Florida Democrats: Republican debate a ‘right-wing circus’


Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis squared off in their first debate Thursday night and within minutes of the 6:30 p.m. start time, Florida Democrats had a lot to say.

That has a lot to do with the first question of a debate dominated by national issues rather than Florida-centric ones addressing the wedge issue to end all wedge issues: Abortion.

Now that President Donald Trump is slated to get a second Supreme Court appointment, Democrats fear — and many Republicans hope — that the issue can be relitigated in the nation’s high court.

The Florida Democratic Party spelled out those fears 10 minutes into the Republican debate with an email saying that if SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade, “Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis would lead Florida’s war on women.”

“Both candidates have spent their careers attacking women’s health and aligning themselves with some of the most anti-choice organizations in the country. And as governor, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, either candidate would likely sign legislation that would attack women’s health — and outlaw abortion in Florida,” FDP said, backing up their statement a truckload of links to articles detailing the two Republicans’ anti-choice records, including that both Putnam and DeSantis receiving 100 percent ratings from National Right to Life.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, a Democratic candidate for Governor, echoed FDP in a series of tweets shortly after the debate started.

Her campaign used those quotes in a post-debate news release touted her as the “only candidate in the seven-way race for governor with a legislative record of defending a woman’s right to choose,” as well as her 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood and endorsements from EMILY’s List and Ruth’s List.

Also on blast were the Republican candidate’s stances on guns, which have dominated much of the rhetoric in the Democratic race ever since the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, not to mention the mass shooting in Annapolis, MD, just hours before the debate.

Both candidates cast the blame for MSD on everything but the tool that carried it out, but Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, who often touts his successful court battle with the National Rifle Association on the campaign trail, didn’t need to wait to reheat Putnam’s most famous statement of the campaign season to date — that he’s a “proud NRA sellout.”

Orlando-area businessman Chris King also seized on his Republican rivals’ comments on guns, blasting Putnam specifically for his comments on the shooting du jour.

The Guv hopeful followed up after the debate wrapped with a statement lamenting the debate’s focus on the president, whose name popped up in many questions and nearly every response of the evening.

“Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis just spent 60 minutes one-upping each other on who’s the bigger Trump sycophant. From their NRA loyalty oaths to their fantasyland ideas to ban so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ in Florida (of which there are none), the first Republican debate wasn’t a race to the right — it was a race to the bottom,” he said.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who sits atop most polls in the five-way Democratic primary, hit his GOP opponents for their focus on blaming Barack Obama for everything from health care to, as Putnam asserted, the degradation of political discourse.


Most Democrats admonished Putnam and DeSantis for going “Full Trump” at the debate, and FDP chair Terrie Rizzo was among them. Her post-debate statement wasn’t one of frustration, however, but one of confidence and anticipation of Election Day.

“After tonight’s debate, I’ve never been more confident that Democrats will retake the Governor’s Mansion in November. This debate was a right-wing circus brought to you by Fox News and inspired by Donald Trump. Before a nationwide audience, Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis made clear that they only have one message: Trump, Trump, Trump,” she said.

“Both DeSantis and Putnam failed to substantively discuss issues they will have to address as Governor of Florida — like public education — and instead focused on divisive and demagogic rhetoric. In stark contrast to the Republican gubernatorial campaigns, Florida Democrats are standing up for public education, affordable health care and an economy that works for every one of us — and that’s why we are confident of victory in November.”

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


  • Arthro

    June 28, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    Get real, Democrats. It doesn’t matter if it’s Desantis or Putnam, the Democrats will lose, again, in Florida.

    The Democrat Party is the party of obstruction, Russian collusion, gender confusion, illegal aliens, poverty, and racism. People across the nation are seeing what you stand for and what Trump has done in 18 months. No sane person wants to give Democrats control of anything, because they will run it into the ground, just like Obama did. Governor Scott did a great job for our state, and hopefully Desantis will win and continue that upward trek. No doubt, that in spite of any success Trump or Desantis has, the folks on the left will keep trying to tear down America. That’s what they do.

  • ochwill

    June 29, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    As one can see from the one semi lucid troll comment from arthro, there are a lot of low information voters willing to absorb GOP propaganda and use it to spread ignorance. The GOPs efforts to gut our public education system are clearly working. Stupid, uneducated, mentally lazy haters are easy to manipulate. Thanks arthro for showing the true face of the GOP to everyone. President Obama inherited a financial crisis, a collapsing car industry, a recession, failing banks, high unemployment, three wars and a trashed stock market. Eight years later he gave Trump a recovered and growing economy, a military returned from the ME, a recovered stock market, lowered unemployment, a salvaged car industry and toughened bank legislation. You’re welcome and I recommend you learn how to use logic instead of just repeating GOP propaganda.

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