KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam made jabs at U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis over time the congressman has spent in Washington, D.C., instead of in Florida on Thursday night during a live-televised debate that covered immigration, shootings and the potential for a trade war.
“What an exciting time to be in front of a live audience of a thousand Florida Republicans,” Putnam said. “It’s completely different than a Washington, D.C., studio, and I just want to say ‘Welcome to Florida, congressman.’”
DeSantis defended himself, saying he was doing his job and fulfilling his duty as a congressman by being in Washington.
During the debate televised live on Fox News, moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum asked about President Trump’s policies on immigration, trade and Russian meddling in the U.S. election in 2016.
DeSantis said he believes Russia tried to do “cyberstuff” during the election but that there was no collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign. Putnam said Trump “would more than hold his own” in a summit with Russia’s leader.
“But I’m running a Florida-first campaign,” Putnam said. “I care more about the schools in Washington County than what’s going on in Washington, D.C.”
Putnam said “trade wars” hurting Florida began a quarter century ago with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“That has put Florida farmers and ranchers at a distinct disadvantage and put them out of business,” Putnam said.
“They haven’t passed an immigration bill,” Putnam said.
When Putnam was asked about a previous statement that he is a “proud NRA sellout,” in light of recent shootings, including at a high school in Parkland, Florida, last February, he said it was “critically important” to defend Second Amendment rights while also protecting students in schools.
“Those two things aren’t incompatible,” Putnam said.
Putnam also defended his actions regarding an agency employee’s failure to follow up on certain national background checks that could disqualify people from gaining permits to carry concealed weapons. He said he held the Department of Agriculture employee accountable and that she no longer works for the agency.
“You have to level with your constituents and tell them what happened and not try to cover it up,” DeSantis said.
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