If the weekend is any indication, the last four weeks of the Republican race for governor will be a brutal fight to the finish. Down in the polls, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is stepping up his attacks on Congressman Ron DeSantis, who is firing back accused Putnam of lying about his record in Washington.
Add in allegations of ballot stuffing at a straw poll conducted by the Sarasota County Republican Party and it’s clear the GOP race is quickly turning negative.
The Putnam campaign sent a mailer to Republican voters accusing DeSantis of supporting food stamps for illegal immigrants. The claim comes from DeSantis voting against a 2014 farm bill that included language requiring states to use an immigration status verification system before distributing food stamps to individuals. The bill ultimately passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Putnam first made the claim during a Fox News debate in June.
Last week a political committee supporting Putnam released TV and radio ads separately accusing DeSantis of supporting a 23% national sales, while failing to mention the sales tax would have been offset by eliminating federal income taxes.
“Since when do we let politicians deny their record? His record in Congress is an indication of what he could do to our state,” said Meredith Beatrice, Putnam campaign spokesperson. “D.C. DeSantis three-times cosponsored a bill that would have imposed a 23 percent tax on everything we buy, robbing seniors and destroying the middle class.”
The DeSantis campaign fires back that Putnam isn’t telling the truth about the two issues and points to Politifact Florida which has rated Putnam’s claims as false. It rated the food stamps for illegals as a “Pants on Fire” claim, while the liberal-leaning fact checker organization calls the national sales tax claim “Mostly False.”
“It’s a shame to see Adam Putnam abandoning his integrity,” said Dave Vasquez, DeSantis campaign spokesman. “He’s now basing his campaign around blatantly false claims meant to mislead voters.”
The Putnam campaign stands by the two claims, and questions Politifact’s motivation, bringing up that it routinely rates President Trump’s statements as “False” or “Mostly False.”
As the two campaigns debate who’s telling the truth about each other’s voting record, the two sparred over the weekend during about a Sarasota County Republican Party straw poll. DeSantis, Putnam, Governor Scott and other state and local candidates attended the rally which concluded with a straw poll. Those straw poll plans blew up after a DeSantis supporter was accused of stuffing the ballot box. Putnam’s camp cried foul and the local party refused to release the results, apparently verifying something fishy may have taken place.
Straw polls are non-binding and don’t necessarily indicate the results of a primary election, but winning campaigns often tout a straw poll victory. With primary mail-in votes currently being cast, campaigns are also looking for any perception of momentum.
One thing is clear – after this weekend – Republican voters better buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy August.