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DeSantis, Gillum trade insults in final Florida governor's debate

2 men accused each other of being dishonest, unworthy of leading state

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DAVIE, Fla. – The candidates for Florida governor decried political divisiveness on a day when Democratic leaders were mailed pipe bombs, but then they immediately started intense name-calling.

During their second and final debate Wednesday, Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Republican former U.S. Rep. DeSantis did not take long to devolve into polarizing comments about each other.

”We’ve really seen a collapsing of our political discourse," Gillum said. "My opponent, as soon as he won the Republican nomination for governor, went on Fox News and said to voters here in the state of Florida not to 'monkey the state up' by electing me."

”So you want to talk about division? It doesn’t get more divisive than the dream defenders, and to this day, Andrew Gillum has not condemned the dream defenders," DeSantis said.

Both candidates accused their opponent of lying, and both made attacks about character. 

The FBI came up multiple times. Gillum said he is not and was not investigated by the bureau for ethics violations, including accepting a ticket to the Broadway show Hamilton – a ticket that came from an undercover agent.

"When I worked with the FBI, it was as a prosecutor to bring people to justice," DeSantis said. "When Andrew (Gillum) is dealing with the FBI, he’s dealing with an undercover agent as a person of interest in an investigation.”

"I take responsibility for not having asked more questions," Gillum responded. "But let me tell you. I’m running for governor, and the state of Florida – we’ve got a lot of issues. We’ve got 99 issues and Hamilton ain’t one of ‘em.”

The men talked about healthcare and immigration. They also discussed job creation and taxes and charter schools.

The themes emerged several times through the hour-long debate, in which the candidates also clashed on health care, education, guns and the economy.

The Florida Democratic Party’s review of the debate called DeSantis, “angry, erratic and unhinged.”

The Republican Party of Florida called Gillum a self-serving career politician incompetent as a mayor.

The winner of the Nov. 6 election will replace Republican Rick Scott, who is barred from seeking a third term. Democrats have not won the office since 1994.

About the Authors:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.