Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 323

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

Alan Grayson raising beaucoup bucks for a race he may not run

Alan Grayson said on Tuesday that he is not running for any office in 2018, at least not yet. But there are plenty of people who want him to, as he has racked up several hundred thousand dollars in campaign contributions for a CD 11 bid, a seat currently occupied by Republican Daniel Webster. 

The former U.S. Representative has been actively campaigning for Jon Ossoff, the Democrat running in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District through Act Blue, which bills itself as “the online clearinghouse of Democratic action.”

An online ad for Ossoff includes the disclaimer, “Your contribution will be divided evenly between Jon Ossoff and Alan Grayson.” There is a link that says, “click here to allocate amounts differently.”

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Grayson said repeatedly when he originally told FloridaPolitics last December — that because he continued to receive campaign contributions larger than $5,000 after he lost in the U.S. Senate Primary race last August to Patrick Murphy, he had to legally file to run for office in 2018.

He opted to file to run in Florida’s 11th Congressional District, centered in Lake County, a seat currently held by Republican Daniel Webster, who defeated Grayson in Florida’s 8th Congressional District in 2010.

District 11 is a deep-red, conservative seat, and includes the Villages retirement community, a GOP stronghold. The seat was previously held by Rich Nugent before he announced his retirement last year. Ginny Brown-Waite held the seat before that.

“We passed the $5,000 mark quickly, and I had to file, so we went ahead and filed,” he said. “I haven’t made any decisions about what my plans are to run in Congress, but we filed for a specific district, and what prompted that was simply the legal obligation to do so.”

As a federally registered political action committee, Act Blue serves as a conduit for online contributions to Democratic candidates and committees.

According to the website Open Secrets, a website run by the Center for Responsive Politics. Grayson had raised $437,291 at the end of March, the first quarter of 2017.

Grayson says that every time he ran in Congress, he never decided whether he would run again until the same year as the election, so his decision to hold off on any announcement until 2018 is par for the course. He says his decision to run for the U.S. Senate was a much bigger race, which is why he did announce his candidacy for that seat a year in advance.

“It’s encouraging that I have that kind of support,” he said.

N.Y. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand hearts Gwen Graham for Governor

Gwen Graham scored a major national endorsement Tuesday when New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced backing Graham’s campaign for Florida governor.

“I am proud to join thousands of others in supporting Gwen Graham, a strong progressive leader, for Governor of Florida. In the age of Trump, we need courageous leaders like Gwen who will always put people over politics and aren’t afraid to stand up to anybody to do what is right,” Gillibrand said. “For her strength and leadership skills, her fortitude and passion, I offer my strongest endorsement of Democrat Gwen Graham for Governor of Florida. Take it from me: with Gwen Graham as governor, Florida will have a champion for progressive values in the Governor’s office.”

In the immediate aftermath of last year’s presidential election, Gillibrand was on the short list of potential Democrats to run for president in 2020. However, she quashed that talk early last month saying definitively she was ruling out such a run.

Nevertheless, it’s a big get for Graham, currently involved in a three-way race for the 2018 Democratic nomination against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King.

“After almost 20 years of Republican rule and with Donald Trump in the White House, Florida needs a governor who will stand up for our values and fight to strengthen public education, expand access to health care, and protect civil rights,” Graham said. “Senator Gillibrand is a warrior in Washington fighting for our shared values. Kirsten’s support and the support of women from across the country who share our mission to turn Florida blue is humbling and driving our campaign forward.”

Graham has previously earned the endorsement of Emily’s List, the national political action committee that backs pro-choice Democratic female candidates for office.

In the statement accompanying the announcement of Gillibrand’s endorsement, the Graham campaign made sure to mention that she earned a 100 percent rating from both NARAL and Planned Parenthood and co-sponsored legislation to renew the battle for an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Sean Shaw to town hall audience: ‘Hold me accountable’

Being part of a legislative caucus with little political power has been the plight of Democrats elected to the Florida House for going on two decades, but state Representative Sean Shaw told a town hall audience of about 40 people Monday night that it’s their job to hold him accountable in Tallahassee, regardless of his party’s minority status.

