Scott Powers – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Scott Powers

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 Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused.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.

During debate, Gwen Graham pledges to ban assault weapons by executive order

It was a debate that (once again) had Florida’s four leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates spending much of their time trying to define personas and opponents.

But on Saturday night in St. Petersburg, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham broke through with a bold pledge — to ban assault weapons by executive order.

“My commitment to you is action, not words. I have found a public safety statute [Graham’s staff later identified it as Florida Statute 14.022, which allows the Governor to take emergency action to quell violence] that allows the Governor, whoever she may be, to sign an executive order for public safety reasons banning the sale of military assault weapons,” Graham said during the debate hosted by Spectrum and its Bay News 9 cable channel in Tampa Bay and News 13 channel in Orlando.

Graham’s staff then fired-off a news release indicating she would sign such an order in her first week in office; it also would require universal background checks on gun purchases.

That moment was a rare one, breaking new ground in Saturday night’s Democratic gubernatorial debate at Pinellas Park High School, for Graham or any of the other three participants, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King. And it, at least momentarily, set Graham apart from the image of a nonprogressive Democrat that her opponents sought again to draw and she mostly accepts.

Levine also pressed an idea that has not gotten much attention, the creation of an “Education Security Administration” to focus on school safety the way the federal Transportation Security Administration focuses on air travel safety. He also made a sweeping announcement of his new position supporting legalization of marijuana.

Throughout most of the debate, candidates continued to press their differences mainly in their images: Gillum, as the bold, tough-talking, uncompromising progressive intend on giving “voters a reason to turn out and vote for something.” Levine is the mayor who accomplished progressive actions in Miami Beach from raising the minimum wage to reforming the police department.

King painted himself as the progressive with bold and new ideas, such as ending the death penalty and initiating a ‘bullet tax.’

As for Graham, she found moments to remind everyone she is the daughter of former Gov. Bob Graham, a mom, the only woman in the contest, and someone who can appeal to moderate voters.

[Florida’s fifth major Democratic candidate, Jeff Greene, declined to participate in the debate. His campaign remains largely silent since filing June 1.]

King won the lion’s share of big applause lines as the school auditorium crowd heavily peppered with students who seemed to relate to his youthfulness and his positions on such issues as legalizing marijuana, prison reform, dealing with racial injustice, a bullet tax, and removal of state money from profit-making charter schools.

In many cases, King was able to pre-empt Gillum, who holds similar progressive positions on many of those issues, often announcing them before King.

Forced to follow King in Saturday’s debate at many key moments, Gillum tried to remind everyone he was first.

The question about marijuana first came to Levine, who declared he would support legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, allowing local cities to take the lead.

That drew in Gillum, who reminded everyone he was the first to call for legalization, regulation and taxation.

Graham held her position for support for medical marijuana but went no further Saturday night.

Attacks on each other came late in the one-hour discussion.

At first, the four seemed to be playing nice. When Gillum was asked about the FBI investigation into Tallahassee city government, King came to his defense, calling Gillum “a good an noble public servant.”

But the cordiality didn’t last. Before long, Gillum and King were going after Graham for her vote on a Syrian refugee bill in Congress that President Barack Obama opposed, charging that she did not have a good congressional voting record for Democrats.

Gillum then went after Levine for having once cut a campaign check to Republican U.S. Rep. Marco Rubio. King accused Levine of belittling those who don’t agree with him, including journalists and scientists.

“Boy, it’s sure fun to be the front-runner,” Levine replied.

Graham announced she would take the high-road and disarm “the negative narrative of me.”

But that too didn’t last. When Gillum accused her of voting against Obama’s agenda 52 percent of the time, Graham dove in — counter-accusing Gillum of voting for a coal-fired power plant in North Florida, despite the environmental impact of burning coal.

Gillum insisted he ultimately voted against the plant and had led for the installation of a huge solar-power farm, but by that time it was on.

By far, Gillum got the best laugh of the night, although it was an uncomfortable one, considering the irony and awkward direction of the question. Gillum, the only African-American in the race, responded quickly with a punch and cutting wit that exposed irony and awkwardness.

