Tonight, the first debate between Florida gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis, an extremely-not-racist former House Representative endorsed by Trump, and Andrew Gillum, a progressive Democrat, was closely watched both inside and outside the state. The race is seen as a proxy battle between the forces of Trump’s reactionary wing of the Republican party and left-wing Democrats like Bernie Sanders. A poll released by CNN before the debate found Gillum—who, if elected, would be the first black Florida governor—up by an astonishing 12 points. DeSantis responded, calling the poll “misleading.”
One of the debate’s most thrilling moments came when the debate turned to why DeSantis, a former Representative for Florida, opposed a gun-control bill put forward by the Florida legislature after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida earlier this year that killed 17 people. Gillum’s response was that DeSantis could not support such a bill because of his reliance on the National Rifle Association.
“The Congressman was against the piece of legislation because he is wholly owned by the NRA,” Gillum says in a clip posted by CNN. “He’s not going to stand up to the National Rifle Association, that’s why they’re running all these ads against me. Because they want the man that they bought.”
The Parkland shooting spurred a major wave of activism in favor of gun control across the country. In the wake of the attack, DeSantis blamed the incident on incompetence in the FBI and the Broward County Sheriff’s office, and supported arming teachers.
Gillum, currently the Mayor of Tallahassee, went on to promise he would be willing to take on the NRA, mentioning that the association had previously helped sue him over an ordinance in Tallahassee that permitted the firing of guns in city parks. Gillum refused to repeal the ordinance, and the NRA supported local Second Amendment groups who took him to court for two years, where Gillum eventually won.
“Common sense and decency seem not to be able to prevail in [the gun control] conversation,” Gillum said in the debate.
DeSantis was given an A rating by the NRA during the gubernatorial primary race. The organization endorsed him for Florida governor in September. “At a time when the Second Amendment is under attack like never before, Ron DeSantis has stood strong in protection of our freedoms and been a steadfast supporter of law-abiding gun owners,” Chris W. Cox, the NRA Political Victory Fund chairman said at the time.