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Frederica Wilson endorses Andrew Gillum for governor

Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson has endorsed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to be the next governor of Florida.

Wilson, from Miami Gardens, joins U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings as Democratic members of Congress who have endorsed Gillum over two Democratic rivals, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and developer Chris King of Winter Park.

“I am very excited to endorse Mayor Andrew Gillum for Governor of Florida. Mayor Gillum is one of Florida’s brightest young political minds and most energetic public servant,” Wilson said in a written statement issued by Gillum’s campaign. “He has the courage to confront Florida’s biggest challenges: protecting access to affordable healthcare, building a more inclusive economy, revitalizing public education, and addressing climate change and rising sea level crisis. Florida needs a leader like Mayor Gillum whom we can trust to rebuild our state into one that works for everyone,” said Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.

“I’m humbled and honored to receive Congresswoman Wilson’s endorsement,” Gillum stated. “She has long been a “Voice for the Voiceless” and stands out as one of Florida’s most respected leaders. She’s a role model and I look forward to working with her to rebuild the Sunshine State into one that works better for all Floridians.”

Gwen Graham turns free clinic ‘workday’ into push for a budget that cares

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham described a private meeting a patient asked to have with her while she was performing one of her “workday” events at an Orlando free clinic Wednesday night, and said it reminded her that state budget priorities need to be reworked to be more caring.

The patient had been struggling to get medications he needed. In his private meeting Wednesday night with the Democratic former congresswoman who wants to be Florida’s next governor, he began to cry. She responded with tears of her own, she said.

He got what he needed at the Shepherd’s Hope clinic in Longwood, one of five Shepherd’s Hopes in the Orlando area that serves people who do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford medical insurance. The clinics serve thousands of patients, but still, on some days, must turn people away.

“These are good people who are facing real challenges all the time. But for places like Shepherd’s Hope, which is really their last hope, what would they do?” Graham said.

“We need to have people who want to make a difference in people’s lives, who really care,” she concluded. “We need to look at our state budget in ways that get our priorities back in place, caring for people… for the right reasons.”

Graham faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King in pursuing the Democratic nomination to run for governor. She has spent much of her early campaign months pursuing the activity coined by her father, former governor and former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who spent “workdays” working other people’s jobs.

While the younger Graham has worked an occasional hard-labor workday such as installing solar panels on roofs, her focus so far has been on more social services, from education to health care. It’s a distinction working into her campaign them, which she described as offering someone the voters will get to trust to care about them.

It’s a theme both Gillum and King would insist they share, though Gillum is presenting himself more as the Democrat who has the courage to push Democratic values, and King as the Democrat who has succeeded in business while pushing Democratic values.

The leading Republican thus far is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who’s defining himself with strong conservative values.

On Wednesday night she spent four hours working at Shepherd’s Hope with the organization’s president, Marni Stahlman, and with Dr. Jamaal McLeod, normally an emergency room physician in Volusia County, and the rest of the all-volunteer staff.

Graham used the moment, as she did with her workday at a Jacksonville clinic earlier this month, to condemn Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led Florida Legislature for refusing to accept the federal Medicaid expansion deal offered in the Affordable Care Act, a deal that would have provided health care to at least 800,000 uninsured Floridians, and billions of dollars to Florida, but also a longterm financial commitment to Florida.

She also pushed Wednesday night for other health care reforms, such as modernizing the state’s laws so that clinics such as Shepherd’s Hope, and ordinary doctors’ offices, could turn to telemedicine and other advances to offer specialist care.


Chris King, Andrew Gillum slip against Gwen Graham in Democratic governor’s money race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King‘s campaign announced he raised $202,000 in June, while rival Andrew Gillum‘s campaign reported $122,000, as both slipped behind Gwen Graham in the early stages of the money chase for the 2018 governor’s race.

The Chris King for Florida campaign announced the Winter Park developer had attracted a combined total of $202,249 in June for his official campaign committee and his unofficial Rise and Lead Florida Political Committee.

That left him with $2.2 million total in contributions thus far, and about $1.6 million in the bank, his campaign stated.

