The harshest exchange of the 2018 governor’s race thus far between a Democrat and a Republican just occurred as Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum called Republican candidate Adam Putnam “racist” Thursday, responding to Putnam’s tweet about their policy dispute over undocumented residents and sanctuaries.

“Half true & all racist is nothing to be proud of, Commissioner,” Gillum tweeted Thursday afternoon. “I’m proud to stand up for all people – precisely what Floridians expect of their leaders.”

Gillum’s campaign put out a news release saying the tweet was “In response to an unprovoked and untrue attack by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the GOP’s gubernatorial frontrunner, referring to a tweet Putnam had posted about a half-hour before Gillum responded.

“Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum made no apologies for standing up for immigrants and all Floridians,” the release added.

The exchange was carried out largely by Twitter, but it has its roots in Gillum’s and Putnam’s positions on undocumented residents and whether cities, or the state of Florida, should essentially act as sanctuaries for them by declining to work with federal authorities to identify and detain them.

Putnam’s campaign responded by suggesting that Gillum wants to make one side of the policy dispute the racist side.

“It is not racist to want to stop the flow of illegal immigrants. It is Adam Putnam’s goal to keep Floridians safe from criminals, particularly those who are in our country illegally, like the person who shot Kate Steinle,” Amanda Bevis, spokesperson for Adam Putnam, said in a written statement.

About a half-hour before Gillum’s tweet, Putnam had linked to a PolitiFact Florida article, “Does Andrew Gillum want to make Florida a sanctuary state?” delving into Putnam’s criticism of Gillum, and concluding that Putnam’s claim was “half true.”

Putnam linked to that article with a tweet declaring, “Thanks for the Half True, @PolitiFactFl. @AndrewGillum wants to make Florida a sanctuary state. That WILL NOT Happen on my watch.”

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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