In his first major, nationally-televised interview after his stunning victory Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum vowed to avoid chasing President Donald Trump bait in this fall's campaign against Trump-backed Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis.
Gillum, who lives in Tallahassee with his wife and three children, said he is running for governor because he believes Florida is in need of new and creative ways to rebuild the state's economy, revitalize public education, protect and expand healthcare access and address the crisis of climate change. "He thinks that in today's day and age Florida's voters are going to respond to that level of division". But I don't think middle of the ground wins anymore.
The chair of the Florida Democrats Terri Rizzo called out the GOP candidates racist comment in her own tweet, posting: "It's disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles".
DeSantis credited part of his win to an endorsement from President Trump. "At some point the status quo has to acknowledge that they don't have all the answers, and they should listen to what we have to say". I'm going to be clearly focused on the issues that confront everyday Floridians.
Florida also will host one of the country's top US Senate races between term-limited Republican Governor Rick Scott, who won the Senate nomination against token opposition, and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.
"Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses".
"He is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views".
DeSantis's campaign rejected the insinuation, saying that the candidate's remarks had nothing to do with Gillum's race and everything to do with his politics. "I watched those Democratic debates". Let's build off the success we've had with Gov. [Rick] Scott. That's not going to work.
"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", he told his cheering supporters.
DeSantis based almost his entire campaign around the president, and acknowledged after the victory that Trump's endorsement was the key. Reps. Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema will face off after winning the GOP and Democratic primaries respectively Tuesday night.
DeSantis, who was endorsed by Trump, beat state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the Republican nomination for governor, the Associated Press projected. The Democratic Governors Association and other political groups also levied criticism. He told Smith that he plants to raise the state's corporate tax rate from 5.5 to 7 percent to raise money to pay for higher teacher salaries and expanded healthcare programs. Gillum has said he is not a target in the investigation. Just two "Red to Blue" candidates have lost primaries this year.
He also briefly mentioned DeSantis, and also insisted he would not be taking the bait from him either.
"I do understand how many could have misconstrued my comments as insensitive, and for this I apologize", Ward said.