“Let me tell you what we do not as a community do very well – hold our elected officials accountable,” Shaw said while speaking at the Progress Village Civic Council’s monthly meeting. “Do not allow any of us – me included – to come to your communities and ask for your vote and you don’t see us again until re-election time. I don’t care if it’s me. I don’t care if it’s city councilman or a county commissioner, that is where you have the power.”

Shaw, an insurance attorney, defeated businesswoman and activist Dianne Hart by just 124 votes in the House District 61 Democratic primary last August (there was no Republican challenger). Greeting the audience who showed up for the meeting, Shaw said the votes he won in Progress Village last year secured his victory overall in the district.

Located east of Tampa, Progress Village was created asa a planned community for African-Americans in 1958. He told the all-black audience that it was important that they stay engaged.

“Our community has the most to lose,” he said. “We don’t have a cushion for error. Our people have to be doing what meets the needs of our community.”

In reviewing how his first session as a state Representative went in Tallahassee, Shaw was vehement in denouncing the bill that will allow Floridians the chance to expand their homestead exemptions via a constitutional amendment in 2018.

“Do not vote for the homestead exemption that’s going to be on the ballot,” he sternly said. “It is a trick! I want to make sure that no one here thinks it’s a good idea, because it’s not.”

County Administrator Mike Merrill has predicted an annual reduction of $36 million if the measure passes. Looking over to several Hillsborough County Sheriff officials who had earlier addressed the crowd, Shaw said that if the vote is approved there would be “less of them” patrolling the neighborhoods.

“That means your libraries are open less. Your roads are in worse shape. This is a direct impact because Hillsborough County has to make up for that revenue.”

Shaw said his 2016 campaign platform consisted of advocacy for criminal justice reform, affordable housing, education and vocational training. He boasted of his support for legislation that makes it easier for affordable housing companies to get insurance, which in turn makes it easier for them to build affordable housing.

On his other issues of interest, however, Shaw’s proposals, like most House Democrats didn’t get too far in the overwhelmingly GOP-controlled Legislature. Among his bills that didn’t get support was a measure that would have prevented someone whose primary offense upon being arrested was possession of a controlled substance.

“That bill actually got one hearing, which I was shocked that it even got that,” Shaw said, adding that he’ll bring it back in 2018.

And like every other Democrat in Tallahassee, Shaw is still bemoaning the passage of HB 7069, the omnibus education bill that includes the controversial ‘schools of hope’ provisions for charter schools.

“They want to essentially turn our public education system private. This is the privatization of our education system, and we can’t allow it.”

In signing the bill last week, Governor Rick Scott touted the fact that it includes a $100 increase in per-student school funding. Shaw was unimpressed.

“That $100 was a farce,” he declared.”And don’t let anybody tell you that we went up to Tallahassee and did anything for public education. We. Did. Not.”

Ted Yoho urges Ben Carson to reverse Obama-era ‘Housing First,’ reinstate homeless shelter funds

Gainesville Republican Ted Yolo, joined by 22 other House Republicans, co-signed a letter calling Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to reverse the “Housing First” emphasis in policies during the Obama administration.

“Housing First” philosophy holds that the best solution for homelessness is moving people into permanent, independent housing as quickly as possible. In order to implement those guidelines, HUD began increasing programs following that approach, cutting support for traditional shelters.

GOP lawmakers say that because of Housing First, successful homeless shelters in their districts have lost federal funding; they believe Carson needs to review the policy now.

“The Housing First approach may work for some, but it isn’t — and can’t be — the answer for all,” says California Republican Darrell Issa, who also signed the letter to Carson. “This misguided policy has caused some of the most effective homeless assistance programs in our district to walk away from the funding they need to help families get back on their feet.”

Federal officials have acknowledged that the change represents a major shift, with some programs receiving federal dollars in the past are now cut off, making it a more cost-effective way to reach the ambitious goal to end homelessness by 2020 set out by the Obama administration.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness has also endorsed the approach.

The text of the letter:

Dear Secretary Carson:

We are writing to you to express our concerns about current U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policies and priorities regarding homelessness assistance.  It has come to our attention that HUD’s current procedures in administering such assistance have put homeless families, youth, and children at risk, in addition to jeopardizing holistic-based programs that work to alleviate the effects of poverty by supporting sobriety, work, and accountability.

