Ron DeSantis uses Dustin Daniels' ad to attack Andrew Gillum's record on crime

Former chief of staff says attack is "absurd and desperate."

Jeffrey Schweers
Tallahassee Democrat
Candidate for Florida governor Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters Saturday, June 9, 2018, during a rally in downtown Pensacola.

The Florida GOP and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis are conducting a coordinated attack on Democrat nominee Andrew Gillum’s hometown crime record and an ongoing FBI investigation.

A most recent salvo was supplied by Gillum’s own former chief of staff, Dustin Daniels.

“Gillum’s former chief of staff is running for mayor now and he’s sending out flyers saying Tallahassee in 2017 had the highest number of murders in their history and that they need to fix the problem,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Oldsmar with the National Federation Independent Business. “Andrew’s not been able to do that. You’ve had the highest crime rate in Tallahassee of all of Florida for four years.”

Back story:Crime rate down, but Leon County still tops state

DeSantis used that to highlight the need for safe communities and his own law enforcement background (he was a lawyer with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, the military’s judicial branch). 

“We’re going to have safe communities if I’m governor, we are not if Andrew’s governor,” he said.

The Florida GOP also tweeted out that Daniels “is campaigning on Mayor Gillum's failure to protect the people of Tallahassee.”

Dustin Daniels for Mayor

Even Donald Trump Jr. tweeted about Daniels' mailers and brochures highlighting Tallahassee's crime rate.

"That’s awkward. Gillum's own chief of staff criticizes Tallahassee crime rate. If you can’t control crime in a city according to your own team how can you do it over the whole state???"

Contacted via text message, Daniels told the Democrat today: "These partisan attacks are absurd and desperate. Crime is falling in Tallahassee, and this mailer promotes all the ways Mayor Gillum made that happen — and how we should continue it. By attempting to distort my campaign's message, Republicans are showing how afraid they really are of the coming Gillum administration."

Democrat Andrew Gillum faces Republican Ron DeSantis for Florida's governor.

Back story:TPD touts drop in crime rate for first half of year

According to the FDLE uniform crime report for Leon County has seen an overall drop in crime of 15 percent and a drop in all violent crime of 10 percent from 2016 to 2017. 

The violent crime index, which tracks murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults, shows that Leon County had 17 murders the first year Gillum was mayor in 2014, 22 murders in 2015, 12 in 2016 and 22 again in 2017. During the same period, however, the overall violent crime index dropped 9 percent — from 724.5 per 100,000 residents to 658.9 per 100,000.

Dustin Daniels for Mayor mailer highlights Tallahassee crime rate

"In Tallahassee, violent crime is down 24 percent this year, overall crime is down 10 percent, and the city is the safest it’s been in five years," said Jamie Van Pelt, the mayor's chief of staff. "To achieve these results, Mayor Gillum has invested in more law enforcement officers, community policing, and restorative justice.” 

DeSantis tied the crime rate and the ongoing FBI investigation with economic prosperity.

DeSantis criticized Gillum for “crony socialism,” taking what he called "junkets" to New York City with undercover FBI agents and Costa Rica with lobbyist pals. He blasted Gillum for producing a bank statement showing he withdrew $400 to pay cash for four nights he and his wife spent at a luxury resort in Costa Rica in 2016.

Back story:Andrew Gillum's receipts for New York and Costa Rica trips leave unanswered questions

“I looked to see how much the Holiday Inn Express would cost right down the street from here and four nights was like $650 — so you tell me how you’re able to get a luxury Costa Rica villa for $400. I want to know who your travel agent is,” DeSantis said. "I think it’s just he’s not being honest with the folks.

“There’s huge problems when you govern that way, where you’re on junkets with undercover FBI agents, when you’re the subject of a major investigation involving pay-to-play and involving corruption municipally, that is not a good way to develop economic policy.”

Gillum has repeatedly said the FBI has assured him that he is not a target of its investigation and accused DeSantis of criticizing the FBI and the ongoing Robert Mueller probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“Here in Florida, we’ve done everything we can to aid the agency, while Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump have done the exact opposite — demonizing the FBI and making the case that collusion is not a crime,” Gillum said in a statement 

Contact Schweers at Follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.