“Do you see institutionalized racism as a threat to our democracy, and why?” co-moderate Holly Gregory, a Bay News 9 anchor asked, forwarding the question from someone who offered it on Facebook: “This question goes to Mr. Gillum first.”

“Why’s that?” Gillum replied. When the laughter, cheering, and embarrassed jeering finished he added, “I had to. It was an opening. I’m sorry.”

Democrats call for Adam Putnam to drop out, resign after report of missed background checks

A Tampa Bay Times investigation into an apparent yearlong lapse in national background checks for Florida concealed weapons permits has started a wave of Democrats calling for Republican Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam to drop out of the Governor’s race or resign.

They were responding to a new report from the Times “Buzz blog” Friday afternoon that said Putnam’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs failed for more than a year to run national background checks on people applying for Florida concealed weapons permits.

The lapse may have resulted in unknown numbers of permits issued to people not qualified to carry guns in public.

A response put out by Putnam’s office reads, “To be clear, a criminal background investigation was completed on every single application. Upon discovery of this former employee’s negligence in not conducting the further review required on 365 applications, we immediately completed full background checks on those 365 applications, which resulted in 291 revocations. The former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again.”

Leading the pack was Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum:

“Adam Putnam’s rhetoric on guns has been dangerous — but this is far worse. His department’s failure to conduct background checks is a dereliction of Putnam’s duties, and he should consider whether he is able to continue running for governor or serving as commissioner of agriculture,” Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, said in a written statement Friday.

Gillum also released a video on Facebook that went into greater detail, railing against dangers that he says Putnam may have unleashed in the forms of armed people who were not screened.

Former U.S. Rep. and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“Drop out now, Adam.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine:

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine stopped short of urging Putnam to drop out of the race, but did say he should consider resigning from the agriculture commissioner’s post, and Levine called for an investigation.

“Negligence that threatens and costs lives must never be tolerated — Adam Putnam’s lack of due diligence and disregard to follow protocols endangered communities and put people’s lives at unnecessary risk. Career politicians like Mr. Putnam think this is just another bad day at the office — but when you conceal a level of negligence that endangers every resident, and every child, in Florida, you forfeit any moral right to lead.”

“This failure by his office to review background checks coincided with the tragic Pulse shooting — a lack of responsibility like this cannot be tolerated. An investigation should be opened immediately. These developments require an immediate response from Commissioner Putnam, starting with if he deserves to continue to serve in his current role.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King:

“Adam Putnam should resign.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch:

His district includes the scene of the horrible Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School slaughter in February. He said in a tweet that Putnam “must” resign.

“My blood is boiling. This is an unimaginable failure for anyone who serves the public. He made FL less safe. He put lives at risk. He must resign.”

State Sen. Linda Stewart:

Her district includes the site of the horrible Pulse slaughter on June 12, 2016, said Putnam “needs to resign.”

“I’m extremely alarmed at the failure by Commissioner Putnam to disclose that his agency had failed to conduct these critical background checks — allowing possibly mentally disturbed individuals and others who shouldn’t be disqualified, to be legally armed in Florida.”

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz:

“After twenty-two years of holding public office, we can now add an additional major accomplishment to Adam Putnam’s lifetime government employee resume: helping to put guns into the hands of terrorists. Putnam’s gross negligence may have allowed someone on the FBI terror watch list to get a concealed carry permit.
“How can a politician who can’t even fulfill their basic duty to keep Floridians safe be our next governor? Lets just think what some Republicans would say if Obama did this, they would ask for his birth certificate……again!”

American Bridge:

“Adam Putnam should resign immediately,” American Bridge spokesperson Zach Hudson said in an issued statement. “Not being able to log into the FBI background checks system should have resulted in Adam Putnam’s office calling an IT professional, not approving concealed carry permits to potential criminals.”

The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence:

“Adam Putnam clearly has more allegiance to the NRA and gun culture than he has to ensuring the safety of Florida’s citizens,” stated Pride Fund executive director Jason Lindsay.

