Republican Ron DeSantis on Wednesday seized on reports that Andrew Gillum, his Democratic opponent in Florida’s race for governor, used a ticket from an undercover FBI agent to see the Broadway show “Hamilton” in 2016.
“This is what local corruption looks like,” DeSantis said during an appearance on Fox News, seeking to leverage the issue in the closing weeks of a race in which polls have shown him trailing.
DeSantis’s comments came the day after text messages were made public that appeared to contradict previous statements by Gillum, the current mayor of Tallahassee, whose city has been the subject of a federal public-corruption probe.
Gillum has said that he did nothing wrong and that the FBI told him in June 2017 that he was not a “focus” of its investigation. Gillum’s campaign has maintained that his brother, Marcus, handed him the ticket on the night of the show.
Text messages at the time of the trip to New York, however, show that Gillum was told that the tickets came from “Mike Miller,” an FBI agent posing as a real estate developer.
“He claims he’s not under investigation,” DeSantis said of Gillum during an appearance on “Fox & Friends.” “Why the heck would law enforcement send an undercover agent to line his pockets if he wasn’t under investigation? Of course he is.”
In an interview Tuesday on MSNBC, Gillum dismissed the newly disclosed records.
“Today’s news was no news for us at all,” he said. “I always knew that if we were able to connect in New York, we would go and see ‘Hamilton.’ When I got to the theater, my brother handed me the ticket. The idea that I accepted a gift never came to me.”
In a debate with DeSantis on Wednesday night in Davie, Fla., Gillum continued to play down the revelations.
“I take responsibility for not having asked more questions,” he said. “But let me tell you, I’m running for governor. In the state of Florida, we have many issues. And tickets to ‘Hamilton’ ain’t one of them.”
DeSantis, who won Trump’s endorsement during the Republican primaries, also told Fox that he expects the president to return to Florida to campaign for him before the election on Nov. 6.
“I think you’re going to see him here,” DeSantis said.
Hours later, Trump’s campaign committee announced plans for a rally next Wednesday in Fort Myers, Fla.
Emma Brown contributed to this report.