The Fox News debate between Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis quickly got heated Thursday evening as the two sparred about their respective track records.
Newsom and DeSantis particularly traded jabs over their states' different approaches to tax policy and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"He has one of the most regressive tax rates in the United States, the number three most-regressive state in America," Newsom remarked, referring to Florida. "And what that means is simply this: Who does he tax? He taxes low income workers more than we tax millionaires and billionaires in the state of California."
"The question is a simple one," the Democratic governor continued. "Who, Ron, are you for? It's a factual lie that — the state of California has the highest tax rate, but for whom? And it's a foundational and fundamental difference."
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during Thursday night's Fox News debate. (Fox News Digital)
Fox News host Sean Hannity, though, showed a graphic citing Tax Foundation data which highlighted how Florida has a 0% income tax rate across all incomes while California has a graduated income tax between 1% to 13.3%. Florida also has a lower sales and gasoline tax compared to California.
"How many people leave Florida to go to California because they pay less taxes? I'm not seeing that. Are people going from Florida to New York because they pay less taxes? Of course not," DeSantis responded. "They come to Florida because they pay lower taxes. We don't even have an income tax. And yet California has a higher sales tax than we do."
"Here's the thing, and I'll give — I'll give Gavin credit. He did at least admit in his first answer, he's joined at the hip with Biden and Harris," he added. "He thinks Biden and Harris have done a great job. He thinks the economy is working because of their policies. What California represents is the Biden-Harris agenda on steroids. They would love nothing more than to get four more years to be able to take the California model nationally. That would be disastrous for working people."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during Thursday night's Fox News debate. (Fox News Digital)
The two governors then sparred about their handling of the pandemic with Newsom arguing DeSantis both locked down Florida before California shut down and that his lax policies led to a higher death rate in Florida. DeSantis, though, blasted Newsom for shutting down his state for an extended period of time and listening to the advice of teachers unions.
"You were not following science. You were a lock-down governor," DeSantis said. "You did a lot of damage to your people. You had more kids locked out of school for a longer period of time in California than anywhere else in the country. It was the working-class kids. It was the middle income kids — his kids were in private school, they were in class. He is owned by the teachers union."
"Let's talk about your record on COVID," Newsom responded. "You passed an emergency declaration before the state of California did. You closed down your beaches, your bars, your restaurants. It's a fact. You had quarantines, checkpoints all over the state of Florida."
"You were promoting vaccines. You even wore a mask," he added. "He did all of that until he decided to fall prey to the fringe of his party. And as a consequence of that, tens of thousands of people lost their lives, the equivalent of ten 9/11s."
Thomas Catenacci is a politics writer for Fox News Digital.