Opening his new campaign HQ, Chris King declares 'The contest is only beginning' - Florida Politics

Opening his new campaign HQ, Chris King declares ‘The contest is only beginning’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King opened his new campaign headquarters in Orlando Tuesday with a declaration he has only found his stride since the response to the Parkland tragedy

King also vowed the campaign has only just begun.

“I feel like in the last three or four months we’ve found our stride,” King told a gathering of supporters helping him open his new office with a bash Tuesday night, walking distance from his company’s retirement center where he began his campaign a year and a week ago.

The office is within rock-throwing distance of the Orlando headquarters for rival Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham in the Mills 50 District on East Colonial Drive in Orlando.

On Tuesday King wasn’t throwing any rocks, except perhaps at Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis. But he knows that a year after he announced his candidacy at the Hillcrest Hampton House he remains in solid fourth place among Democratic candidates behind Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“I would argue we’re in the preseason right now,” King said. “Everybody is about to start paying attention … My challenge is to make sure they know me, and they are going to see me in all the major markets very soon.”

King said that the Parkland tragedy, and his and his campaign’s participation in subsequent rallies and marches, have instilled an urgency, and sharpened his messages about being the Democrat who can talk about business success, faith and family values with any Republican candidate. And, he said, it’s beginning to show up in the bank account, as his March fundraising topped those of Graham or Gillum.

“I think I’ve really found my voice. I think what happened in Parkland really helped me clarify how I catch more fire and respond,” King told reporters after greeting supporters. “I think I’ve always been right on the issues and brought a fresh perspective. But I think there’s of a sense of urgency that I feel and greater confidence that we are really in a righteous cause right now.”

King is planning to speak at The Everglades Trust Thursday and used that as an example. Last year he swore off Big Sugar money for his campaign, and on Tuesday he said he intends to push hard for restoration, and for dealing with climate change with urgency.

“I feel like I have been the only one, up until the last few weeks, that has really approached the environment like I have,” he said.

He’s counting on expressing that urgency in the upcoming Democratic gubernatorial debates, starting with one next week in Tampa.

“I talk about the fact that when you’re from Orlando, you talk about what the survivors of Pulse want from the next governor of Florida, and what the students of Parkland want. I would argue that we do a disservice to this moment in Florida if we make it only about guns and gun safety. I believe I am on the right side of all the big gun safety issues. But to me, it’s about so much more. To me, it’s about the students, the survivors saying, ‘We want a higher and better politics in the state of Florida. We want to hold both parties, both parties feet to the fire when it comes to doing big things.

“I think they’re saying they want aspirational politics. They want politics that lift us up, encourages us, gives hope that we can do big things,” King said.

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.
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