Three nights after their first contentious debate in the race for governor. Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum took the stage at Broward College in Davie Wednesday evening for their second and final debate. They picked up pretty much where they left off Sunday evening going after each other’s records.
The first question focused on the pipe bombs that were sent to Democratic politicians and CNN on Wednesday. The candidates were asked whether partisan politics have crossed the line and forcing some people “over the edge?”
“I know firsthand that when we start going down that road that can be very, very deadly,” responded DeSantis, who was there when a gunman who disliked Republicans opened fire on the GOP’s congressional baseball team during a practice, seriously injuring U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise. “I condemn that. I condemn what happened today.”
“We’ve really seen the collapsing of our political discourse,” Gillum insisted, turning the question on DeSantis. ”My opponent, as soon as he won the Republican nomination for governor, went on Fox News and told voters here in the state of Florida not to ‘monkey-up’ this state by electing me.”
But the issue that was expected to dominate the debate did not disappoint those who attended or watched the debate at home. That issue is the ongoing investigation into possible public corruption in Tallahassee City Hall and Gillum’s possible involvement..
“Andrew, who is a career politician, has never done anything outside of politics, will not accept responsibility for his conduct,” DeSantis charged. “He wouldn’t accept responsibility for getting a $1,000 ticket from an undercover FBI agent in the last debate. We now know he lied about that. At some point you’ve got to demonstrate leadership and accept responsibility for what you’ve done.”
The release of text messages and other documents by Gillum’s former associate Adam Corey on Tuesday as part of a state ethics commission investigation are raising new questions about what Gillum knew about favors and gifts from lobbyists and FBI agents. They show that Gillum likely knew that a ticket to the Broadway play Hamilton was paid for by an undercover FBI agent who was posing as a developer and did not come from Gillum’s brother, as Gillum claims.
Gillum again insisted he’s not the target of the probe. However, he admitted Wednesday night that he made a mistake by not being more thorough in determining who paid for the ticket.
“The problem I have is I should have asked more questions to make sure everything that had transpired wa above board,” Gillum said. “I was informed by my brother, at the time, that he gave Adam Corey tickets to a Jay-Z, Beyonce concert of which I understand that they took later and I understood that to have solved whatever the issue was with regard to the expenses associated with it.”
Gillum tried to change the subject to other issues.
“In the state of Florida, we got 99 issues, and Hamilton ain’t one of them,” Gillum said. “I get that this is what my opponent wants to discuss, but what happened to the $145,000 in receipts of public taxpayers money that he has yet to reveal?” Gillum was referring to congressional travel receipts filed by DeSantis that Gillum brought up in the first debate.
“He wants you to believe that he’s not under investigation,” DeSantis fired back. “Why would an undercover FBI agent, posing as a contractor, give him a $1,000 ticket to Hamilton.”
DeSantis called on Gillum, who is a target of a state ethics commission which will not be completed by election day, to waive confidentiality in the case. “Get all the evidence and statements out there so the voters of Florida can know everything is on the up-and-up,” he said.
The final debate between the two candidates came less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Even before the two men took the stage in Davie about 1.5 ballots had already been cast by voters who either have voted by mail or cast a ballot at one of the state’s early voting sites.