Gillum, a Democrat, found himself on the defensive for much of the debate regarding gifts he appears to have received improperly as mayor of Tallahassee. He also has a debate scheduled Wednesday evening at Broward College with DeSantis, who already tried to interrogate him on his Hamilton tickets during their first debate Sunday on CNN.
"I go by our polling, our targeting, and everything is going in a good direction", he said. DeSantis, a former three-term Republican congressman, seemed rattled over questions about his associations with far-right groups.
"How the hell am I supposed to know every single statement somebody makes?" he shouted, apparently unaware of the existence of the Internet.
"While he is focusing people's attention on the color of my skin, which I have no plans of changing", Gillum said, to cheers and laughter, "I said the only color the people of this state are concerned about is the blue-green algae (fouling waterways) ... and our need to elect a governor who actually believes in science, who actually believes that global warming and climate change is a real thing".
Emails show Corey billed "Mike Miller", who happened to be an undercover FBI agent investigating Tallahassee corruption, for the $4,300 tab. "Andrew got travel money from the federal government because it was from an undercover FBI agent who is investigating him for corruption".
But one Democratic consultant said the controversy could derail Gillum's campaign if the story lingers, comparing it ironically to the letter then-FBI director James Comey issued in the final two weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign noting that a probe of Clinton's private Secretary of State email server had been revived. Under Florida's ethics rules, any gift more than $100 must be reported, which these weren't. "Maybe a show instead?"
"Did you pay for Hamilton?" he asked.
Corey (the lobbyist): "That would be epic!"
The records include text messages between Gillum and former lobbyist Adam Corey. "I don't have regrets about that", Gillum said.
But criticism aimed at Mr DeSantis continued, with Democratic senator Bill Nelson saying the comments were "unacceptable in civilised discourse".
Gillum repeated his explanation that, at the time, he assumed his brother Marcus had paid for the Hamilton ticket, by trading it for a Jay-Z concert ticket.
Gillum told NBC that when he arrived at the theater, his brother handed him the ticket. "The problem that I have is that I should have asked more questions".
DeSantis stuck to his guns. "Tallahassee got something. That's the definition of bribery". By the time Gillum and DeSantis squared off in Broward County, nearly 1.4 million Floridians already had cast their ballots.
"These are the people who do the most hard job in our society", said Gillum.
"Low-earning people are going to be hurt the most", DeSantis said.
In noting that turnout for the November 6 election has already topped 15 percent, the Florida Chamber of Commerce posted in a daily report that black voters account for about 9 percent of the people who have cast ballots.
"All this stuff that they say, I've got to let them know; anti-police?"
The mayor's campaign has decried the robocalls as "abhorrent" and said that they are 'a continuation of the ugliest, most divisive campaign in Florida's history'. Trump has staked an extraordinary amount of political capital on DeSantis, intervening in the GOP primary to give him his strong endorsement.
Gillum, however, did reference man's best friend when talking about DeSantis in the second debate Wednesday in Davie.
And, based on their tones and accusations, it may be their last.