KISSIMMEE, Fla. – In the first Republican debate in the race for Florida governor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis squared off on stage at the Gaylord Palms Resort on Thursday.
At the start, Putnam took jabs at DeSantis over the time the congressman spent in Washington, D.C., instead of Florida, "welcoming" DeSantis to the state.
DeSantis responded, saying his job as a congressman puts him in the nation's capitol.
Fireworks started when Putnam was asked by the hosts of the debate, Fox News, whether he would support Donald Trump for president in the 2020 election.
"Most assuredly," he said. "I look forward to campaigning with him as governor of Florida."
"That would be the first time you ever campaigned with him," DeSantis said, "because when Donald Trump was trying to win Florida in 2016, Adam Putnam did not attend a single rally with him. You couldn't find Adam Putnam if you had a search warrant."
The two candidates sparred over issues such as immigration, trade, entitlements and guns.
They both addressed an issue Putnam's agriculture commission recently encountered with background checks.
A worker who did not know the login to one of the systems failed to put thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits through one of the screenings.
"When you're leading an agency, you discover the problem, you investigate the problem and you hold people accountable," said Putnam. "That's what Rick Scott has done for Florida, and that's what I will do as governor of Florida."
"The problem with that answer is, though, he didn't act like a leader because he covered it up," said DeSantis. "It was discovered by the media. He didn't tell Gov. Scott. In fact, when Gov. Scott found out about it, he said it was very disturbing. No one had told him."
Putnam's campaign team fired back after the debate, issuing a press release explaining what they said really happened during that time.
"Statements made at the Fox News Channel Gubernatorial GOP Primary Debate in Kissimmee tonight about Adam Putnam's concealed weapons license program are based on false news," the release said.
The campaign referred potential voters to Putnam's website.
Putnam and DeSantis are two of 10 Republican candidates running for governor. The other eight were not invited by Fox News to attend the debate.
That prompted a federal lawsuit to be filed on Thursday by one of the candidates, Bruce Nathan.
He accused Fox News of meddling in the election, and he said, "failure ... to cease discriminatory and unconstitutional conduct would likely call into question the integrity of the 2018 gubernatorial process."