Florida governor debate: Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum face off

By Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 9:21 p.m. ET, October 21, 2018
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9:21 p.m. ET, October 21, 2018

Our live coverage of the Florida governor debate has ended. Scroll through the posts below to see how it unfolded, and read more about the latest polls here.

9:17 p.m. ET, October 21, 2018

4 key takeaways from the Florida governor debate

Former congressman Ron DeSantis, a Republican, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat, just squared off at a one hour-debate in Tampa.

The election is just more than two weeks away and Gillum is up according to the latest CNN poll.

Here's what you need to know about how the debate went down:

  • Climate change and the environment was a key issue: DeSantis attacked Gillum for pursuing what he described as a "California-style energy policy," to which the Tallahassee mayor pointed to DeSantis' climate skepticism.
  • Gillum responded to an FBI investigation: There's a probe into potential corruption in the city of Tallahassee, which appears to include lobbyists and a former campaign treasurer who worked for Gillum. "We all have friends that sometimes let us down," Gillum said when asked about it.
  • There was a discussion about Broadway tickets: While discussing the FBI investigation, DeSantis drilled down on one of the sexier parts of the story: Gillum unknowingly spending time with undercover agents in New York. He asked Gillum bluntly: "Did you pay for the Hamilton tickets?"
  • The candidates talked about race: DeSantis was about a controversial remark in which he said voters would "monkey this up" if they elected his African-American Democratic opponent. DeSantis denied it was about race, but Gillum alleged that the Republican's campaign has tried to undermine his campaign with racist dog whistles. (Watch more on that exchange in the video below.)

9:08 p.m. ET, October 21, 2018

Why Gillum doesn't think President Trump is a good role model

The two candidates were asked tonight if they think President Trump is a good model for the children of Florida.

Republican Ron DeSantis talked about Trump's effort to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and praised his leadership in that role.

Baffled by DeSantis' answer, Democrat Andrew Gillum said, "I'm confused by the question.  

CNN's Jack Tapper, who is moderating the debate, responded, "The question is whether or not he thinks President Trump is a good role model for the children of Florida."

Gillum said, "That's what I thought originally. I got confused."

The Tallahassee mayor then went after Trump.

"No, he's not. Donald Trump -- Donald Trump is weak. And he performs as all week people do: they become bullies and Mr. DeSantis is his acolyte. He's trying out to be the Trump apprentice at every turn. He's tweeting at him and he's talking to him. He's showing up. He's complimenting him."
9:11 p.m. ET, October 21, 2018

How the Florida governor candidates handled questions about race

From CNN's Greg Kreig

Ron DeSantis was just asked about his controversial remark in which he said voters would "monkey this up" if they elected his African-American Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, to be governor, immediately drawing accusations of racism.

"The congressman let us know where he was going to take this race the day after he won the nomination," Gillum said of DeSantis's remarks on Fox News after he won the nomination.

"The 'monkey up' comment said it all," Gillum said about DeSantis (Read more about that comment here).

The Democrat alleged that the Republican's campaign has tried to undermine his campaign with racist dog whistles.

"And (DeSantis) has only continued in the course of his campaign to draw all the attention he can to the color of my skin," Gillum said.

He added: "The truth is, I've been black all of my life. So far as I know, I will die black."

DeSantis denied that the remark was a reference to race and accused Gillum of being insufficiently pro-Israel, to which Gillum recalled a report that found DeSantis had been part of far right Facebook group. DeSantis claimed he knew nothing about it.

Watch more:

8:42 p.m. ET, October 21, 2018

Why the Florida governor candidates are talking about Hamilton tickets

From CNN's Greg Kreig

There is an ongoing federal investigation into public corruption in Tallahassee, where Andrew Gillum is mayor. The candidates were just asked about it, and his opponent, Ron DeSantis took the chance to accuse the Democrat of using "the office to benefit himself."

Gillum said — and not for the first time — "I am not under FBI investigation and neither is our city government."

Then, the debate turned to the topic of Broadway tickets.