The Times article cites a report from the Office of the Inspector General that says that starting in February 2016 the department could not get into the FBI’s federal background check database to see if applicants had issues in other states that should prevent them from holding concealed weapons permits in Florida. The situation persisted until at least March 2017, according to the Times. The problem existed because the clerk with that role could not log into the FBI’s National Criminal Instant Background Check System, according to the OIG report.

In the 2015-16 fiscal year, Florida received a record 245,000 applications for concealed weapons permits. In the 2016-17 fiscal year the record was broken again with 275,000 applications, the Times reported.

Without federal background checks, it could be impossible to screen out anyone who might be disqualified from carrying guns in public in Florida, who might have such issues as mental illness, the Times notes.

Gillum’s reference to Putnam’s rhetoric may have been to Putnam’s statement, in a tweet last year, that he considers himself a “proud NRA sellout.”

State teachers’ union endorses Gwen Graham

The Florida Education Association is backing Democrat Gwen Graham, a former schools’ counsel in Leon County, for governor.

 “Supporting Gwen Graham is an easy choice for anyone concerned about Florida’s schools. She is the public education dream candidate,” FEA president Joanne McCall stated in a letter to members Thursday night. “She supports increasing salaries for educators and wants to ensure that lottery money actually goes toward educational enhancements.”

All four campaigning Democrats have made those pledges, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum going so far as to pledge a minimum $50,000 starting salary. Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine also have made detailed pledges. Jeff Greene continues to pursue the silent phase of his fledgling campaign.

The leading Republicans, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, had no shot at the FEA endorsement.

Graham has pushed public education investments and improvements as her top priority since entering the race 13 months ago, and has held a series of roundtable discussions with teachers around the state. She’s also a former PTA president, and she began the WorkDays portion of her campaign at Miami Carol City Senior High School.

The Florida Education Association, with its 140,000 Florida teachers and school support professionals members, has long been a potent force in Democratic Party politics.

“Since beginning my campaign with a workday at Miami Carol City Senior High School, I have heard from countless educators, students and parents ready for a change in Tallahassee,” Graham said. “Earning the support of Florida’s teachers and school support professionals means the world to me. When I am governor, they will finally have a voice in the Governor’s Office. Together, we will end high-stakes testing, increase educators’ salaries, and restore our promise to Florida’s public schools.”

Pete Clarke submits commission resignation — three-man race for mayor is on

Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke put to rest the constant rumors that he might back out of the Orange County mayor’s race Friday when he submitted his letter of resignation from the commission to qualify for the ballot.

“I kept telling people that I’m carrying through and they chose to not believe me. When I say something I’m telling the truth. If I was thinking about it I’d say I’m thinking about it,” Clarke said Friday after submitting his Orange County Commission resignation letter, effective in early December.

The letter went to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections to clear the way for his mayoral run under resign-to-run laws.

Clarke, midway through his second four-year term on the commission, is one of three major candidates heading toward the August 28 Orange County mayoral election, along with Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, who submitted his resignation as sheriff letter Thursday, and Winter Park entrepreneur Rob Panepinto.

Clarke has complained previously that rumors he believes were started by another candidate had affected his fundraising and organizing, as he had to convince people he was not going to get out so that Demings and Panepinto could battle one-on-one. And he said the rumors have persisted.

He, Demings, Panepinto and three minor candidates are all running to succeed outgoing Mayor Teresa Jacobs. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the votes on August 28, the top two move on to a runoff election in November.

Like Demings’ resignation letter, Clarke’s sets up a domino effect, creating an election this year for his seat. Seven candidates have filed to run for his Orange County Commission District 3 seat, which was set for a 2020 election, and now will be rescheduled for a 2018 election.

Clarke said he’s confident he has very strong support in parts of the county and is working on other parts.

“What I tell voters is we all talk about the same thing. We’re all going to address homelessness, and affordable housing prices, transportation, what the others call ‘smart growth’ and what I call ‘un-smart growth,'” Clarke said after filing. “But what resonates when I talk to people is this will all work out through the processes and our systems to make improvements. But underneath the whole thing are people that sometimes are forgotten, that I’ve spent a lot of years working with, the homeless, people with mental health issues, domestic violence issues. There is a cause for all these issues that keep people from succeeding.”

