TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — An inflammatory ad depicting a Hispanic-looking immigrant in a hoodie shooting a white woman led to an unusual one-issue debate Tuesday night between a Republican who might run for Florida governor and a Democrat already in the race.
Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum took an exchange that began on Twitter two weeks ago to a television studio, debating a priority bill for Corcoran that would punish local governments if they don’t cooperate with authorities enforcing federal immigration laws.
The two sparred on the issue on social media after Corcoran’s political committee began airing an ad call for an end to so-called “sanctuary cities.”
“There is no need for this policy or this type of legislation other than to deride, to divide and to create other legal forms, in my opinion, of racial profiling,” Gillum said during the 50-minute debate which was streamed live on Facebook and will be distributed to television stations.
He said Corcoran’s ad attempts to make Floridians believe that “undocumented persons are either murders” or intend to harm them.
Corcoran said the issue is simple: people in the country illegally who commit crimes should be detained for at least 48 hours to give federal authorities time to act on immigration issues.
“This is not even a difficult thing. Is it OK for an illegal immigrant who’s engaged in criminal behavior to be allowed out to roam free? That’s a simple question,” Corcoran said.
In his ad, Corcoran talks about a young woman “gunned down by an illegal immigrant who should have been deported, but was protected by a sanctuary city.” As the ad shows a woman walking past the man in the hoodie, who then turns round and shoots her. He mentions the case of Kate Steinle, who was fatally shot in San Francisco by a man living in the country illegally and who had been deported five times. A jury found the shooting was accidental and that the bullet was not intended for Steinle, but ricocheted off a concrete piling.
Still, Corcoran repeatedly mentioned her in the debate, saying no one should have to be told by a police officer that a loved one was killed by someone who entered the country illegally.
Gillum also criticized Corcoran because the actor in the ad was in a hoodie, saying it had racial overtones.
Afterward, Corcoran dismissed the idea.
“I have a 15-year-old boy. He wears a hoodie all the time,” Corcoran said. “The point of the story was that when you allow criminal illegal immigrants to go out there and walk our streets, people are in jeopardy.”
The debate was unusual because Corcoran isn’t a declared candidate for governor, though he’s widely expect to join the Republican primary after the Legislature’s annual session ends next month. Also, Gillum has yet to debate his opponents in the Democratic primary, which also includes former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando businessman Chris King.
The day before the debate, Levine began airing television ads using a clip from the Corcoran ad, in which Levine says, “One Tallahassee politician is broadcasting a message of hate, aimed at every man, woman and child that doesn’t look like him.”
Republicans running for the seat Republican Gov. Rick Scott is giving up due to term limits are Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.