As you know, in recent competitions for the Continuum of Care program, one of the program priorities articulated by HUD has been the “Housing First” approach, which focuses on providing immediate access to housing, prioritizing providers that offer services to clients on a voluntary basis, rather than those programs that require sobriety or participation in education, work, training, or service programs.  Under this policy, HUD now gives considerable preference based on a program’s commitment to using the Housing First model, placing programs that do not use that model at a severe disadvantage in receiving financial assistance.

By implementing its preference for the Housing First model, HUD has removed any incentive for independent housing programs to operate under a model that includes mandatory services, accountability, or sobriety.  In doing this, the Department has effectively used its administrative and regulatory power to impose national priorities on communities, forcing communities and providers to maximize services for certain populations — chronically homeless adults — at the expense of other equally worthy populations — families, youth, and children — and particular program models, regardless of local circumstances, needs, or a program’s effectiveness to lift participants out of poverty. Communities as a whole, which benefit from having these programs, are now unfortunately and unfairly penalized by the elimination or decline of such programs.

We strongly urge you to thoroughly review the Department’s procedures with respect to providing assistance to programs combating homelessness and to appropriately exercise your authority in providing support for these types of programs that include families, youth, and children and the community-based program models that serve them well by enabling them to increase their incomes and educational attainment, maintain sobriety, and acquire permanent life skills that will help prevent them from returning to a life of homelessness.

In order to support these families and their children, we also urge you to end the recommended scoring guidelines that currently punish programs that prioritize work, education, and sobriety. We believe that families have the best opportunity to escape dependence on public assistance when they are supported in their recovery and given education, training and work opportunities.

We look forward to working with you to break the intergenerational cycle of family homelessness by promoting programs that serve families and provide safe and drug free housing.  Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Robert Rische in Congressman Issa’s office at (202) 225-3906 or robert.rische@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,

Darrell Issa (CA-49)
Don Bacon (NE-02)
Andy Barr (KY-06)
Mike Conaway (TX-11)
Scott DesJarlais (TN-04)
Trent Franks (AZ-08)
Glenn Grothman (WI-06)
Randy Hultgren (IL-14)
Mike Johnson (LA-04)
Doug LaMalfa (CA-01)
Roger Marshall (KS-01)
Mark Meadows (NC-11)
Luke Messer (IN-06)
Alex Mooney (WV-02)
Gary Palmer (AL-06)
Steve Pearce (NM-02)
Robert Pittenger (NC-09)
David Rouzer (NC-07)
Steve Stivers (OH-15)
Mark Walker (NC-06)
Joe Wilson (SC-02)
Ted Yoho (FL-03)
Ted Budd (NC-13)

Rick Baker, Rick Kriseman still question which has been more partisan as mayor

Rick Baker knew for months that Rick Kriseman was going to attack him as an out-of-step Republican in a Democratically friendly city, even before entering the mayoral campaign last month.

In his campaign kickoff announcement, the former St. Petersburg Mayor warned supporters  they’d be getting a dose of such rhetoric from the Kriseman camp: “Because that’s the only thing they have.”

But last week, while filing papers for his official re-election run, Kriseman said that a review of who contributed to Seamless Florida, Baker’s political action committee, should make voters wonder about which candidate is the real partisan in the race.

“To say that he hasn’t been partisan as mayor and he hasn’t run a partisan campaign and you look at his fundraising and how much of it has come from Republicans, PACs, not individual donors, I think it’s up to voters to decide,” said Kriseman. “At least we’re up front about it.”

Among those giving $25,000 checks to Seamless Florida: Jobs For Florida, a PAC founded by Trilby Republican state Sen. Wilton Simpson; Floridians for Economic Freedom, a PAC chaired by Safety Harbor House Republican Chris Sprowls, and the Florida Roundtable, chaired by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

In response, the Baker campaign told the Tampa Bay Times last week that nearly half of their 651 individual contributors gave $25 or less; roughly half were Democrats or independents.

And last Friday, when speaking with SaintPetersBlog, Baker went even further: “To me, if somebody contributes $5 they’re important to me. They might not be that important to Rick Kriseman, but they’re as important to me as anybody who contributed $5,000,” adding that he’s happy to get money from any corner of the community, regardless of political affiliation. “I really think to push this partisan agenda that Rick Kriseman is trying to do is a disservice.”

