve a governor who will stand by our men and women in law enforcement, and the fact is, Andrew signed a pledge with the Dream Defenders pledging to support this radical manifesto.”

He continued: “If you read that, they are so vicious about hating law enforcement.”

New polls show Gillum leads DeSantis by 12 points.

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