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Politics

GOP Debate Audience Shared Their Impressions Afterward

June 29, 2018 - 8:15am

Republicans who bought a ticket to the first Ron DeSantis-Adam Putnam GOP gubernatorial debate -- among the Florida party's most committed members --  said afterward they weren't sorry they did. The Sunshine Summit had provided them the opportunity of a lifetime. But many also insisted the questions from FOX News during the nationally televised debate should have focused more on Florida issues.

"I guess the moderators (Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier) figured people watching in Iowa or Oregon would be bored hearing about the algae in our estuaries or the candidates' plans for failing schools," said Myrna Franklin, a retired school teacher from South Florida. "I understand that. But I think talking about the things Washington needs to fix gave the edge to Ron DeSantis. That's his comfort zone. 

"Of course, I'm glad they both support the president's policies," she added. "I just wanted to hear more about what they would do for Florida, which the questions didn't allow."

Franklin was one of hundreds of the 1,000 ticketholders who milled around outside the Gaylord Palms' Osceola Ballroom afterward, huddling in small groups, sharing their thoughts.

There were common themes running through the halls at the Orlando hotel's convention center:

1. Either candidate can beat the Democratic opposition.

2. The debate didn't change many minds among these Republicans.

3. Either candidate would keep Florida's fiscally conservative streak alive in the Governor's Mansion.

Sunshine State News asked a number of Republicans to talk about their impressions of the event. Here's a sampling of their responses:

Peggy Simone
Peggy Simone

Peggy Simone, Bradenton. "This was a wonderful, refreshing debate. I think it defined the candidates well. Ron DeSantis focuses on national issues, Adam Putnam on Florida issues."

Carol Carter
Carol Carter

Carol Carter, Naples. "This was a great debate but very difficult to decide who won. The questions were a little more geared to a national audience than a Florida audience, yet it still showed there is a distinct difference between the two men in their understanding of state issues."

Dave Ramba, lobbyist and Leon County committeeman. "I don't think this changed anybody's mind. The questions should

Dave Ramba
Dave Ramba

have been a little more Florida focused. ... I'm surprised the moderators didn't bring up the delay we have now in getting a legal immigrant work force out. Now everybody has to go through a lottery for a work force." Ramba was referring to DeSantis' statement that 650,000 illegal workers should be sent home so Americans could fill the jobs.

Bill Akins
Bill Akins

Bill Akins, Port Charlotte, candidate for the congressional seat Tom Rooney is vacating in District 17. "I'm one of the few who hadn't made my mind up until this I saw this debate. There are too many issues Adam Putnam has done nothing about. Red tide is a big issue, our beaches are very important. Why hasn't he fixed those? I have a feeling DeSantis would get the job done and I think that's the direction I'm going in now."

Carole Hayes
Carole Hayes

Carole Hayes, Gotha, Orange County. "This wasn't my first chance to see and hear both candidates together, yet I haven't made up mind. We're so fortunate to have two good candidates here. Both have their strengths. But my big issues are Common Core and pro-life, and I think I'm leaning toward DeSantis."

Bob Sutton
Bob Sutton

Bob Sutton, Coral Springs, Broward County. "I know both these men and they're both well qualified. It's going to be a tough race. You'll find large support for DeSantis among the most active Republicans -- they're the Trump people. But you can tell Adam has more understanding of Florida issues."

Sondra Moylan
Sondra Moylan

Sondra Moylan, Citrus County. "I must say, I was very impressed with DeSantis. He was more concise, he didn't hedge, and frankly, he surprised me pleasantly."

George R. Jackow
George R. Jackow

George R. Jackow, Kissimmee in Osceola County. "I wasn't surprised by anything. I liked the give and take in this debate. But I admit, I like candidates who conduct grass roots campaigns, who go into the community and knock on doors. That's why I like Adam. You have to know the state -- this job is governor of the state of Florida. Plus, he probably has a better chance to win in the general election. He's a fourth generation Floridian who talks about the need for voc-tech schools, not just colleges. ... This is what we need in Florida, and I know he'll see things through."

Earlier in the day, Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said he was proud to be offering Florida a high-profile candidate debate. "Some of our party leaders are looking ahead to get a handle on who our nominee will be," Ingoglia said. "This debate is going to help."

The Sunshine Summit continues Friday with a day-long slate of speakers

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

Comments

Gwen Graham will wipe the floor clean, with either of them.

Good call "Bobby-boy"; "Nepotistic Gwenny's" experience and 'calling' does indeed suggest nothing more than 'scrubbing floors' (which is far more than she accomplished when she was the "visiting Representative" in District 2 up on the Panhandle for a couple years while further contemplating her next opportunistic maneuver...

Good luck with that.

It is the #WalkAwayMovement NO DEMOCRAT in Tallahassee! Keep Florida RED. Both are qualified but Putnam is in bed with the Chamber of Commerce and will bend to their whim of illegals. As for Big Sugar, we all know they really run the state. I will support the candidate that has supported our POTUS. Yes, Putnam was behind globalist Jeb Bush. Shame! But if DeSantis doesn't win the primary I will vote for Putnam.

These guys are both awful. Any of the Democratic candidates should easily defeat these NRA puppets.

2nd Amendment Patriots

LOL! Get Woken #WalkAway

Give credit to FOX NEWS, they must have thought this was a debate for Senate or Congress. I was not sure if this was about Florida.

Let's see. A debate between the two anointed media and establishment candidates was mostly on national issues yet the office being sought is a governorship. DeSantis' only real qualification is he is endorsed by the populist in chief and he is a FOXNEWS darling. Putnam, the fake farmer, has been making a living from other people's taxes since he was 22. Now for all of you Constitution loving republicans who claim to want limited government, lower taxes and more freedom, did you know that for ten years in Congress, Adam Putnam's key votes were in line with the Constitution only 53% of the time? For his two terms, Mr. DeSantis scores a whopping 73% of the time. This wasn't a debate. It was a neocon, nationalist, populist love fest. So disappointed in alleged "liberty people" who support these two war mongering run of the mill establishment paper dolls.

Pretty clear choice. Putnam with his air of arrogance and a 20 yr history of commitment to Big Sugar vs DeSantis with a humbled work for the ppl stance and he is endorsed twice by Pres. Trump!

safe questions and more geared to make DeSantis look better. He is their boy at FoxSpews.... I don't think either one gave us an indication of how they would be different than the status quo, which frankly is not working for me, I love how MSNBC broke things down, they were focused on Florida issues and their lack of addressing them in this debate, 43rd in education, 46th in wages, a lot of environmental issues (algae blooms, red tide, Mosaic, pythons, alligators, panthers almost gone. We'd really like to see something different, but not facist like Trump...

We know who the Dems want now. Thanks for making it clear. Desantis forced Putnam to admit he backed Jeb! He also forced him to agree with most of President Trump's decisions. By Putnam agreeing with all of Trump's initiatives (most), Desantis helped to get Putnam to vocally agree wholeheartedly with the person who is endorsing Ron. That was brilliant. Don't know who will be the best but it became clear that there was a nervousness about Putnam wanting to address the "sugar industry" who wants to keep immigration issues "fuzzy".

Great debate. Both highly qualified. I don't think either candidate came out on top of the other. DeSantis was for E-Verify which gives him an edge. Putnam had all the right answers and I liked him with his Florida First slogan...idea right from Trump. Either one would be great for Florida. Let's see what the polls are like now since DeSantis has the president's endorsement and he will start his advertising campaign.. He has some catching up to do.

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