DAVIE, Fla. — Both Ron Desantis and Andrew Gillum came out on the attack last night in the final Florida debate.

  • DeSantis, Gillum exchange barbs in final debate
  • Gubernatorial candidates push for votes ahead of Nov. 6 election
  • Decision 2018 Voting Guide

Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum agreed that some people are being pushed over the edge by extreme political rhetoric. 

But that was about all they agreed on.

Desantis spent time tying Gillum to an FBI corruption investigation. Gillum accused Desantis of using tax payer money for trips to New York for national media interviews.

"That is what corruption is," DeSantis said. "When you get something you shouldn’t have had. And then you give something to people who were trying to influence you. So that is wrong. And he has not told the truth about any of that." 

The final debate came  just days after an exclusive Spectrum News poll found Gillum 7 points ahead in the governors race. But the margin of error is plus or minus 5, which puts the candidates in close to a dead lock race.

"My opponent ... has run this race very, very close to the Trump handbook," Gillum said. "Where we call each other names, where we run false advertisements."

Gillum then called DeSantis a liar, and DeSantis called Gillum corrupt, pointing at Broadway tickets to "Hamilton" that were supplied by an undercover FBI agent investigating corruption at Tallahassee City Hall.

Gillum admitted taking the ticket, but said he received it from his brother and he thought his brother swapped them for concert tickets.


The candidates also had stark differences on issues.

DeSantis reiterated he would have vetoed a bill signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott three weeks after February's massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that raised the age limit to buy a rifle from 18 to 21 and imposed a three-day waiting period on rifle purchases.

He believes the increased age limit for buying rifles will be found unconstitutional. Instead of adding gun restrictions, he said, the state should tighten school security and blamed the massacre, which left 17 dead, on local and federal officials who did not stop suspect Nikolas Cruz despite numerous warnings.

"The way to keep our communities safe is to work with law enforcement, not against law enforcement, and you need to identify those individuals who should not have access to firearms," he said.

Gillum said he would have pushed for a stronger bill than Scott signed.

"If you want to own the power of God at your waist belt, you should have a background check. If you are a domestic violence abuser, convicted, you should not have a gun where you could snuff out the lives of your loved ones," Gillum said.

Gillum defended his proposal to raise corporate income taxes. Gillum said it would only raise taxes on the top 3 percent of the richest corporations and it is only a fraction of the $6.3 billion they received from a tax cut Trump signed into law.

"All we're simply saying is that they can keep $5.3 billion but we deserve a billion of that to come into this state" for education, he said.

DeSantis replied, "Businesses will leave the state, people will lose jobs and we'll stop people from investing in Florida. It will be a historic mistake."

The candidates had wide divergence on health care. Gillum said he would push for an expansion of Medicaid to bring 800,000 low-income Floridians into the program.

"If we do that, we will pull down $6 billion from the federal government that will go into this state's health care system, so we can hire more doctors, more nurses, more nurse practitioners," Gillum said.

He said DeSantis voted more than a dozen times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, and told a cancer patient to go to an emergency room to get health care.

DeSantis fired back, saying Gillum wants to put Floridians into a government-run health care system that would decimate Medicare and private and employer-provided insurance programs.

Last push for votes

On Thursday, DeSantis will be in Homassassa for a breakfast event with voters. He then will travel to Jacksonville to campaign with Vice President Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, Andrew Gillum will head to South Florida, where he has three events scheduled in and around Miami today as he pushes his supporters to vote early.

Both candidates are expected to spend the final days of their campaigns targeting their respective bases. The more partly line voters the candidates can get out, the better it will be for them as well as candidates up and down the ballot.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.