A week and a half after the primary, the GOP in Florida held its own unity rally, bringing candidates together that will appear on the November ballot,and asking for support across Florida.
At Ace Café in Orlando, Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican candidate challenging U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., brought the man who hopes to be his successor–U.S. Rep Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.– to the stage, calling Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate, liberal and risky.
Scott insisted electing the Democrats makes no sense and that it would kill our economy. He pointed out that Nelson voted for higher taxes more than 300 times since being elected,and claimed that his administration’s policy of cutting taxes created more than 1.6 million jobs over the eight years he has spent in the Governor’s Mansion.
Scott spoke to a crowd of about 100 people, just a third of the number that showed up to see the Democratic ticket in Orlando last week, but the Republican crowd was enthusiastic, repeatedly cheering as the governor laid out specifics on what the choice would be.
“If you want job growth, vote Republican,” Scott said. “If you want job losses vote for the Democrats. If you want lower unemployment, vote Republican. If you want higher unemployment, vote Democrat. If you want secure borders, vote Republican. If you want open borders, vote Democrats. If you want lower taxes, vote Republican. If you want higher taxes, vote for the Democrats.”
During his speech, Scott lambasted Nelson and Gillum, often referring to socialism and comparing their policies to what is happening in Cuba and Venezuela. Scott also touted his time in office, saying there have been no tuition increases at state universities in the last five years and saying it is a fact that there has never been a higher dollar amount of spending on education in Florida, including the highest amount of per pupil allocation. In a nod to teachers, the governor says he wants to pay teachers more just like the Democrats would like to do.
Scott introduced DeSantis. The Republican gubernatorial nominee spent much of his time speaking about national issues including border security and Israel, saying he would be the most Israel friendly governor in the nation. DeSantis took several shots at Gillum, especially over the issue of immigration. DeSantis claims that under policies favored by Gillum, a child molester in the country illegally would serve his sentence, then be released right back into the streets of Florida because the Gillum administration would refuse to cooperate with ICE.
Also on hand was the brand new pick for lieutenant governor, state Rep. Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami. She said she is ready to take on the challenge of trying to defeat the upstart Democrat ticket.
“The difference is very stark. We are going to see from our end what we stand for, the ideals and the principles that we stand strong in, our conservative values, making sure Florida remains the prosperous state that it continues to be. I look forward to leading in that effort,” Nunez said.
Nunez was immediately attacked by Democrats for a tweet she posted during the 2016 presidential primary calling then candidate Donald Trump “the biggest con-man there is.” Nunez has since deleted the tweet but downplayed the significance on Thursday.
“Elections are elections. It is what it is. It’s no secret that I was a strong Marco Rubio supporter, but that election is done, and I am looking forward to this election,” she said.
The exchange with reporters caused DeSantis to step in and defend his new running mate.
“To support Marco Rubio, a favorite son from Miami, Cuban-American with a historic run. To me if I were in her shoes, I probably would have been supporting Marco as well,” DeSantis said.
“But you came down on Adam Putnam for not supporting Trump in the last election,” a reporter pointed out.
“Well there’s a difference between that though. He was running saying that like he was basically Trump’s guy. I just thought it was more insincere. Jeanette is standing by what she said, she just says it is a different contest. I hit him more on being a politician and being insincere about it,” DeSantis said.
Florida Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who the congressman crushed in the primary, was there with a smiling face and full throated endorsement of DeSantis, saying you tell your kids in Little League baseball to shake hands at the middle of the field after the game. Republicans also showed off three other candidates for statewide office: state CFO Jimmy Petronis, state Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, who is running for agriculture commissioner, and former Judge Ashley Moody who is running for attorney general.
Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.
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