But the controversy is a sign that race may be in issue in the campaign for governor in the nation's third-largest state, which like the rest of the country is becoming more demographically diverse.
Gillum, who has called for Trump's impeachment, is the first African-American to win Florida's Democratic nomination for governor and his surprise win came against better-funded, more mainstream opponents.
"I think you're pushing that button for a very specific reason, '" he added.
A defiant DeSantis said, on Thursday, during a radio interview that the flak he's received for saying those words Wednesday amounts to "silly P.C. stuff" and that he was not sending "some double-secret coded message" about Gillum, who is black.
He also described Mr Gillum as "an articulate" spokesman for far-left views. "It's not going to be good for Florida".
"Winning the Florida governor's race is a top priority for the DGA this year", DGA Executive Director Elisabeth Pearson said in a statement.
Gillum indicated to Fox News' Shepard Smith that DeSantis' comment ran abreast of numerous controversial statements of President Donald Trump when he was campaigning for the White House in 2015 and 2016.
The DeSantis campaign said it would be "absurd" to characterize his remarks as racist.
"I think it's really sad to make those assumptions about a phrase like that", answered MacCallum.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum during his primary victory speech.
In other races, a former air force fighter pilot, Representative Martha McSally, won the Republican primary in Arizona to replace the retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a vocal critic of Trump.
Tallahassee has seen a spike in homicides, but its overall crime rate has declined, although it remains the highest in the state.
Republican McSally is running for retiring Sen.
On August 20, the Gillum campaign released one such Change Research poll predicting his eventual win.
Gillum also downplayed an ongoing FBI investigation into possible corruption at Tallahassee City Hall that has not implicated him.
But while Trump's support for DeSantis might offer a target for Democrats, the Republican candidate is preparing a counterattack that will tie Gillum to supporters and policy positions that energized the progressive Democratic voting base but may not be popular with the majority of voters.
There is one other issue that is raised by Gillum's nomination, along with the nomination of Stacey Abrams in the race for governor of Georgia.
Trump's tweet followed closely on the heels of a national television appearance by Gillum, in which he said he does not fear Trump's expected heavy involvement in the general election - and called for Trump's impeachment.
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