“I really think to push this partisan agenda that Rick Kriseman is trying to do is a disservice.”

But Kriseman replies that voters may need a history lesson if they’re going to be lectured about who has a partisan agenda.

“I think it’s a little disingenuous of him to talk about partisanship when he was mayor he was at campaign rallies for Sarah Palin and John McCain,” Kriseman said Thursday, an attack his campaign made even before Baker entered the race (Kriseman was a big Hillary Clinton supporter last year).

“We are seeing the poisonous impact of Washington type partisanship in the country and I don’t think we want that in St. Petersburg,” Baker replied last week, pointing out that a Times review of the people he hired in two terms as mayor showed more Democrats appointed than Republicans.

“I took an oath — as did Rick Kriseman — when I signed to run for election that it would be a nonpartisan seat and I always served that way,” Baker said.

Vern Buchanan backing bill to help block synthetic opioids from entering country

In 2015, Manatee and Sarasota counties had the highest and second-highest number respectively of fentanyl-related deaths per capita in the state, according to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission.

So it should come as no surprise that Congressman Vern Buchanan is signing on as a co-sponsor for the INTERDICT Act, which aims to stop the flow of fentanyl and other drugs by providing border agents with drug-detecting chemical screening devices at ports of entry and more personnel, including scientists.

They will detect drugs being shipped into the U.S. from Mexico, China and other countries.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that wasn’t that well known until it was revealed to be the drug that killed Prince last year. It’s considered 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 25 to 50 times more powerful than heroin, depending on the grade.

One gram of pure fentanyl can be cut into approximately 7,000 doses for street sale; manufacturing the drug also requires relatively little technical knowledge. It’s medically administered in a variety of ways, including a spray form taken orally and a lollipop

“Fentanyl is a real and alarming threat to the Suncoast,” Buchanan said. “American border patrol agents are on the front lines and need the resources to block these deadly drugs from entering our country.”

The INTERDICT Act also authorizes $15 million in federal resources for new portable screening devices and the hiring of new scientists.

 

Phil Levine laying low in gubernatorial race

As Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and Chris King talked issues to a packed ballroom in their first Democratic gubernatorial forum Saturday at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Phil Levine was nowhere to be seen.

The Miami Beach Mayor isn’t officially running for anything (right now), so he’s on a different wavelength than his would-be Democratic competitors.

“I’m still thinking, I’m still exploring,” he said Saturday night, right before the commencement of official festivities at the FDP’s Leadership Blue Gala.

Of course, the question might be how well Levine might be received in a Democratic forum, considering he talked openly in Tampa last month of running as an independent.

On Saturday, he was trotting out what has become his adopted title — Radical Centrist.

“We’ll see where my product sells best,” is all he would say when asked if he was serious about going the indie route.

So far, Levine’s not making any commitments, saying only: “I should have some interesting news in the fall.”

The 55-year-old mayor was accompanied by his date, Caro Muriano. The two recently engaged, and are expecting a child.

 

At Florida Democrats Leadership Gala, Joe Biden argues progressives can still win working class vote

In the immediate aftermath of Hillary Clinton‘s stunning Electoral College loss to Donald Trump last November, Democrats took to writing think pieces and conducting heated arguments about how they lost working-class white voters.

Questions like: Was it too much of “identity politics”? Were they too elitist?

Joe Biden has heard and read about those discussions, and he’s sick of them.

“This phony debate going on in the Democratic Party, the Hobbesian choice that we’re given — we either become less progressive, and focus on working folks, or forget about working folk and become more progressive,” he said while giving the keynote speech to more than 1,200 Democrats at the party’s Leadership Blue Gala at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood.

“There is no need to choose, they are not inconsistent,” he said to a cheering crowd.

That’s easy for Biden to say. Biden’s unique political persona as a longtime member of the U.S. Senate representing Delaware has been one of representing the working class whites that Clinton lost to Trump last fall.

Biden himself thought hard about running for president, but with no clear daylight and so much of the Democratic Party establishment supporting Clinton (including President Barack Obama), he opted to stand down, but made the case on Saturday that the party could win back those voters, with an obvious inference being that he could be that candidate to do so in 2020.

