Putnam, DeSantis tout conservative positions

Two took questions at event

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ORLANDO, Fla. – In their first joint appearance of the campaign, the two leading Republican candidates for governor Saturday night outlined a series of conservative stances on abortion, gun rights, and education.

There were few differences between Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who each took questions in separate half-hour sessions before the Florida Family Policy Council, a conservative advocacy group that opposes abortion and gay marriage.

“Our party would be in a pretty bad place if there were broad disagreements in front of the Florida Family Policy Council,” said Putnam, a two-term member of the state Cabinet and a former congressman and state lawmaker.

Both candidates oppose abortion, with Putnam telling the council members that he would support a “heartbeat bill,” which would prohibit doctors from performing abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Iowa’s Republican governor signed such a bill Friday, setting up a legal fight that supporters hope could lead to a test of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

“If the heartbeat bill gets to my desk, I will sign it,” Putnam said, recounting listening to the heartbeat of one of his four children before birth. “That life is real. It should be protected. It should be defended.”

The Florida Democratic Party issued a statement late Saturday that blasted Putnam on the abortion issue, describing him as an “anti-choice extremist.”

"Instead of laying out a positive vision to move Florida forward, Putnam is putting forward an extreme, far-right agenda that would hurt women's health and undermine working families,” Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Donohoe said.

DeSantis, a three-term congressman from Palm Coast, was not asked directly about abortion legislation, but he is a co-sponsor of a bill that would provide protections for fetuses “born alive” during abortion procedures. He recounted seeing an ultrasound of his son, who was born this year, calling it “a powerful example of science reinforcing something that I believe.”