In an eagerly awaited debate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and California Gov. Gavin Newsom went head-to-head Thursday in an unusual political showdown between a presidential candidate and a governor who is not running for president, addressing a wide variety of issues. Newsom publicly challenged DeSantis to a debate on CNN in September 2022, and after more than a year it finally happened.
The two governors met in Alpharetta, Georgia and had their 90-minute public debate with no audience on “The Sean Hannity Show” on Fox News. Hannity gave each governor a chance to answer his questions on a range of issues and their plans for the future.
The first topic was population. The U.S. Census from the years 2021-2022 showed a 750,000 decline in population in California and a 454,000 increase in Florida. DeSantis said, “You almost have to try to mess California up.”
He complimented the state a few times throughout the debate, saying it’s a “beautiful area” with a “tremendous coastline” and it has “more natural advantages,” but he argued that Florida is safer and better. He also said that he spoke with Newsom’s in-laws, who moved from California to Florida.
The next topic was taxes. Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau showed California’s state income tax rates are higher than Florida’s 0% tax rate on both median income and income over $1.355 million. California has a 6% tax rate on median income and a 13% tax rate on income over $1.355 million. Newsom argued that Florida taxes more for low income working people and not the billionaires and millionaires who can afford it.
While on the topic of unemployment, DeSantis said, “California’s unemployment rate is 60% higher than Florida’s.” In Newsom’s rebuttal he mentioned Disney, to which DeSantis replied, “I had Disney (World) open during COVID and we made them a fortune. We saved a lot of jobs. You had Disney (Land) closed inexplicably for over a year.”
On COVID-19, statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed Florida having a higher COVID-19 mortality rate than California.
Newsom stressed, “Tens of thousands of people lost their lives. The equivalent of ten 9/11s. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives and for what Ron?”
The debate delved into immigration and it began with Hannity quoting President Joe Biden from Sept. 12, 2019, when he invited immigrants into the U.S., saying, “All those people are seeking asylum. They deserve to be heard. That’s who we are. We’re a nation that says if you want to flee and you’re fleeing oppression, you should come.”
DeSantis began talking about the border and how he believes there will be a terrorist attack because the border is not secure.
Newsom argued, “Your immigration policy can best be described as … going into another state.. lying to migrants, sending them to an island, Martha’s Vineyard, and then sending them to a parking lot in Sacramento.”
During the talk on crime, Newsom brought up the very emotional school shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida and said that DeSantis is making it easier for felons and criminals to buy guns without a background check. He added that DeSantis spends more time in Iowa than in his own state with its crime rates. Newsom bragged on California having its lowest crime rate in 50 years.
Parental rights became a topic of discussion. Newsom claimed DeSantis is “using education as a source for your cultural purge,” and claimed that DeSantis is a bully who demeans people he doesn’t agree with like the LGBTQ community.
During the parental rights discussion, DeSantis said, “Your minor child can go to California without your knowledge or without your consent and get hormone therapy, puberty blockers, and a sex change operation. All without your knowing or consenting.”
During the education portion of the debate, Newsom touted California for having one of the best records during COVID. DeSantis’ brought up Vice President Kamala Harris and mispronounced her name, and was quickly interrupted by Newsom who corrected him, saying, “Shame on you. iI’s Kamala Harris Ron, it’s Kamala Harris, Madam Vice President to you … stop insulting.”
As the governors continued their fiery debate they were running low on time and quickly touched on other topics such as abortion, Biden, the price of gas, homelessness and international issues like Hamas and China.
They didn’t hesitate to exchange insults like, “You’re a liberal bully,” DeSantis said, and, “You’re a walking hypocrite,” Newsom said.
With the 2024 election fast approaching, Thursday’s debate provided insight on the views of two decidedly different governors whose states are the most populated in the country and third third most populated, and could potentially impact the outcome.