Gavin Newsom challenged Ron DeSantis to a debate after Dan Rather proposed that the two governors from opposite sides of the aisle air out their differences on television.
“Here’s an idea for Chris Licht, the new head of @CNN. Set up a debate — one-on-one — between @GavinNewsom and @RonDeSantisFL,” the veteran journalist wrote on Twitter in late August. “Two governors of big states, potential presidential candidates. Prime time. Ratings I bet would be huge. Who would have the courage to show up?”
On Friday afternoon, Newsom took Rather up on his suggestion, sharing the tweet and adding: “Hey @GovRonDeSantis, clearly you’re struggling, distracted, and busy playing politics with people’s lives. Since you have only one overriding need — attention –let’s take this up & debate.”
Earlier in the day, the Florida governor mocked Newsom, saying his “hair gel is interfering with his brain function.” But Newsom volleyed back with a wisecrack of his own: “I’ll bring my hair gel. You bring your hairspray. Name the time before Election Day. @CNN.”
The California and Florida governors’ feud escalated on Wednesday when DeSantis used part of his state’s $12 million budget allocated for relocating “unauthorized aliens” to fly 50 refugees into Martha’s Vineyard, a Democratic jurisdiction. Texas governor Greg Abbott transported asylum seekers to a street near Kamala Harris’ Washington, D.C. residence.
Newsom immediately sounded the call for the Department of Justice to investigate “these inhuman efforts to use kids as political pawns.”
“What @GovRonDeSantis and @GregAbbott_TX are doing isn’t clever, it’s cruel,” he tweeted alongside a copy of the letter he sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
On Friday, DeSantis vowed to spend “every penny” of the budget to repeat the Martha’s Vineyard stunt.
“These are just the beginning efforts,” the Republican governor said during a news conference in Daytona Beach. “We’ve got an infrastructure in place now. There’s going to be a lot more that’s happening.”
Newsom and DeSantis have also clashed on issues like energy and reproductive rights, with the California governor putting up billboards in red states advertising his state as an abortion sanctuary. Many are speculating that Newsom is bringing the fight outside his state and to the national stage because he’s planning to run for president in 2024.
Newsom has pledged to help “make Ron DeSantis a one-term governor,” throwing his support behind Democratic opponent Charlie Crist. In his home state, he’s running for reelection against Republican State Senator Brian Dahle; the two are slated to debate in late October.