Meanwhile Tallahassee Mayor Gillum’s campaign reported he drew $97,000 for his official campaign fund and $25,000 for his Florida Forward Political Campaign.

Combined the two Gillum accounts have raised about $1.3 million, the campaign stated.

On Monday Graham’s campaign announced she had raised $360,00 in June giving her a total of $2.6 million in contributions.

Gillum suffered his second consecutive month of low fundraising since Graham entered the race, and in the past week his campaign parted company with Campaign Manager Phillip Thompson and Finance Director Brice Barnes.

Still, both King’s and Gillum’s campaigns touted their fundraising efforts Tuesday.

“For a first time candidate, we’re pleased we’re able to keep pace with politicians who have 20 years of relationships with political donors,” King Campaign Manager, Zach Learner said in a news release issued by the campaign.

Gillum’s campaign focused on the high number of individual contributors it has, most of them small donors.

“The mayor entered this race because he fundamentally believes regular people must take this state back from the special interests and the powerful who have made this state their personal playground. We’re thrilled to have the support of literally thousands of people giving what they can to this people-powered campaign for Governor of Florida,” Geoff Burgan, Gillum for Governor’s communications director, stated in a news release.

Endorsements: Randolph Bracy for Andrew Gillum, Clovis Watson for Gwen Graham

Democratic state Sen. Randolph Bracy has thrown his support behind Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the 2018 governor’s race.

Bracy’s Oakland-based district covers much of west Orange County.

“Orlando and Central Floridians can trust that Mayor Gillum will fight fiercely for the issues that matter most to us, from rebuilding our economy, fighting for healthcare as a right, standing up for public school students and teachers, and confronting our climate change crisis,” Bracy stated in a news release issued by Gillum’s campaign.

“He’s a true champion for all of us, and I’m excited to campaign with him this fall all the way through next year!”

“I am honored to have Sen. Randolph Bracy’s endorsement in our campaign for Governor,” Gillum replied in the press release. “As a dedicated public servant and Chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee he has been a tireless leader in the fight to protect our working-class families and Florida’s most vulnerable. I am excited to get out on the trail with him in Orlando!”

In other endorsements, state Rep. Clovis Watson Jr. threw his support behind Democrat Gwen Graham for governor.

The Alachua County Democratic House member also was the city of Alachua’s city manager and deputy chief of police.

“Gwen Graham knows what’s at stake in this election,” he said. “I’m inspired by her heart, passion, and dedication to defending our shared principles. Gwen is working to build a Florida that educates the young, cares for the sick, and embraces the persecuted.”

So far, Gillum and Graham are competing against affordable housing developer Chris King of Winter Park for the Democratic nomination.

Jeremy Ring joins Dems’ calls that Rick Scott not release voter rolls to Donald Trump

Democratic state financial officer candidate Jeremy Ring has joined the call from most other Florida Democrats in urging the administration of Gov. Rick Scott to refuse the request from the administration of President Donald Trump to release state voter rolls to a federal commission.

Ring contended that the governor’s “number one job is to protect Floridians” and that the privacy of millions of Floridians is at risk.

“As a candidate for chief financial officer, as a Floridian, and — above all — as an American, I am strongly opposed to the Administration’s request, and frankly downright offended at Gov. Scott’s refusal to immediately reject and condemn it,” Ring stated in a news release.

In the week since the Trump administration made its request for detailed information on all voters from all 50 states and the District of Columbia to be shared with his Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity, the backlash has come from Republicans and Democrats alike nationwide. In Florida, however, the objections have come chiefly from Democrats, including all three gubernatorial candidates, the Florida Democratic Party, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and top Democrats in the Florida Legislature urging Scott and Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to reject the request. Scott and Detzner have yet to respond.

Ring is a former state senator from Broward County. As such, he helped establish the Florida Agency for State Technology, which handles sensitive data on Florida residents.

“The governor’s number one job is to protect Floridians and yet he sits idly by while the Trump Administration seeks to breach the privacy of millions of Floridians and potentially shatter one of the foundations of our democracy — the privacy of the vote,” Ring stated. “Where is Rick Scott to protect Floridians? Instead of leading, Gov. Scott has sat back while 41 other states — led by both Republicans and Democrats — have outright rejected the Administration’s request. I join these states in their opposition to the Administration’s request.”

