Dems bash Ron DeSantis for airing negative ad against Andrew Gillum as Hurricane Michael hits the Panhandle

Andrew Gillum victory
Gillum addresses supporters. C.D. Davidson-Hiers Photo

With Hurricane Michael barreling into the Panhandle Wednesday afternoon, all eyes were focused on potentially life-threatening conditions that come with a Category 4 storm.

But that doesn’t mean politics took a day off.

The Florida Democratic Party held a conference call after Hurricane Michael made landfall, blasting GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis’s campaign for continuing to air a negative ad about Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, his Democratic opponent.  Gillum’s city was in the storm’s path.

“I know a lot people up there are obviously glued to their TV sets, looking for the most recent and up-to-date information…and the idea that a political candidate like Mr. DeSantis would air these false, insulting and frankly contemptuously partisan ads at this moment…is despicable,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. “It’s not a time to be opportunistic. It’s a time to care.”

Gelber served in the Florida Legislature for a decade and said that when (former) Republican Charlie Crist was governor, he would reach out to him frequently without partisan politics ever coming into play. Gelber said he couldn’t understand why DeSantis would decide not to stop airing the ad.

An ad critical of Gillum’s handling of Hurricane Hermine in 2016 has been airing in heavy rotation for the past week, despite Democrats calls for it to cease on Sunday when news broke that Hurricane Michael was moving dangerously close to the Northern Florida region.

A new ad produced by the Republican Party of Florida on Wednesday refers to the ongoing FBI investigation into public corruption in Tallahassee. Gillum has acknowledged that he has been interviewed by FBI agents regarding the situation, but has been told personally that he is not the target of that investigation.

“Andrew Gillum is running for governor, and also from the FBI,” the narrator says as the ad begins. It then says that he “possibly” took illegal trips with lobbyists to Costa Rica and New York City, and then “approved millions in grants from those same lobbyists.”

Gelber calls the ad “false” and “insulting” and said it was “opportunistic” to air it while the public is intensely focused on watching television for news about the storm.

Former Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas joined the call, and said it was a “time to govern” and show leadership, and not have frightened citizens distracted by commercials of any kind.

Attempting to show that the criticism wasn’t political, both men credited Governor Rick Scott for not acting partisan while leading the state during the hurricane crisis.

The negative ads also were criticized by Pasco County Property Tax Collector Mike Fasano, a former longtime Republican legislator in Tallahassee. He tweeted, “How low can a statewide campaign go, especially in the eye of a deadly storm. The Panhandle deserves our support right now, not partisanship. Attack ads don’t do it. Show some character and leadership.”

Meredith Beatrice, communications director for the Republican Party of Florida, said: 

“As we stated earlier today, the order to take the ads down in the affected areas was made. Any statement to the contrary is simply wrong.”

The Republican Party said earlier today that the ad was taken down. But it is still running in areas unaffected by the hurricane.


Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.


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