Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, warned Florida voters on Wednesday not to “monkey this up” by voting for his Democratic gubernatorial opponent Andrew Gillum. The attack came hours after Gillum made history by becoming the first African-American gubernatorial candidate to secure a nomination in Florida.
“You know, this is a guy, although he’s much too liberal for Florida, I think he’s got huge problems with how he’s governed Tallahassee,” DeSantis said of the Democratic mayor during an appearance on Fox News.
DeSantis called Gillum “an articulate spokesman for those far-left views” and a “charismatic candidate” after his upset Democratic primary victory Tuesday night.
“I watched those Democrats debate and none of that is just my cup of tea, but he performed better than the other people there, so we gotta work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis, who has been proudly backed and supported by President Donald Trump, accused Gillum, a candidate backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), of embracing a “socialist agenda.”
“Let’s build off the success we’ve had on Gov. Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases bankrupting the state. That is not going to work,” DeSantis said.
Uh Ron DeSantis just said FL shouldn't "monkey this up" by electing Andrew Gillum pic.twitter.com/nDPp3Hx7zc
— Steve Morris (@stevemorris__) August 29, 2018
Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo slammed DeSantis after the interview in a statement: “It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles.”
Geoff Burgan, Gillum’s campaign spokesman, told The Tallahassee Democrat that his campaign was letting Rizzo respond to DeSantis’s comments.
“DeSantis’ comments speak for themselves,” he said.
In an interview with CNN later on Wednesday morning, Gillum said that he believes Florida and its “rich diversity” are going to be looking for a governor who “is going to bring us together, not divide us. Not misogynist, not racist, not bigots.”
DeSantis’s campaign responded to the comments made on Fox News.
“DeSantis’ [spokesperson] tells me this is something the congressman says ‘frequently’ to express something that was messed up or not done right,” tweeted NBC reporter Ali Vitali. “[The spokesperson] says it ‘had nothing to do with race or anything like that’ but just talking about the situation in Florida.”