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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) -— On Thursday, Florida gubernatorial candidates U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum made their running-mate selections.
U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis picked state Rep. Jeanette Nunez to be his running mate and Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum selected Orlando businessman Chris King to be his running mate for the November election.
In a packed auditorium in Little Havana, DeSantis appeared with Nunez.
The two sat on stage for nearly two hours at the event meant to honor the Brothers to the Rescue pilots shot down in 1996.
Nunez marks the first time a Cuban-American woman will be on the Florida ballot for lieutenant governor.
Nunez has represented a Miami district since 2010, and currently serves as speaker pro tempore.
The pick also is noteworthy because she has been at odds with some of the DeSantis’ agenda supporting President Donald Trump. DeSantis won the nomination last week with Trump’s endorsement, and he’s been a constant defender of the president on Fox News.
But Nunez tweeted in during the 2016 presidential election that Trump was a con man who supported the Ku Klux Klan. Nunez was backing U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for president at the time.
And while DeSantis has a tough-on-immigration position that’s in line with Trump’s, Nunez was the prime sponsor of a 2014 education bill to provide in-state tuition for immigrant families, a bill opposed by several immigration hardliners including current U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who has campaigned with DeSantis.
Nunez was expected to join DeSantis, Republican Gov. Rick Scott and other Republican candidates at a rally in Orlando.
Even before the lieutenant-governor selection was formally announced, Democrats criticized the DeSantis-Nunez ticket. They described such a Republican administration as a potential “disaster for Florida women and working families.”
“DeSantis has selected a lobbyist who supports his agenda of denying health care to hundreds of thousands, destroying public schools and taking away women’s health freedom,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terri Rizzo said in a prepared statement Wednesday night.
Democrats also highlighted a March 3, 2016 tweet by Nunez, who supported U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in that year’s GOP presidential primary. In the tweet, she expressed strong criticism of Trump, who went on to win the Republican nomination and the presidency.
“Wake up Florida voters, Trump is the biggest con-man there is. #nosubstance #anti-Israel #supportsKKK #nevertrump VOTE @marcorubio #RUBIO,” Nunez tweeted.
DeSantis and Nunez downplayed her initial support for Rubio in 2016.
“We’re here talking about moving Florida forward,” Nunez said after the Ace Cafe event. “It’s no secret that I was a strong Marco Rubio supporter. But that election is done, and I’m looking forward to this election.”
DeSantis agreed to look forward.
Scott can’t seek re-election because of term limits and is instead challenging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
Gillum, who seeks to become the first Democrat elected Florida governor since 1994, made his announcement on Facebook on Thursday morning.
“I am thrilled to welcome Chris King to the Democratic ticket this fall as our Lieutenant Governor. Chris has brought new and dynamic leadership to this state, and his innovative policy ideas and business acumen will help us move Florida forward,” said Gillum.
King is a Central Floridian who competed against Gillum in Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary.
The Orlando developer had made affordable housing and criminal justice reform the keystones of his campaign.
King has called for making community colleges and trade schools free to attend in Florida, but it has been his condemnation of the state’s Stand Your Ground law that gained notice, especially following the shooting death in Clearwater of Markeis McGlockton, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed after an altercation in a convenience store parking lot.
King came in fifth of five leading Democrats seeking the nomination after spending several million dollars of his own money on the race.
His campaign was noted for his criticism of the sugar industry, a call for a tax on bullets to be used for school safety, and a proposal to abolish the death penalty.
King has never held public office and highlighted his business experience during his campaign. He is CEO of Elevation, a company that invests in and manages affordable housing for seniors.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)