In what has already been a campaign season marred by racist rhetoric, the nation's top agricultural official used the colloquial term "cotton-pickin'" at a Ron DeSantis rally when talking about the importance of the Florida gubernatorial election.
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DeSantis is running against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who would be Florida’s first black governor.
"Public policy matters. Leadership matters," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said at the Lakeland, Florida, event, Politico reported. "And that is why this election is so cotton-pickin' important to the state of Florida. I hope you all don't mess it up."
Perdue, a former Georgia governor, is the second Republican with ties to President Donald Trump's administration to use that term during this election cycle. David Bossie, Trump's former campaign manager, was suspended as a Fox News commentator when he used the term in June, Politico reported.
DeSantis’ campaign deferred to Perdue when asked about his remarks.
"We were happy to have him in Polk County campaigning with us," DeSantis campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson told Politico.
Since Gillum secured the Democratic nomination, race has played a part in the election.
DeSantis told voters not to "monkey this up" after Gillum's primary win.
"I mean, on the day right after I secured the Democratic nomination, we had to deal with some of the dog whistles directly from my opponent," Gillum told CNN after a racist robocall mocking him went out.
The call was paid for by The Road to Power, an Idaho-based white supremacist group.
DeSantis has not apologized for his comment because he said he did nothing wrong and it was not about race. He denounced the robocall, calling it repugnant and disrespectful.