The two GOP candidates in the gubernatorial race faced off in their second – and final – debate Wednesday before the Republican primary on August 28th.
Just hours before, news broke that U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis’ lead had jumped from 11 points to 20 in recent polls.
But, that fact didn’t dishearten Southwest Floridians who support DeSantis’ opposition, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. What did were the “low blows” each candidate took at one another, beginning with Putnam calling DeSantis the “Seinfeld” candidate in his opening statement because “at the end of the day, it’s all about nothing.”
The contentiousness was off putting to Peggy Love and Marg Tyrer.
“You know, I was always brought up to disagree pleasantly," Tyrer said.
“Yeah, you can do that," Love cut in. “But, not this, not that hate stuff.”
“You know?" Tyrer agreed. "Have a strong opinion, and everyone can, you know, have their opinion. You listen to others’ opinions, but not in an attack mode. You know, to attack others’ opinions is bothersome.”
Love and Tyrer are longtime Republicans, who say they’ve supported Putnam from the start. But, at the debate watch party hosted by the Lee County GOP, they said the divisiveness they witnessed from behind both podiums only added to the divide of the nation – and within the Republican Party.
Across the room, the Southwest Florida Young Republicans had a very different take. Before the debate, the club’s president, Kevin Karnes, said he was concerned about the lack of energy from both candidates, so he was pleasantly surprised by the aggressive back-and-forth led by Putnam, and the clearer idea of his plans for the role of governor.
“And, the specifics of how he would implement his plans," Karnes said. "And, I thought we saw a more tame DeSantis, where he didn’t rely too much on Trump’s endorsement or plans. So, I thought it was exactly what we needed.”
Despite the high-energy showdown, Karnes, Love and Tyrer all said they didn'’t think the debate changed anyone’s minds about who they would vote for in the primary.