DAVIE (CBSMiami) – The final Florida Gubernatorial debate between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis featured spirited talk of the issues, was dominated by questions and accusations over the character of the candidates and even included a testy exchange between a candidate and the moderator.
The debate started off with personal attacks, as Gillum, the Mayor of Tallahassee, accused DeSantis, a former Congressman, of being a serial liar.
“Mr. Desantis in the last debate lied 21 times,” Gillum said in a response to a DeSantis allegation that Gillum is tied to the Dream Defenders, a Miami-based group that works to end the school-to-prison pipeline. “This marks the 22nd and we just started this debate.”
Seconds later, DeSantis shot back that Gillum has not sufficiently answered questions about his receipt of a ticket for the musical “Hamilton” and luxury trips he took as mayor.
“Yet again, Andrew, whose a career politician, has never done anything outside of politics, will not accept responsibility for his conduct,” DeSantis said.
The candidates argued over the issues, like healthcare. Gillum wants to expand Medicare.
“We deserve to expand Medicare to more than 800,000 of the most medically needy people in this state,” he said.
Gillum said DeSantis wants to take away coverage for preexisting conditions but DeSantis denied that.
“I will happily sign a bill to help people with pre-existing conditions in Florida,” DeSantis said.
On immigration and sanctuary cities, DeSantis painted Gillum as weak.
‘Andrew says there are no sanctuary cities in Florida and that may be true, but that’s gonna change if he’s governor,” DeSantis said. “He’ll support sanctuary cities.”
Gillum said his administration would follow the law for all crimes.
“If you commit a crime like that, you will be deported from the United States,” Gillum said.
DeSantis interjected, “You will cooperate?”
Gillum responded, “I will absolutely cooperate with any order that comes down because that’s the law of the land.”
CBS4’s Eliott Rodriguez, Rudabeh Shahbazi and Jim DeFede discuss the debate:
On the economy, DeSantis wants to keep taxes where they are. Gillum says he’d raise the corporate tax rate to fund raises for teachers.
On the environment, Gillum says he believes in science and solar energy. DeSantis said he’d clean up toxic algae and take on Big Sugar.
Then there’s guns and the fallout from the Parkland shooting.
“If you want to own the power of God in your waist belt, you ought to have a background check,” Gillum said.
DeSantis said Gillum’s stance on guns goes too far.
“He’s the most hostile candidate to the 2nd Amendment rights of law abiding citizens,” he said.
They also answered questions about character and ethical issues, like Gillum’s getting a ticket to see Hamilton from an undercover FBI agent.
“The problem that I have I should’ve asked more questions to make sure it was above board,” Gillum said, adding, “I am not the subject of an FBI investigation neither is my city.”
At one point, the debate moderator brought up DeSantis’ past comments supporting events by a group that discussed white supremacy. Before the moderator could ask the question, DeSantis exploded.
“How the hell am I supposed to know every single statement everybody makes?” DeSantis said. He later added, “As Governor, I will represent all the people, everyone will get a fair shake.”
Ultimately, it boiled down to their visions for the future of the Sunshine State. DeSantis is focused on the economy. Gillum about changing the tone and direction of Florida politics.
“We’ve got to protect Florida’s economic momentum,” DeSantis said. “We can take it to the next level.”
“We have an opportunity on Nov 6 to send a loud and convincing message that common sense and decency still prevails right here in the state of Florida,” Gillum said.