Clarke still is an acknowledged underdog and has watched as Demings has raised nearly $1 million through the end of April and Panepinto about $600,000; Clarke’s campaign raised about $262,000, much of it his own money.

“I’ve run on a shoestring before,” Clarke said, “and it’s amazing how that resonates with voters.”

Patrick Murphy: ‘I’m proud to support Gwen’

Patrick Murphy is out, and he’s supporting Gwen Graham.

The Democratic former congressman made it official Thursday afternoon when he announced he was dropping his ambition to run for governor and support his former congressional colleague instead.

Murphy joined Graham at a press conference in Pembroke Pines Thursday afternoon to essentially declare that she already is the kind of candidate he wanted to run as. For months Murphy had preached the need for a more moderate, anti-hyper-partisan gubernatorial candidate and was considering taking that lane himself,  in a run that would have had him include Republican former U.S. Rep. David Jolly as a running mate.

“I have decided not to enter the race for governor because there is one Democratic candidate already demonstrating the leadership Florida needs and fighting for the values we share — and that Democrat is Gwen Graham,” Murphy stated in a news release issued by Graham’s campaign. “I’m proud to support Gwen because she’s determined to expand access to affordable health care in Florida, will always stand up to protect Florida’s environment, and will finally give our public schools the attention and leadership our children, families and teachers deserve.”

Murphy served four years in Congress representing Palm Beach and Martin counties in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. He lost that seat when he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate against Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in 2016. Jolly also briefly had been in that race, but dropped out before the Republican primary.

Murphy’s support helps solidify Graham’s quest for the more moderate lane in an August Democratic primary race that also includes Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King, and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene.

“I’m proud to call Patrick Murphy a close friend and am honored to have his support. In Congress, we worked together to ban oil drilling off Florida’s beaches and to restore the Everglades,” Graham stated in the release. “I was proud to support him in his campaign against Marco Rubio and, as governor, I will work with Patrick to restore our promise to public schools, protect our environment and build an economy that works for every Floridian.”

Jerry Demings says polls show he could win in August

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said Thursday that his campaign’s internal polling suggests he could win the Orange County mayor’s office in the August preliminary election, a prospect that would indicate an impressive base in a contest with three major candidates.

Demings made the statement as he was preparing to file his notice of resignation from the office of Orange County sheriff, a move he must make to qualify for the August 28 ballot in the mayoral election. His notice indicates he would leave the sheriff’s post December 4, the day the next mayor of Orange County is to be sworn in. That effectively ends his 37-year career in law enforcement whether he wins or loses the mayoral race.

That action also formally opens a new election this year to be held for a new sheriff.

Yet Demings’ comments about the mayor’s race are the first indication that his campaign is confident about a big lead in a race that also includes Winter Park entrepreneur Rob Panepinto and Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke, plus three minor candidates. Someone would have to come out of the six-way split with more than 50 percent of the vote, or the top two finishers on August 28 would go on to a runoff in November.

Demings’ fundraising and endorsement lists would indicate he’s a formidable front-runner. Through the end of April his funds had raised nearly $1 million; while Panepinto had raised about $600,000; and Clarke, about $300,000.

Yet there have been no publicly-released polls on the race.

“I had to do my own polling to get some verification. That polling shows that we can win this race, and we can win this race in August,” Demings said at a press availability as he turned in his sheriff letter of resignation at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office. “I say that to you very humbly today. We still have to prove and earn the vote of the electorate here in Orange County, and I’m going to do that.”

Though the mayoral race is non-partisan, Demings, a Democrat, can expect backing from the Orange County Democratic Party while, in the August 28 election, the Orange County Republican Party would have to campaign against Demings while hoping Republicans Clarke and Panepinto could keep him from winning outright that day. Demings could be the first Democrat to hold the county’s top executive post since 1998. Outgoing Mayor Teresa Jacobs is term-limited, and running for the Orange County School Board chair’s position.

Clarke cautioned Demings against any overconfidence.

“The last person who thought the polls were going to give a victory is unemployed at the moment, and she’s doing a book tour,” Clarke said. “We’ve had access to polls that tell a little bit different story. You know, he’s got good name recognition, but we’re closing the gap.”

