When Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis join one another for an 8 p.m. CNN debate tonight, it will be their first time meeting. But Gillum, in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, said he feels like he has a sense of DeSantis already from the Republican gubernatorial nominee's campaign.
"They have a uniquely unlikeable candidate. He's easily dislikeable," said Gillum. "I don't think anybody could spend a lot of time with him and walk away feeling inspired or encouraged or believe that he in some way knows what it means to to live their life. They realize they can't package him in that way."
"I've heard from Republican members of congress (DeSantis would) go on these congressional trips with them and he'd put on his headphones and not talk to them the entire time," Gillum said.
The Tallahassee mayor's tough comments came, ironically, as he sought to contrast his campaign largely focused on his agenda for Florida with DeSantis' largely focused on attacking Gillum. He predicted Republicans and DeSantis will spend the remaining 17 days of the race trying to push down turnout by attacking him.
"They aren't trying to sell people on Ron DeSantis or his vision. They're trying to terrify people of me. They want people to know I'm black…They want to focus people on I'm different, not like everybody else – dangerous," Gillum said. " All these others things to cause people to be fearful. It's not to convert their votes to him. It's to suppress votes. It's the same they did with the Trump campaign."
The DeSantis campaign is falsely saying he wants to enact an income tax, is the corrupt target of an FBI investigation, Gillum said.
"Mr. DeSantis has far too many degrees from far too many good schools not not know better," Gillum said.
"I think this is disqualifying to openly lie to Floridians when you know better. We will see filth from them. Susie (Wiles) has a particular style with these kinds of things. I think we're going to see that style on full display and with the lobbyists that are running his campaign as well. Look, this is a death grip. These folks have not been out of power for 20 years in this state. I have no expectation that they're going to part with it easily."
"What we're going to be matching that with is someone who is going to go uber positive and uber ambitious about our vision for the state," Gillum said, "and I think people are going to cling to that more easily than they will a message of fears."