Andrew Gillum doubles down on opposition to voter rolls request, files records request with state

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is keeping the heat on Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to not cooperate with the federal request for voter rolls, filing a records request Wednesday for any evidence of the voter fraud President Donald Trump has alleged.

Last week Detzner and fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidates Chris King of Orlando and Gwen Graham of Tallahassee all urged Detzner, Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials to not comply with the request from the president’s voter fraud commission, but have not received any response.

“Florida has still not responded to this invasive demand,” Gillum stated in an announcement released by his campaign. “That’s why I sent a Freedom of Information Act request demanding that the Florida Secretary of State turn over any evidence of voter fraud in the 2016 election.”

Last week Gillum charged that the federal request violated the privacy and security of Floridians, and that it was founded on baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. He repeated that charge Wednesday, and sought to put the onus on Detzner.

“If he fails to produce any evidence – which I suspect he will – then he should break his public silence and formally deny the Trump Commission’s request for Floridians’ personal data.

“I’ve also asked for any communications his office has had with the commission, since the secretary’s office has refused to publicly respond to their demand. We should call the commission what it is: a sham based on unsubstantiated claims that our elections are rife with widespread voter fraud. There is simply no evidence to support these claims, and we must put this insidious and false rumor to rest once and for all,” Gillum stated.

He concluded by calling the claim of widespread voter fraud a “dangerous and unfounded lie,” saying, “Floridians deserve truth and confidence in the electoral process, so my demand is simple – if there’s widespread voter fraud, then prove it by releasing evidence of it.”

Anna Eskamani hits trail with quick start in HD 47 race

Democrat Anna Eskamani kicked off her 2018 campaign for House District 47 with a Wednesday rally at Orlando City Hall, several major endorsements, thousands of social media hits and $6,000 in donations, all gathered, she said, in the less than two days since she filed to run on Monday.

Eskamani, the first in from any party since Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller announced last week he is running for Congress instead of re-election in 2018, brings with her a Central Florida grassroots network she helped build and run the past several years as a community organizer and progressive activist and Planned Parenthood lobbyist. She also brought with her former Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie, a Republican; state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith; and several other early endorsements.

“I stand here today as an Orlando native and as a daughter of immigrants,” she said. “Someone who has worked relentlessly throughout her life to protect all Floridians through effective advocacy, bold leadership and and strategic management. I understand our region’s growth, changes, challenges, and potentials.”

Since late Monday afternoon, she said, her campaign has drawn 1,500 “likes” since its Facebook page debuted, and the Facebook Live video she posted drew 20,000 views. She said the campaign also raised $6,000 in small donations before it even solicited any, adding, “And you know I’ll be asking, real soon.”

The campaign also announced the endorsements of Haynie and Smith, who spoke on her behalf Wednesday, as well as Democratic state Senator Victor Torres of Orlando, Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando, and Henry Lim, an Orlando immigration attorney who ran for the same seat last year, losing in the Democratic primary.

Smith suggested Eskamani’s immediate entry could mirror what he did, getting into his House District 49 race in late 2015 as soon as that incumbent Republican, state Rep. Rene Plasencia, announced he would switch to House District 50. Smith raised plenty of money early and never faced a serious challenger.

However, there are serious potential contenders looking closely at the HD 47 race, which is a district far more politically diverse than HD 49. It includes upper-income, predominantly Republican communities in Winter Park, Baldwin Park, and Belle Isle; lower-income, predominantly African-American communities such as Holden Heights and Fairview Shores; large Hispanic communities in the Conway; and the highly-diverse east-side of central Orlando.

In her kickoff speech, Eskamani pledged to work with that diversity, saying, “This is what Orlando looks like,” and then added she would be standing up especially “for our women and girls…. Peace and justice: that is our battle cry.”


Chris King picks up Nick Duran’s endorsement in Democrats’ governor race

Chris King’s performance in the Democratic candidates’ gubernatorial forum earlier this month in Fort Lauderdale apparently won him the backing of at least one South Florida lawmaker, state Rep. Nicholas Duran of Miami.

