State Politics

In Manatee campaign stop, Ron DeSantis goes on the offensive against Andrew Gillum

DeSantis rallies in Manatee County as election draws near

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis held a campaign rally at Dolphin Aviation Wednesday morning.
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Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis held a campaign rally at Dolphin Aviation Wednesday morning.

In an early-morning campaign speech Wednesday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis laid down a barrage of attacks on his opponent’s platform and history as an elected official.

“We have a great choice. I’m proud to say that of the two candidates running, I’m the only candidate that served this country in uniform,” DeSantis said. “Of the two candidates running, I’m the only candidate that is not going to raise taxes in the state of Florida and of the two candidates running, I’m the only one who can credibly say I’m not under investigation for corruption by the FBI.”

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Republican candidate for governor, Ron DeSantis, talks to a crowd during a campaign rally stop at Dolphin Aviation Wednesday morning. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

Keeping taxes low, protecting Florida’s environment and keeping Florida’s economy strong are some of DeSantis’ priorities, but he spent little time expanding on his platform, choosing instead to harp on why he believes Democrat Andrew Gillum is the wrong choice for Floridians. The onslaught comes after a handful of recent polls have shown DeSantis trailing Gillum by a few points.

As he addressed the crowd at Dolphin Aviation, he hammered Gillum for accepting gifts from undercover FBI agents, his failure to lower the crime rate during his time as Tallahassee’s mayor and the Democrat gubernatorial candidate’s willingness to impeach President Donald Trump.

DeSantis, on the other hand, has aligned himself with Trump’s agenda. The president was to join the candidate, whom he endorsed before the primary, for a campaign event Wednesday night in Fort Myers.

Gillum’s link to the Dream Defenders, a radical left-wing group, was another subject that DeSantis exposed. For years, Gillum has supported the group, which has labeled the U.S. military as “the biggest bully on the planet” and called for the abolition of borders, prisons and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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Republican candidate for governor, Ron DeSantis, talks to the media during a campaign rally stop at Dolphin Aviation Wednesday morning. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

In a September interview, a spokesperson for the organization said the Tallahassee mayor doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the group on some of their far-left ideas.

“We need elected officials who are not only going to support the men and women in law enforcement but support their mission and provide them with the resources they need to get their job done,” DeSantis said, distancing himself from the Dream Defenders’ radical manifesto. “As governor, I will do that. I will make sure we keep our communities safe.”

Gillum also campaigned in Manatee County recently. On Saturday, he spoke with local voters and said DeSantis and other Republicans were using “dirty politics,” but supporters who came to hear from DeSantis said the Republican was the only candidate they felt comfortable voting for.

“I think DeSantis will build on what (Gov. Rick) Scott has been doing and that’s a very good thing,” said George Laios, 72. “The alternative scares the you-know-what out of me.”

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Republican candidate for governor, Ron DeSantis with wife, Casey, talks to a crowd during a campaign rally stop at Dolphin Aviation Wednesday morning. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

Both Laios and 71-year-old Diane Forsell, another rallygoer, said the prospect of Gillum becoming governor has them fearful for Florida’s economy.

“Just as we’re getting the economy going again, they’re trying to cut the legs out from under it,” Laios said.

“If they raise taxes and add an income tax on workers here, people are going to start leaving Florida. I know people who say they’ll leave if Gillum is elected,” Forsell added.

State Rep. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and incoming Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton also spoke at the rally, introducing DeSantis and telling the crowd of about 75 people that the Republican was the “only man for the job.”

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Casey DeSantis introduces her husband, Ron DeSantis, during a campaign rally stop at Dolphin Aviation Wednesday morning. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

“I spend a lot time in Tallahassee, and can tell you just from being there, that this is the guy that needs to be our governor,” Galvano said.

DeSantis wrapped up the event by encouraging attendees to vote if they haven’t already. He noted that Republicans have made a strong showing at the polls by turning in more early and mail ballots than Democrats.

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