FORT PIERCE, FL – Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis clashed with his Democratic challenger Charlie Crist on Monday in a fiery political debate – with each candidate doing their best to smear the other – in their first and only televised debate just two weeks before residents will head to the polls to decide who will take the state’s reins of power in the near future.
The two clashed over numerous hot-button topics, including the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane Ian, and immigration; however, things really became heated when the debate ventured into the territory of social issues.
DeSantis said that he is determined to not only defeat his opponent on November 8, but to actually end his career as well, calling him a “worn out, old donkey” after Crist demanded that the incumbent Governor confirm rumors that he plans to run for President in 2024.
“I have a question for you,” Crist said. “You’re running for Governor. Why don’t you look in the eyes of the people of the state of Florida and say to them if you’re reelected, you will serve a full four-year term as Governor? Yes or no?”
“Well, listen, I know that Charlie is interested in talking about 2024 and Joe Biden, but I just want to make things very, very clear: The only worn out, old donkey I’m looking to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist,” DeSantis replied, who then proceeded to attack Crist’s tax policies when he originally served as Florida Governor from 2007 to 2011.
DeSantis was particularly aggressive with Crist after the challenger advocated for minor children having access to gender-affirming surgery and medications.
“When they say gender-affirming care, they mean giving puberty blockers to teenage girls and teenage boys, they mean doing double mastectomies on young girls, they mean chemically castrating young boys. That is wrong,” DeSantis said. “We are not going to allow that to happen in the state of Florida. We’re doing the right thing. It’s inappropriate to be doing basically what’s genital mutilation.”
Crist responded by comparing DeSantis’ stance on children medically transitioning to the gender they identify with to the outspoken Republican’s efforts to curb abortion access to women.
“This reminds me of your position on a woman’s right to choose. You think you know better than any physician, any doctor, or any woman in a position to make decisions about their own personal health,” he said. “You want to be the judge. That’s just not right. I don’t believe in that.”
DeSantis countered, noting that if minors in Florida aren’t legally allowed to get tattoos that they also should not be allowed to receive elective surgical procedures that – unlike tattoos – cannot be undone.
“If you’re a 15-year-old, you can’t go get a tattoo in the state of Florida, yet we’re saying you could get a double mastectomy?” he asked. “Of course not. It is inappropriate to do this for minors, and in Florida, we’re not going to allow that to happen here.”
“You deserve to have a governor who understands that a woman has a right to choose, that you need to have somebody who understands and respects that decision,” Crist responded. “It just doesn’t sound to me like Governor DeSantis wants to do that.”
A new Florida Atlantic University poll shows Crist trailing DeSantis – who is expected to win reelection on November 8 – by 11 points, which represents a 51 percent to 40 percent margin.