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With racial tension high in Florida race, Trump calls Gillum a 'thief'

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Fearing that two high-profile Florida races may be slipping away from the Republican party, President Trump launched another attack Monday on Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who polls show leading former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis in their contest to succeed Gov. Rick Scott.

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Describing Gillum, who is African-American, as a common criminal represents a significant ratcheting up of rhetoric in a midterm cycle that has already been marked by racial tension. Trump has for weeks labeled Democrats as “the party of crime.”

At a briefing Monday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, asked why Trump described Gillum as a thief, replied: “The individual is under FBI investigation.”

Democratic candidate for Florida governor Andrew Gillum speaks to the news media during a campaign event at Miami Dade College on Monday in Miami. (Photo: AP/Lynne Sladky)
Democratic candidate for Florida governor Andrew Gillum speaks to the news media during a campaign event at Miami Dade College on Monday in Miami. (Photo: AP/Lynne Sladky)

DeSantis, who has made it a point of pride that he marches in lockstep with Trump, has been following the president’s playbook while campaigning in the state. “The people of Florida never had a clearer choice to make,” DeSantis said Sunday at a rally in Coral Springs. “I’m relieved to say that of the two of us, I’m the only one who can credibly say I’m not under investigation by the FBI.”

In response, the crowd began to chant, “Lock him up!”

Gillum maintains that the FBI has assured him he is not a target of an ongoing investigation into municipal corruption in Tallahassee.

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Last week, documents released to the Florida Commission on Ethics showed that in 2016, Gillum received a ticket to the Broadway musical “Hamilton” as well as a hotel room that was paid for by an undercover FBI agent. Gillum says he received the ticket to the show from his brother.

Both Trump and DeSantis are betting that the newly released documents will be enough to wipe out Gillum’s lead. Supporters of the Democrat see Trump’s latest salvo as a racist “dog whistle.”

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During last week’s final debate between the two candidates, Gillum blasted DeSantis over speeches the Republican made at events hosted by anti-Muslim provocateur David Horowitz.

“Now, I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist,” Gillum said.

With Gillum’s lead over DeSantis, and Sen. Bill Nelson’s advantage over Scott in the low single digits, according to most polls, both parties are bringing in the big guns for the final days of the campaign.

Former President Barack Obama will stump for Gillum and Nelson on Friday in Miami. Trump, meanwhile, plans to campaign for DeSantis twice before Nov. 6 — on Thursday in Lee County, and Saturday in Pensacola.

Read more Yahoo News midterms coverage:

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