Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s masterful debate performance on Sunday was no fluke. Gillum continued to dominate his GOP rival Ron DeSantis for the right to be Florida governor in their second debate Wednesday night at Broward College in Davie, Florida.
One of the big questions before the rematch was how Gillum would respond to an onslaught from DeSantis over an FBI probe into possible Tallahassee government corruption, in which the mayor was reportedly not the target of the investigation.
On Tuesday, text messages were made public about the source of tickets Gillum received to the Broadway musical “Hamilton” that appears to contradict his statements at the first debate on the issue.
Here are five things we learned about Gillum and DeSantis as they stood under the spotlight on the debate stage for the second time.
1. Gillum can handle the pressure
The Tallahassee mayor was clearly prepared to address the elephant in the room. The FBI investigation issue came up quickly after the debate started, prompted by Gillum accusing him of lying in TV attack ads.
Gillum turned the tables by demanding that DeSantis release records of his $145,000 in taxpayer-funded travel as a congressman. DeSantis resigned his congressional post to focus on this gubernatorial campaign. The former lawmaker has declined to reveal how he paid for several trips, including travel to New York City to appear on Fox News to increase his public profile for his Florida governor campaign.
2. Gillum knows how to connect
DeSantis always looked uncomfortable on stage and defensive when discussing his record. By contrast, Gillum was masterful at weaving his compelling personal story into responses—touching on key themes that most people can relate to. The mayor talked about the sacrifices of his working-class parents who were determined to make sure he received a proper education. Gillum also frequently dropped in pearls of wisdom that he learned from his grandmother.
3. DeSantis doesn’t have an answer on healthcare
Healthcare is one of the policy issues that’s important to Floridians. It was clear that DeSantis has no answers to their concerns. Gillum pointed out that his opponent was one of Trump’s strongest supporters in the failed Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare without a viable replacement.
4. Yeah, DeSantis is racist
The moderator indirectly asked DeSantis if he was racist. He pointed to the former congressman warning Florida voters not to “monkey this up” by voting for Gillum, who would become the state’s first African-American governor. He also highlighted some of DeSantis’ long history of associating with white nationalists.
DeSantis unconvincingly denied that he was racist, raising his voice as if that would convince viewers. The mayor had a golden response.
“I’m not calling him a racist,” Gillum said. “But the racists believe he’s a racist.”
5. Gillum is unabashedly progressive
Gillum showed he was unwilling to yield when DeSantis pressed him on key issues that are important to his base. He stood firm on increasing the minimum wage and taxing the state’s wealthiest companies to increase teacher salaries and to pay for early childhood education, even though DeSantis tried to create fear that those fiscal policies would drive companies out Florida.