The second and final debate between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis in the Florida governor’s race will take place Wednesday in South Florida. The debate is set to begin at 7 p.m. at Broward College. One topic that’s sure to come up — over and over again — is Gillum’s possible involvement in an FBI investigation into possible public corruption within Tallahassee city government.
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. The timing couldn’t be worse for Gillum.
Two new polls released Tuesday continued to show the Tallahassee mayor maintaining leads in the race for governor. But, you can be sure DeSantis will make sure those questions are raised during Wednesday night’s debate and in the remaining days of the campaign, which is now less than two weeks.
“Of course he lied,” DeSantis told the Tampa Bay Times Tuesday during a campaign stop in Miami. “More will come out.”
Gillum has insisted he’s been told by the FBI that he’s not a target of the investigation. In a statement released Tuesday, Gillum downplayed the significance of the text messages and emails made public by Corey.
“These records vindicate and add more evidence that at every turn I was paying my own way or was with my family, for all trips, including picking up tickets from my brother, Marcus, who was with a group of his own friends,” Gillum said. “But this isn’t about a Broadway show, it’s about a sideshow, because Ron DeSantis and his associates have no vision, no healthcare plan, and are running the most false, negative campaign in Florida history. Floridians deserve better.”
The communications released Tuesday by Corey involve trips to Costa Rica and New York that included Gillum. They seem to contradict Gillum’s version of the trips.
They show that Gillum likely knew that ticket to the Broadway play Hamilton were for by an undercover FBI agent who was posing as a developer and did not come from Gillum’s brother, as Gillum claims. The texts also show the agent paid for Gillum’s hotel room on that trip.
The documents also show that Corey placed a hold on a bill for Gillum’s share of the costs for the trip to Costa Rica, which was double the$400 Gillum said he withdrew from his bank account to pay for the trip. Among those who went on the trip to Costa Rica were friends of Gillum’s who were also investors in a Tallahassee hotel project that was eventually awarded a $2 million grant from the Tallahassee city commission.
Gillum will come under scrutiny when he and DeSantis meet in Wednesday’s debate sponsored by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association. How he he handles these latest developments will likely set the tone for the final two weeks of the campaign.