In a written response, Panepinto stated, “I am proud of the momentum we are building and look forward to a spirited race with Sheriff Demmings. The hardworking people of Orange County deserve a real debate about the issues and I hope the sheriff is willing to give them one.”

At his resignation event, Demings also touted his 10-year career as sheriff as essentially a mission accomplished.

“We’ve accomplished all those things that I told the public we were going to do. Overall crime in Orange County is down, 30 percent over the period of time I have been sheriff. I have said we’d be fiscally conservative. We’ve saved millions of dollars for the taxpayers and returned it to them. We said that we would reduce the number of complaints on our deputy sheriffs. We’ve done that. I said that we would reduce the level of use of force in this community. We have done that now. I said that the Orange County Sheriff’s Office would put more deputy sheriffs out on patrol. We’ve done that,” he said. “And so all of the things I have promised in 2008 when I ran for sheriff, we have done.

“And so I’m saying to the public, as we’re moving forward, as I’m running for mayor, all of those things I’ve said we would accomplish as mayor, we will do. Trust me on that,” he concluded.

Recognizing the end of his career in law enforcement, Demings speculated that he might seek some sort of reserve officer status, if it’s legally allowed.

“It’s bittersweet,” Demings said. “After being in law enforcement for 37 years I’ve seen this city in the best of times and I’ve also seen it in the worst of times.”

Mike Miller picks up Carlton Henley’s endorsement in CD 7 race

Winter Park Republican Mike Miller is adding the endorsement of longtime Seminole County Commissioner Carlton Henley in the race for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Miller, who currently represents the Orlando-area House District 47, faces an August 28 GOP primary battle with Scott Sturgill and Vennia Francois. The winner expects to take on incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in November.

“It is going to take a strong candidate to take this seat back, but I believe Mike is the best person to do just that,” Henley in a news release issued Thursday by Miller’s campaign. “It is important that the residents of Seminole County have someone who will represent our conservative values and protect our way of life,” he continued. “I am supporting Mike because he values education, as I do, and believes our local leaders are the best ones to make decisions for our schools. He will represent us well in Washington,” Henley concluded.

CD 7 covers Seminole County and north and central Orange County.

Henley, a retired schoolteacher and principal, has been on the Seminole County Commission since 1998. He is not running for re-election this year.

“There are not many who have served Seminole County longer than Commissioner Henley,” Miller stated in the release. “I have worked with him over the years on regional transportation issues and he always has his constituents’ needs front and center. I appreciate his confidence in me and am honored to have his support.”

Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin named finance chair for Rick Scott’s super PAC

Kenneth Griffin, billionaire leader of a Chicago-based hedge fund and a big-time contributor to Republican political committees, has been appointed national finance chair for the New Republican PAC fueling Gov. Rick Scott‘s election campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Griffin, 48, has contributed more than $20 million to various Republican-backing political committees and Republican candidates just in the past eight years.

Through the most recent data available from the Federal Election Commission, Griffin had not contributed to Scott or New Republican. He has donated $5 million to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s Conservative Solutions PAC, and another $2 million each to the Freedom Partners Action Fund and the Senate Leadership Fund.

“We are honored to have Mr. Griffin serve as our national finance chair. Like Gov, Scott, Mr. Griffin is a successful business leader and has a deep commitment to economic growth, job creation, and the future of our country. We are grateful for Mr. Griffin’s service, and we look forward to advancing our strategic independent campaign to elect an incredibly successful and accomplished Governor who will bring fresh ideas to Washington D.C.,” New Republican Executive Director Blaise Hazelwood stated in a news release.

Griffin grew up in Boca Raton, and currently lives in Chicago. He is the CEO and founder of Citadel, one of the nation’s largest hedge funds, which reportedly manages more than $25 billion in assets.

The Chicago Tribune reports Griffin to be the richest person in Illinois, with a net-worth of $8.5 billion.

With environment, as with most things, it’s all about building in resilience, Philip Levine says

The key to dealing with rising sea levels in Miami Beach and climate change effects across Florida is boiling down to being able to refocus efforts to making the state more resilient, and the same principal applies to other statewide issues, Democratic Philip Levine said Wednesday.

