The battle for governor in Florida is well underway. Republican nominee Ron DeSantis calls his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, “the most liberal candidate that the Democratic Party has ever nominated in the state of Florida by a country mile in a governor’s race.”
But the GOP nominee was criticized for his choice of words Wednesday while talking about his Democratic opponent.
Appearing on Fox News Wednesday morning, DeSantis was critical of Gillum’s stance on the issues. Gillum is a self-described progressive who had the backing of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as the support of liberal Democratic mega donors.
“He wants to abolish ICE. He wants a billion dollar tax increase. He wants a single-payer health care system in Florida, which would bankrupt the state,” DeSantis said. “I’m trying to make Florida even better. He wants to make Floriida (more like) Venezuela.”
DeSantis called his primary win gratifying.
“It was a victory that had big margins in all parts of the state. I mean, we won almost 70 percent in Miami-Dade County, but also won over 60 percent in Pensacola,” DeSantis said of his primary win. “So it was really coast-to-coast, the whole stretch of Florida. That gives us a lot of momentum going into the general elections.”
DeSantis drew some criticism from Democrats for a comment he made during the interview when talking about the progress Florida has made under current Gov. Rick Scott and the threat he says Gillum poses to that progress.
“We need to work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction,” DeSantis 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 the state. That is not going to work. That’s not gonna be good for Florida.”
His comments brought a quick response from Terrie Rizzo, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, who said DeSantis’ comment about “monkey this up” had a racial undertone to them.
“It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles,” Rizzo wrote on Twitter.
DeSantis also called Gillum “an articulate spokesman for those far left views and he’s a charismatic candidate.”
The DeSantis campaign later issued a clarification on the comments.
“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses,” said Stephen Lawson, DeSantis’ communications director. “To characterize it as anything else is absurd. Florida’s economy has been on the move for the last eight years and the last thing we need is a far-left democrat trying to stop our success.”