As if sensing he drew blood in Thursday night’s debate, Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis went after his rival Adam Putnam with full force Friday, accusing him of cronyism, fiscal irresponsibility, voting with Democrats, and not telling the truth about comments about Donald Trump.
DeSantis spent most of his speech Friday at the Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit contrasting him with Florida’s Republican agriculture commissioner, most of it in full attack mode.
“We have a very good sharp contrast between our two candidates for governor,” DeSantis said.
He also continued to tout his Trump credentials, starting his speech by reminding everyone he spent Thursday morning in a Congressional hearing trying to “expose the anti-Trump bias in the FBI and DOJ,” and finishing his speech by quoting Trump’s endorsement of his gubernatorial run.
DeSantis also repeated the charge he made in the debate that Putnam not only did not support Trump’s election campaign, but called Trump “vile” and “obscene” at one point.
“Own it and apologize and move on. Instead he said that he never said that,” DeSantis recalled from the debate. “It’s been well-documented that he did.”
He then suggested that when Putnam says he’s putting Florida first, he’s really putting special interests first, “the insiders in Tallahassee, who really want you to do your bidding.”
It was a theme DeSantis returned to a couple of times.
He declared that Putnam fought against requiring employers to use E-Verify to background check employees, and voted in Congress against allowing American military troops to defend the southern border because of his relationship with what DeSantis called “the Cheap-Labor Wing of the Republican Party.”
And DeSantis went after the sugar industry – though not explicitly mentioning it – and charged that Adam would not cross the industry in any effort to clean up the Everglades or stop toxic algae discharges.
It was just about the only time that DeSantis took on a uniquely-Florida issue in any depth, rather than applying federal issues to Florida politics, as he did in almost all his other comments Friday and Thursday night in the debate.
“I can tell you this, if we want to win the governor’s race in 2018, we’ve got to be able to go to the citizens of the Treasure Coast, we’ve got to be able to go to Southwest Florida, and we’ve got to be able to say like I can: ‘If you elect me governor, I will do something about these toxic discharges. We will clean up the water. And we will restore the Everglades,'” DeSantis said.
“And I don’t care what the special interests say, I’m not going to do their bidding,” he continued. “I’m going to stand with the fishermen and the boaters and the property owners that populate those great parts of our state.
“Adam obviously will not do that,” he continued. “He’s tied at the hip with the industry who’s involved with destroying so much of what makes Florida so great.”
DeSantis made a few other limited attempts to talk about Florida issues, largely ignored in Thursday’s debate, but couldn’t quite get away from issues that are national red-meat for conservatives.
For example, he talked about the need for education reform and reduced testing, but said it was because he was opposed to Common Core and saw Florida’s tests as a part of that federal mandate. He also spoke of wanting to require in-depth teaching of the U.S. Constitution.
Then DeSantis turned to fiscal issues. But rather than mention anything involving the Florida budget, DeSantis went after Putnam for more of his congressional votes, notably for bailouts of banks and car companies, while noting his own high marks in Congress for protecting taxpayers.