TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Racism immediately became an issue in the Florida governorâ€™s race on Wednesday as both nominees made predictions: The Democrat said voters arenâ€™t looking for a misogynist, racist or bigot, while the Republican said voters shouldnâ€™t â€śmonkey this upâ€ť by choosing his African-American opponent.
Only hours after their primary election victories, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis made it clear the race is going to be a nasty contest between two candidates who couldnâ€™t be more opposed politically.
Asked if heâ€™s afraid of President Donald Trumpâ€™s support for DeSantis, Gillum told CNN that his race is about uniting the state.
â€śI actually believe that Florida and its rich diversity are going to be looking for a governor whoâ€™s going to bring us together, not divide us. Not misogynist, not racist, not bigots, theyâ€™re going to be looking for a governor who is going to appeal to our higher aspirations as a state, â€śGillum said. â€śDeSantis can do the bidding of big business and big lobbyists and Donald Trump and his divisive rhetoric.â€ť
Meanwhile, on Fox News, DeSantis called Gillum an â€śarticulateâ€ť candidate, but said â€śthe last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting this state. That is not going to work. Itâ€™s not going to be good for Florida.â€ť
The Florida Democratic Party immediately decried DeSantisâ€™ comment as racist.
â€śItâ€™s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles,â€ť said party Chairwoman Terry Rizzo in a statement emailed to reporters.
The DeSantis campaign clarified in an email that his comments were directed at Gillumâ€™s policies, not the candidate himself.
â€śTo characterize it as anything else is absurd,â€ť his spokesman Stephen Lawson said.