Part of the story has focused on how Gillum unknowingly spent time with undercover agents on Broadway in New York.

"Did you pay for the Hamilton tickets?" DeSantis asked.

Gillum insisted he always paid his own way. Critics have suggested that this -- in particular his run-ins with the agents -- implicates Gillum, but again, a lot remains under wraps as the probe continues.

Of his friend Adam Corey, who volunteered as finance chair on his 2014 mayoral campaign, Gillum only says: "We all have friends that sometimes let us down."

8:41 p.m. ET, October 21, 2018

Gillum on FBI investigation: "We all have friends that sometimes let us down"

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was just asked about the FBI investigation into potential corruption in the city, which appears to include lobbyists and a former campaign treasurer who worked for him.

"We all have friends that sometimes let us down," Gillum said.

Gillum said he's not personally under investigation, then added: "If there is something who has done something wrong, they ought to be held fully accountable for their actions. We've made every record available on a publicly searchable website."

Republican Ron DeSantis then drilled down on two of the sexier parts of the story: Gillum’s unknowingly spending time with undercover agents in New York and a trip to Costa Rica. Gillum insisted he paid his own way. Critics have suggested that this — in particular his run-ins with the agents — implicates Gillum, but again, a lot remains under wraps as the probe continues.

What this is all about: The FBI is investigating public corruption in Tallahassee, Florida — the city where Gillum is mayor.

Gillum's has said publicly that the FBI told him he was not a focus of the investigation.

8:25 p.m. ET, October 21, 2018

DeSantis pledges to sign a "bill to take care of people with pre-existing condition"

From CNN's Greg Krieg

Ron DeSantis got backed into the same corner on health care as so many other Republicans this year.

After Democrat Andrew Gillum pointed out that the GOP Obamacare repeal bills and some ongoing legal fights would allow states to drop coverage regulations for people who have pre-existing condition, DeSantis pledged to close that gap if his own party's initiatives succeed.

If elected and one of those bills or suits became law, he said, "I will sign a bill to take care of people with pre-existing condition."

DeSantis also hit Gillum over his support for Medicare-for-all, saying it would wipe out current programs. That's true, of course, but would in theory improve on them and cover (by definition) everyone.

Gillum didn't seem to want to own that, instead pivoting to the political reality of the moment and a cornerstone of his campaign: expanding Medicaid. He wants to do it. DeSantis did not have a public health policy to speak of -- literally, there is no mention of it on his campaign website.

8:16 p.m. ET, October 21, 2018

The first question of the night is all about climate change

From CNN's Greg Krieg

In a state recently hit by another hurricane, plagued by a toxic algae problem and threatened by flooding in its south, the Florida debate started off with a question on climate change.

Ron DeSantis attacked Andrew Gillum for pursuing what he described as a "California-style energy policy," to which the Tallahassee mayor pointed to DeSantis's climate skepticism.

When Gillum is elected, he said, the people of Florida are "going to have a governor who believes in science."

DeSantis touted his backing from the Everglades Trust -- a three-person board, of which two backed DeSantis. (Gillum has the Sierra Club's support.)

Gillum popped back, saying of DeSantis: "He is an election year environmentalist."

8:08 p.m. ET, October 21, 2018

What the Florida governor candidates said in their opening statements

The candidates for Florida governor just gave their opening statements.

Republican Ron DeSantis went first, and he thanked his wife before touting his career history.

"I'm an Iraq veteran. I'm a former prosecutor, and I'm on a mission to protect Florida's future for a generation," he said.

DeSantis then called out his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, by first name.

"We need to protect the economic momentum that we've enjoyed, but you can't do that if you do what Andrew wants to do which is to raise taxes 40% and introduce a lot of new taxes. That will stop our economy," DeSantis said.

Gillum also started his statement by mentioning his family: His wife, children and parents.

"I’m here this evening standing for anybody who has ever been told that they don’t belong, that they didn’t come from the right background or the right pedigree," he said. "I’m here fighting for everyday Floridians so that this is a state that works for all of us again."