Meeting with a handful of environmental activists in Orlando, Levine touted resilience as his strategy when he was mayor of Miami Beach, pushing through initiatives to raise roads and seawalls, build in new pumps and storm water control systems, and open the city to easier solar energy and renewable resources.

It’s a strategy Levine said Florida must adopt to deal with most of its environmental concerns, and other matters.

He also renewed his pledge to lead Florida to voluntarily adhere to the Paris climate change accords, which drew applause.

Levine pledged to create a statewide office of resiliency and to appoint regional resilience officers to develop and institute programs for the specific challenges of the local regions.

“We need to be a leader. We need to step up our game going forward. When we talk about resiliency I think we bring so many things into resiliency: how are we are going to deal with mental health issues, how are we going to deal with veterans, how are we going to make sure we make our schools safe. It’s all about resiliency. Everything comes together,” Levine said.

Levine faces Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene in the August 28 Democratic primary to run for governor. All of them have pledged to address climate change and committed to the Paris accords, except Greene, who only entered the race last Friday and is still in his campaign’s silence phase.

With the environment, the stakes are far higher, and the urgency far more immediate than many people might expect, Levine suggested.

“If we don’t come up with a plan to invest, I can tell you the insurance companies will stop insuring. The finance companies will stop financing. And we will go into a downward spiral,” Levine said. “If that happens, being able to reclaim confidence is very difficult.”

He said when residents of Miami Beach, including his mother, complained about the inconveniences of all the construction going on in his resiliency program there, he told them, “Here’s the choice: do you want Miami Beach to be Atlantis? Or do you want to live in Miami Beach?”

They didn’t need to be reminded that in recent years Miami Beach has been prone to “king tide” flooding of streets on sunny days.

“The people of Miami Beach said, ‘We agree. Let’s do it.’ And there was pain, but we got gain. And with the state of Florida, it’s the same tipping point right now,” he concluded.

Chris King tempers expectations on his big gun agenda

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King told a room full of gun-control activists Wednesday that he’s carrying a big agenda for them if he’s elected governor but that he’s got some doubts about how much of it could be enacted, short of a Constitutional Amendment.

King, the Winter Park entrepreneur, has embraced the full Democratic platform led by banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and tightening background checks, and has added a few items of his own, such as a bullet tax to help pay for gun-violence prevention programs.

In downtown Orlando Wednesday, a gathering of about 30 activists, which included members of Moms Demand Action, March For Our Lives, the Youth Coalition to End Gun Violence, and some unaffiliated individuals, welcomed much of King’s agenda, and cheered and applauded him more than once, allowing him to declare them and himself to be “soul mates.”

But in anticipation of working with a Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, King also tapped the brakes.

“All of those things that you’ve talked about are going to be, if I win and I have two houses against me, are going to be very hard to pass,” King said.

“We’ve been to Tallahassee. We know all about that,” agreed one of the members of Moms Demand Action, a group that emerged from the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Ct.

“I want to be very honest about that. I’m even feeling there is a flexing of muscle by the NRA. They feel they’ve survived the first blitz,” King picked up. “They’re courage is coming back. You see it in Republican nominees. They’re feeling like the students will dissipate. … And so the way this works in my view is we have to keep the heat on.

“But likely the way it would work is some combination of things would be on the ballot, led by citizens, championed by a Democratic governor, in 2020, a presidential year. I think that’s when could make the strike. That’s how it would happen,” King added. “It certainly would be nice to see it earlier, but that’s probably how it’s going to happen.”

King faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene for the August 28 Democratic primary. All of them except Greene, who still is in the dead-silence phase of his campaign since filing last Friday, has made gun control big parts of their campaigns, especially since the Feb. 14 massacre of students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

King has stepped up the agenda with his proposal last week to use sales taxes from guns and bullets, plus an additional “safety fee” tax on bullets, and a couple other sources, to finance statewide gun violence prevention and study programs.

Wednesday’s roundtable discussion also veered often into other areas such as criminal justice reform, mental health funding, and education, allowing King to tout his proposals in those areas, especially his criminal justice reform platform reducing the housing of nonviolent offenders in prisons.

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