Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis took a page from the book of his dispatched primary rival Tuesday, with an early morning Jacksonville presser designed to highlight support from law enforcement.
Worth noting: Jacksonville is dealing with a continued multiyear upward trend in its murder rate, a similar phenomenon to the depictions of crime-ridden Tallahassee in Republican ads. High-profile mass shootings are becoming the norm here, including recent gunplay at a high school football game, a video game competition, and the shooting of six people within walking distance of the Jaguars’ game last Sunday.
Included at the event: Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, who attended DeSantis’ Sunday night debate in Tampa (Gillum “didn’t do anything tonight to calm the nerves of people rightfully concerned about public safety under his failed leadership,” Williams chided); and Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels, who questioned Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum “as a man” for signing the Dream Defenders pledge earlier this year.
Thank you Sheriff Daniels! As Governor, I’ll always defend and support law enforcement policies that keep Floridians safe. pic.twitter.com/pN1tBLwsDC
— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantisFL) October 22, 2018
The DeSantis campaign has sought to capitalize on Gillum’s signing of the Dream Defenders pledge (which Gillum claimed not to have signed in Sunday’s debate), and Tuesday was probably the most prominent push, with ad-ready footage from Republican sheriffs delineating what they see as stark differences between the candidates.
Sheriff Mike Prendergast of Citrus County noted that DeSantis “will not tolerate … racist hate groups who don’t support law enforcement officers.”
Sheriff Bobby Schultz of Gilchrist County echoed those thoughts, saying DeSantis “will not slap the face of law enforcement by supporting hate groups that do nothing but demonize law enforcement.”
Perhaps the bluntest Sheriff speaking, Gordon Smith of Bradford County, noted “you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken pocky,” referring to Gillum, who has “made a mess out of Tallahassee.”
Sheriff Daniels was more restrained Tuesday than he was in his Twitter endorsement of DeSantis, but took a more personal tack than some of the other officers, mocking Gillum’s invoking of his grandmother during speeches.
“Everything that’s shiny ain’t gold,” Daniels said, urging people to “research” Gillum.
DeSantis, per Daniels, is “somebody who understands the dynamic of protect and serve.”
“He’s my brother,” Daniels said, offering an “open and heartfelt endorsement.”
Sheriff Mike Williams made a more utilitarian case.
“We need support from Tallahassee,” Williams said. “Need to know the resources are still available” for law enforcement.
DeSantis, who had very few Sheriffs backing him against Adam Putnam, presented as the champion of law enforcement, the last bulwark against Gillum’s Californication of the state.
The candidate noted “the overwhelming support of law enforcement,” which hasn’t been “seen in recent times.”
“Such an overwhelming base of support for one candidate over the other,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis reprised his points against the “radical group” Dream Defenders with their “disgusting and ridiculous manifesto.”
This, a highlight of his Sunday debate performance, would be familiar, as he incredulously quoted passages like “police and prisons have no place in justice” and “defunding law enforcement and putting money into welfare programs.”
“I’m not going to go down that road,” DeSantis pledged.
Back before the primary, we asked Gillum about his third-party backing, and whether it would interfere with his messaging.
“I try to be my own best messenger,” Gillum said, “and hope that they can pick up from kind of where I leave off, and frankly create ads and advertisements that use my voice and get my voice out there.”
“Obviously we don’t get to control what everyone else does. I’m learning more and more about what everybody’s doing as I read the news,” Gillum added.
“For the part that we can control,” Gillum added, “we are building really strong momentum around the state of Florida.”