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Chris King, Matt Gaetz


Chris King, other Democrats express outrage over Matt Gaetz attack on Andrew Gillum

Lieutenant Governor candidate Chris King joined Democrats statewide in expressing outrage over comments made Saturday by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz during a political event in Cape Coral.

“Our election should and must be about real people facing real issues, and not hyperbolic propaganda used to fearmonger and gin up their base,” King said.

Gaetz on Saturday referred to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum as “Andrew Kill’em” during a campaign stop alongside Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.

The comments quickly drew rebuke from Democrats around the state.

As for Gaetz, he said Democrats started attacking him because they have no defense for Gillum.


“Democrats can’t defend the horrific crime rate under Andrew Gillum in Tallahassee so they blame others,” he wrote on Twitter. “Sad!”

Jennifer Zimmerman, Gaetz’s Democratic opponent in Florida’s 1st Congressional District, said maybe the Congressman should get back to working for his own constituents.

Matt: I need to have a word with you,” she said. “While women all over America were coping with the confirmation of Kavanaugh, you were campaigning with Ron DeSantis in South Florida. You engaged in undignified language not befitting a sitting congressman—shocking, considering you were just outed getting chummy with a confirmed Holocaust denier (again!). Why don’t you come back home and let this mama teach you how to be a Southern gentleman? And, why strut your feathers elsewhere when the people of FL-01 deserve your full attention?”

Jennifer Boddicker, state House candidate in District 80, noted the remarkable came at the same event Lee County’s Republican chair Jonathan Martin made controversial remarks.

My opponent for Florida House District 80, Byron Donalds, is an African American Republican in the Florida legislature. He was there campaigning with them, when Matt Gaetz uttered his dog whistle remarks. I imagine it was uncomfortable. As a woman, I know the feeling of having to grit one’s teeth when inappropriate remarks are made. Though we have very different policy views, I’ve enjoyed chatting with Byron before debates. I’m nothing but sympathetic to his situation––campaigning with people who are either racist or hideously tone deaf. He’s also had racist remarks posted on his Facebook page. There is no place for this in politics. I hope such remarks go in the garbage bin of history and we move forward in a way that is more representative of every person. Where an African American Republican like Byron Donalds, African American Democrats like Andrew Gillum and Sean Shaw, women, and people of all stripes are treated with dignity and respect.”

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman called Gaetz’s remarks reprehensible.

“His words should be immediately condemned by Ron DeSantis,” Kriseman said. ” The rally in Cape Coral was just another instance of unacceptable language being weaponized by the DeSantis campaign’s top surrogates. Yet again, the DeSantis campaign refuses to adjust the tone and tenor of an ugly and divisive campaign.”

State Sen. Audrey Gibson said the DeSantis campaign chose the low road.

“Our state faces several tremendous challenges for working families and the environment. The gubernatorial race should be focused on how to solve these challenges,” Gibson said.

“I am proud that Mayor Gillum has run a campaign that is laser-focused on expanding access to health care, ensuring every child has a great public education, and protecting our water, air and coastlines. Unfortunately, Ron DeSantis and his allies have chosen to take the low road, and been more focused on name-calling rather than the issues. Floridians deserve so much better. With nearly a month until Election Day, DeSantis should make clear that Matt Gaetz’s toxic language and juvenile antics have no place in addressing the concerns at hand and start running a campaign worthy of our great state.”

Terrie Rizzo, Florida Democratic Party chairwoman, labeled Gaetz’s name-calling as a “racist and despicable attack.”

“Ron DeSantis seems intent on exploiting the ugliest and most toxic forces in our society in order to win this election,” Rizzo said.

“If DeSantis’ campaign doesn’t stop speaking so irresponsibly, they could destroy the very fabric of our state and cause irreparable harm. Floridians’ safety is literally at risk. Ron DeSantis must immediately condemn this racist attack on Andrew Gillum and stop weaponizing race.”

Sean Shaw, Democratic Attorney General candidate, also came to Gillum’s defense.

“Congressmen Gaetz should be ashamed of himself,” Shaw said. “Language of that type has no place in our state. This is more of the same inappropriate language that has become all too common from Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis.”

“This latest comment proves that Ron DeSantis doesn’t have a plan to move Florida forward,” said Dianne Hart, a Democratic state representative candidate in District 61. “Floridians are tired of DeSantis’ divisive politics and that’s why they’re rallying around Andrew Gillum for Governor — a candidate with a record of putting Florida families first. I look forward to his victory on November 6.”

And state House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz said Gaetz’s comments completely crossed the line.

“The remarks made today by Representative Matt Gaetz are an abomination and have no place in our politics,” Cruz said. “Ron DeSantis should immediately condemn this attack on Andrew Gillum and stop the slash-and-burn tactics that have defined his campaign.”

King, whom Gillum tapped as his running mate shortly after beating him in the Democratic primary, said his ticket would not tolerate the rhetoric.

“”We condemn the divisive and dangerous rhetoric used at the Ron DeSantis rally by his chief congressional ally,” King said. “We call on Mr. DeSantis to immediately condemn these statements riddled with bigotry and inaccuracies. Furthermore, he must demand his campaign and supporters to tone it down for everyone’s safety.”


Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at

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