Citing congressional ratings that showed him to be among the top ten liberal senators in the nation in his 36-year career, Biden said he has been a progressive and someone who could capture the working class vote, so Democrats should know that they could get those votes as well.

“These folks we’re talking about who left us — they voted for a black man named Barack Obama!” 

In fact, exit polls show that approximately 12 percent of voters who supported Obama turned around and chose Trump in 2012.

The former Vice President talked about the working class voters that the Democratic lost in the crucial Rust Belt states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. He said it was things like digitalization and automation that are putting people out of work, in what he called “this fourth industrial revolution” which is causing real anxiety and fear among many Americans.

“They’re worried that they won’t be able to keep up,” he said. “So we saw of playing to their fears, their lesser angels, their basic instincts, rather than their better angels can still have a powerful impact as a political tool.”

He then dug deep into what he said was the “hopelessness” of some of these Americans, mentioning the statistic that white men aged 45-54 who are dying at a quicker rate than any other demographic right now.

“Highest rate of drug abuse. Not the ‘hood. There,” he barked.

And Biden talked about how that anxiety can play out by lashing out at “the others,” such as undocumented immigrants, Muslims and the transgendered. “Anyone not like you can become the scapegoat.”

It was a compelling speech, marred only by a detour into how cutting tax loopholes could free up money to pay for the community college being the only soft spots in the 51-minute address.

He also chastised Democrats for failing to think big, going for an incremental change instead.

“What the hell is happening?!” he asked. “We build new things by breaking old things.”

“No, no. I’m being deadly earnest,” he followed up, one of half-dozen times he would point out his previous comment, making sure everyone knew he wasn’t joking.

While his intensity came close to yelling at the audience at points, a few times he dropped down to a whisper, where the audience had to literally lean in to hear him, such as when he described a conversation with his father, who once told him: “Joey, I don’t expect government to be able to solve our problems, but I do expect them to understand them. Just understand them.”

Remaining sotto voce, Biden admitted: “That slice of people that Barack and I had, Democrats have always had, that don’t think we understand them anymore. It’s not a lot, but it was the difference in the election.”

The former VP also asked for more civility in our politics, without mentioning the current president’s name. “We have to treat the opposition with more dignity,” he said, then boasted that there wasn’t a single Republican on Capitol Hill who doesn’t trust him or won’t talk to him.

The 74-year-old Biden recently launched “American Possibilities PAC,” a political-action committee that will keep him engaged to help other Democrats, but immediately sparked more discussion about a possible 2020 run, when he would be 77.

Then again, Donald Trump is already the oldest president in our history, having turned 71 last week.

Though there will be plenty of other Democrats in the mix, two of the leading lights — Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — will also be in their 70s in three years. Sanders would be 78; Warren would be 71.

Alex Sink: Anger over HB 7069 could be Dems winning issue in 2018

Could expansion of state spending for charter school operators — at the expense of public schools — fuel a surge of support for Florida Democrats at the polls in 2018?

That’s what Alex Sink thinks could happen. At least she hopes it might.

The former CFO and 2010 gubernatorial candidate is angry about the passage of HB 7069, the massive education bill that includes $140 million for the “Schools of Hope” program, which would bring charter school operators with proven success rates in low-performing schools to communities where the traditional schools have earned consecutive state grades of D or F.

“Do we care about public education in this state or not?” she asks in her inimitable drawl. “Ninety percent of our kids go to public school, so 90 percent of our money plus should be supporting public schools,” she said Saturday while waiting in line for the first Democratic gubernatorial debate of the year at the Diplomat Resort Hotel.

“If we’re starving the system, we’re going to get more ‘failure factories,’ not less,” she says, using the term coined originally by the Tampa Bay Times in their award-winning 2015 series about failing schools in Pinellas County.

Just about every Florida Democrat considers the phrase “failure factories” an epithet.

And Sink disagrees with the notion that not enough of the public is upset about what Democrats portray as a GOP-led assault on the public school system.

“When you get sick, and you get into the ambulance, and the EMT people come to take you to the hospital, don’t  you want them to be well-educated, smart people? Hell yes!”

Tampa House Democrat Sean Shaw feels the same way.

“I don’t want to say we’ve got to exploit it, but we’ve gotta talk about it,” he says about HB 7069. “And we’ve got talk about what that bill does to public education in Florida, and it’s awful. I mean we’re dismantling public education day by day, and we can’t allow that to keep happening.”

