Representative Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor in Florida, drew accusations of using a racist dog whistle on Wednesday after saying in a television interview that voters should not “monkey this up” by electing his opponent, Andrew Gillum, who would be the state’s first black governor.
Mr. Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, won the primary election in an upset on Tuesday night, handing a major victory to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
In the interview with Fox News on the first day of the general election campaign, Mr. DeSantis, 39, who has President Trump’s support, attacked Mr. Gillum’s candidacy by painting him as a far-left socialist.
“The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state,” he said. “That is not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”
Terrie Rizzo, the chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, blasted Mr. DeSantis’s comments. “It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles,” she wrote on Twitter.
In a statement, Stephen Lawson, a spokesman for Mr. DeSantis, rejected the idea that the candidate’s comments had a racial undertone.
“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses,” Mr. Lawson said. “To characterize it as anything else is absurd.”
In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday after the controversy over the remarks took off, Mr. Gillum said Mr. DeSantis was taking a page “directly from the campaign manual” of Mr. Trump.
“In the handbook of Donald Trump, they no longer do whistle calls,” Mr. Gillum said. “They’re now using full bull horns.”
“I’m not going to get down in the gutter with DeSantis and Trump,” he added. “I’m going to try and stay high.”
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SOURCE: NY Times, Julia Jacobs