With five weeks left in the Florida gubernatorial race, former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., is taking aim at his Democratic opponent Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
Even as he picked up a key endorsement from the Florida Chamber of Commerce towards the end of last week, DeSantis focused more on Giillum’s shortcomings than he did talking about what he would do if elected.
DeSantis spoke for about 25 minutes to a convention luncheon full of businessmen and women, telling the polite crowd that he was the only veteran running for governor but also that he was the only unabashed capitalist and the only one not under investigation by the FBI.
The Gillum campaign has repeatedly denied their candidate is the target of an FBI investigation into the Tallahassee Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and leading city officials.
In his role as mayor, Gillum sits on the CRA Board but has repeatedly insisted a target of the FBI.
Joshua Karp, Gillum’s deputy campaign manager, punched back at DeSantis’ accusations.
“This is another smear tactic straight out of Donald Trump’s playbook. Ron DeSantis cannot run on his record or his vision, and so he is resorting to a character assassination of Mayor Gillum. It’s not acceptable to weaponize government agencies to score political points,” Karp said.
When asked by the media about the FBI looking into Tallahassee politics, DeSantis ripped into the expenditures that Gillum says he made out of his own pocket on those trips and wondered why the Democrat has not released more details.
“Why would the undercover FBI agents go on a foreign junket with him?” DeSantis demanded “Why would they take him to New York City on a junket if he was not the subject of an investigation? And oh, by the way, those records would have had to have been disclosed if he wasn’t subject to an investigation. That’s only for criminal or intelligence investigations. That is the only way they are allow to redact it. So I think he has a huge amount of questions to answer here.”
Barry Richard, Gillum’s attorney, insisted the information the FBI has released so far is not a cause for alarm. Some of the redactions DeSantis mentioned are blacked out portions of the investigation.
“This public record doesn’t show anything of substance, and as we’ve said, the mayor is not under investigation,” Richard said. “Government agencies frequently cite this statute when any information is redacted.”
During the primary, Gillum released an ATM receipt for $400 as evidence that he did not take a four night stay at a resort in Costa Rica for free despite what his critics insist. DeSantis scoffed at Gillum’s efforts and brought in Adam Corey, a lobbyist and restaurant owner and friend of the mayor who is at the center of the investigation.
“I can tell you, I am a Hilton Honors member,” DeSantis insisted. “I couldn’t get the Hilton Garden Inn for four nights for $400 so that is obviously not true, and then Adam Corey has said he has never received any money through his lawyer from Andrew Gillum. So he (Gillum) showed this $400 receipt for an ATM withdrawal. Who did he give the money to? That is certainly not enough.”
Gillum spokesperson Carlie Waibel never said that hotel in Costa Rica was only worth $400.
“Mayor Gillum and his wife paid for their lodging with the $400 withdrawal and the cash the mayor and his wife had on hand,” Waibel said.
As for the rest of the speech that DeSantis gave to Florida Chamber, he chided Gillum often on his tax policy, calling it a “folly” and a “huge blunder” to want to raise taxes on corporations in Florida. DeSantis claims Gillum never met a tax he didn’t like.
Florida Daily will have a full break down of both candidates plans on taxes next week.
Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.