Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed Monday to end the political career of his Democratic opponent Charlie Crist while the latter defended gender surgeries for minors during a fiery debate just two weeks ahead of the November general election.
“Well listen, I know that Charlie is interested in talking about 2024 and Joe Biden, but I just want to make things very, very clear: The only worn out, old donkey I’m looking to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist, ” DeSantis declared after Crist tried to force him to say whether he was planning to run for president or serve another full term as governor should he be re-elected.
The moment came as the two clashed over the economy and plans to tackle the historic inflation gripping the nation, brought on, DeSantis said, by the policies of President Joe Biden and Democrats like Crist.
DeSantis, who is widely seen as a potential challenger to Biden in 2024, did not say whether he would serve a full second term as governor, but instead hit back at Crist with criticism over his tax policies when he served as governor from 2007 to 2011.
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The two traded barbs over the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s response to Hurricane Ian, and immigration, however one of the most intense moments came when Crist defended gender transition surgeries for minors.
“When they say gender-affirming care, they mean giving puberty blockers to teenage girls and teenage boys, they mean doing double mastectomies on young girls, they mean chemically castrating young boys. That is wrong. We are not going to allow that to happen in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said when the candidates were asked by the moderator where they stood on “gender-affirming medical procedures and therapies.”
“We’re doing the right thing. It’s inappropriate to be doing basically what’s genital mutilation,” he later added, citing Florida’s attempts to restrict such procedures.
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Crist lashed out at DeSantis, likening restrictions keeping minors from undergoing such procedures to keeping women from having an abortion.
“This reminds me of your position on a woman’s right to choose. You think you know better than any physician, any doctor, or any woman in a position to make decisions about their own personal health. You want to be the judge. You want to decide about what people should do with their own physical being, with the betterment of their health, with whether or not they want to make sure that they can practice their right to choose as a woman. That’s just not right. I don’t believe in that,” he said.
“You don’t have the temperament to be kind and decent to other people who don’t look like you, who don’t act like you, and don’t contribute to you. We’re all children of God, and that doesn’t mean that you’re the one who’s supposed to judge about what other people are supposed to do, particularly women, with their bodies,” he added.
DeSantis pushed back, arguing that young teens weren’t in a position to know enough to make such a decision, and referenced another law preventing teens from doing certain things to their bodies.
“If you’re a 15-year-old, you can’t go get a tattoo in the state of Florida, yet we’re saying you could get a double mastectomy? Of course not. It is inappropriate to do this for minors , and in Florida, we’re not going to allow that to happen here,” he said.
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“You will support it for minors. I mean, you should just be honest with people about that,” he then told Crist.
Crist responded that it was “a difficult decision” for a person to make, and related the subject once again to abortion.
“You deserve to have a governor who understands that a woman has a right to choose, that you need to have somebody who understands and respects that decision,” he said.
“It just doesn’t sound to me like Governor DeSantis wants to stop doing that, to respect some other family’s decision about what they want for their children,” he added.
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Fox News’ Power Rankings has rated the race between DeSantis and Crist as “likely Republican.”
The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.