Democrats talk about the intensity of their voters following last November’s election. Shaw hopes it persuades some people in Hillsborough County to get off the sidelines and into the arena.

“This kind of excitement is what causes a teacher to say, you know, I’m going to run for office, because I hate what they’re doing to public education,” Shaw says. “Or an environmental sciences professor, I hate what they’re doing to the environment, I’m going to run for office.”

Florida Democratic Gala draws big stage, love fest for gubernatorial hopefuls

With another fourteen months to go before Florida Democrats choose their gubernatorial nominee, the most talked-about potential candidate wasn’t at the Leadership Blue Gala, one of the Party’s biggest events.

And he won’t decide if he’ll even run until (maybe) next year.

Nevertheless, Saturday afternoon’s forum in Hollywood — between Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and Chris King — was the biggest stage this year for grassroots Democrats to evaluate who might best be the one to end the 20-year exile from the governor’s mansion.

The FDP’s Leadership Blue Gala, taking place at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, was a “forum,” not a debate, emphasized Progressive Caucus Chair Susan Smith.

However, it became a veritable love fest (literally) between the three candidates.

“I love you,” Graham told Gillum at one point, before looking at King and saying that while she doesn’t know him as well, she loved him as well.

Graham enters the race as the candidate with the best name recognition; throughout the nearly 90-minute event, she separated herself as the public-education candidate.

“The education industry is rigged against our students,” Graham said. “After almost 20 years of Republican rule and under Rick Scott, Tallahassee has sold out our schools to the highest bidder. As governor, I will end high-stakes testing, end degrading school grades and end the lottery shell game. We’ll finally pay teachers what they deserve and make sure every student has an opportunity at success, no matter where they come from or where they live,” Graham said after the forum.

Gillum has been the most electric candidate on the circuit. A dynamic public speaker with a compelling personal story, the 37-year-old Tallahassee Mayor is staking himself out as the progressive choice.

“Can a progressive, whose values reflect in my opinion the majority of us win?” Gillum asked the audience. “In my opinion, it’s the only way we win, is by bringing those folks out to the ballot by telling them that we stand for them, too.”

King proved most interesting on Saturday, perhaps because it was his biggest stage yet for his nascent campaign.

“In my opinion,” he said, “I have double the burden to try to prove that I not only belong here, but that I can earn your trust as your next governor.” King then acknowledged he doesn’t have many long-standing relationships with political officials.

As the creator of the Elevation Financial Group, King developed a consortium of companies specializing in real estate investment, property management and property renovation. He talks relentlessly about how the state needs more affordable housing, chastising Republicans in Tallahassee for raiding the state’s affordable housing trust fund. “To

“To me, that is an attack on working families, it’s an attack on teachers, it’s an attack on law enforcement,” he said. “That is something the day that I’m elected governor.”

Gilliam spoke most passionately about the less fortunate: “We can’t focus our education system and improving the outcomes of our kids if the only jobs we’re creating in this state are low-wage jobs.”

“I’m for a higher minimum wage, I’m for the ‘Fight for $15,'” he continued, adding what the people really want is a working for a wage with dignity.

At one point, moderator Keith Fitzgerald asked the candidates what they felt is the biggest challenge facing Florida, the country and the world.

In her response, Graham name-checked the president, getting one of the night’s biggest cheers.

“The biggest challenge we have facing the United States without question is Donald Trump,” and that he was the biggest challenge facing the entire world, as well.

None of the candidates differed on core Democratic principles if elected governor, such as calling for the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, banning fracking and expanding Medicaid, but that may not be an option depending on what happens with the American Health Care Act in Washington D.C.

One interesting development occurred during the last question of the afternoon: Do the candidates support an open primary voting system, which would allow Republicans to vote in Democratic Party primaries and vice versa?

Party traditionalists frown on such a tactic, but Gillum and King enthusiastically embraced the idea.

Graham said she preferred a “Jungle Primary,” an election where candidates for the same elected office, regardless of respective political party, run against each other at once, instead of being segregated by political party.

Absent from Saturday’s was attorney and entrepreneur John Morgan, who has said he won’t make a decision about running for governor until 2018.

 

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