Rep. Ron DeSantis made his first campaign appearance in Northwest Florida on Saturday for his bid to become the Republican nominee for governor at a joint rally with Rep. Matt Gaetz.
Gaetz introduced DeSantis to the crowd of approximately 80-100 people at The Palafox House in downtown Pensacola after taking some rhetorical punches at DeSantis’ chief rival for the GOP nomination, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Gaetz also touted DeSantis endorsement from Donald Trump and called him “a fellow swamp drainer.”
Gaetz hit Putnam for not immediately voicing support for Trump in the 2016 primaries after Trump won the Indiana Republican primary, making him the presumptive GOP nominee.
“I feel obligated as your congressman to share with you the reasons that I cannot vote for Adam Putnam in the Republican primary,” Gaetz said. “The first reason: I actually support Donald Trump and Adam Putnam doesn’t.”
Gaetz also went after Putnam on immigration, saying while Gaetz was in the Florida Legislature that Putnam, as agriculture commissioner, lobbied against passing a requirement for employers to use the federal E-Verify system to obtain workers’ immigration status.
“Whenever we would work in Florida for policies to ensure that illegal immigration wasn’t something we invited, we typically found Adam Putnam on the other side of the issue,” Gaetz said. “Amnesty Adam, I used to call him in Tallahassee.”
When asked about the comments made at the Pensacola rally, a Putnam campaign spokeswoman pointed to Putnam’s appearance on Fox News on Thursday where Putnam said he supports Trump’s plan on immigration.
“President Trump has led the way with his Pillars Plan,” Putnam said on the television appearance. “Secure our borders, reform the chain migration, particularly on extended families, end the visa lottery program and bring a permanent solution to DACA.”
DeSantis told the crowd that unlike other Republicans, his record matches his rhetoric.
As governor, DeSantis said he would work to end “judicial activism” in Florida courts, make Florida a mandatory E-Verify state and work to combat the opioid crisis.
DeSantis, a native of Dunedin, was elected to Congress in 2012 to represent Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
DeSantis went to Yale University and Harvard Law School and was a JAG officer in the U.S. Navy serving in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Gaetz and DeSantis have both questioned the FBI investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and any collusion between the Trump campaign.
DeSantis got Trump’s public endorsement via a tweet in December, weeks after flying with Trump aboard Air Force One to Pensacola for a campaign rally at the Bay Center ahead of a special Alabama Senate election.
On the flight, Trump reportedly told DeSantis, “you’re my guy,” according to a report in Politico.
Gaetz joked at the rally that with both him and DeSantis in Pensacola, Fox News would have to go off the air.
DeSantis did not mention Putnam during his speech, but answering a question after the rally said a report in the Tampa Bay Times that Putnam’s office stopped concealed weapons background checks for a year because an employee could not log in to the FBI background check system was concerning to him.
“It seems like he wasn’t minding the store when we needed him to be there, and I also want to know why — if this report was done a year ago — are we just now finding out about this?” DeSantis said. “Why weren’t some of the deficiencies communicated to Gov. Scott to FDLE to other people who would be interested in the fact that you may have people who are not eligible getting permits to conceal carry?”
In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, Putnam said the department reviewed the 365 applications which resulted in 291 applications being revoked and said the employee, who was fired, was “deceitful and negligent.”
Gaetz said he was discouraged that Putnam threw “his employees under the bus.”
“I think real leaders, they step forward, they take responsibility when things don’t go right, and we’ve not seen that from Adam Putnam,” Gaetz said.
The Republican primary is on Aug. 28, and DeSantis said he expects that votes from Northwest Florida will push him over the top.
“There’s no more important place for Republicans to do well than in Northwest Florida,” DeSantis said.
Originally posted here.