Duran, a freshman who emerged in this year’s Legislative Session as a leading voice for the Democrats on health care policy and anti-addition policy, announced his endorsement of King Wednesday morning, through King’s campaign.

“Chris’s performance during the Gubernatorial Forum last week confirmed what I’ve known for months now: that he can go toe-to-toe with the eventual Republican nominee and win the economic debate,” Duran stated in a news release issued by King’s campaign.

Before anyone can face the eventual Republican nominee, King faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for the Democratic nomination to run for governor in 2018. The trio shared a stage at the Democrats’ Leadership Blue Gala in Fort Lauderdale. Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam is the only major Republican in the race.

“Chris King is the candidate for governor who can bring a truly fresh approach to politics,” Duran continued. “His values and record as a progressive entrepreneur will energize Florida’s economy and create new opportunity for small businesses and workers across the state. I’m proud to announce my endorsement of Chris King for governor. I look forward to working with him and his team in the coming months to move our party and state forward.”

Duran was the lead sponsor of House Bill 557 – The Controlled Substance Prescribing Act. Working with Democratic state Sen. Jeff Clemens, Duran passed the bill with overwhelming support from both chambers to help combat Florida’s opioid epidemic by modernizing the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

“I’m thrilled to have the support of such an energetic and solutions-oriented leader here in Miami,” King stated in the release. “Rep. Duran has been a strong advocate for some of the most pressing issues facing the community, including health care and prescription drug abuse prevention. I’m looking forward to collaborating with him on these issues and others here in Miami and across the state so we can work together to lift up Florida’s hardworking families.”

New poll finds same-sex marriage support in every generation except elders

The generational divide on gay marriage just crossed another threshold as a new poll finds that majorities of Americans in every age bracket now support same-sex marriage except for the oldest, those in the Silent Generation.

The latest biennial survey by the Pew Research Center finds for the first time that a majority of those polled in the Baby Boomer Generation now support same-sex marriage.

That extends support into older brackets into what always has shown a clear generational gap in all of Pew’s polls on same-sex marriage. For many years the surveys have shown that the younger the voters the more likely they are to support gay marriage. But the support has been growing across the board, and now that support has crept into the over-50 crowd.

Overall, the survey found 62 percent of American adults support gay marriage, and 32 percent oppose.

“Two years after the Supreme Court decision that required states to recognize same-sex marriages nationwide, support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally is at its highest point in over 20 years of Pew Research Center polling on the issue,” Pew declared in a write-up on the survey, conducted June 8-18, among a national sample of 2,504 adults, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Just six years ago, in 2010, those supporting gay marriage exceeded those opposing it for the first time. The gap has widened ever since.

And it has most widened among generational lines. In the latest survey, 74 percent of  people in the Millennial Generation, born after 1980, supported gay marriage; 65 percent in Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980; 56 percent in the Baby Boomer Generation, born from 1946 to 1964; and 41 percent in the Silent Generation, who were born prior to 1946.

Support grew for all four generations, and most for baby boomers, who increased their support from 45 percent in the last Pew survey taken in the spring of 2015.

There remain strong splits on the topic between political parties, and between people of various religious faiths. Splits occurred but were less pronounced among racial and ethnic boundaries, and among education levels, with all racial, ethnic, and education level groups now showing majorities supporting gay marriage.

Republicans are almost split on the issue now, with 48 percent saying they oppose same-sex marriage, while 47 percent say they support. That one-point gap has fallen from 32 points five years ago. Democrats have supported same-sex marriage since at least 2007, and now the support is overwhelming, with 76 percent saying yes, and 19 percent saying no.

Among religious faiths, majorities of white evangelical Christians and black Protestant Christians still oppose same-sex marriage. But support in both groups is growing. White evangelical support has risen from 14 percent in the 2007 Pew survey, to 35 percent this month. Black Protestant Christians support has increased from 24 percent in 2007 to 44 percent now.

There also is a clear generational difference that shows up when Pew split out Republicans and white evangelical Christians by age; each younger generation shows more support than its elders.

Stephanie Murphy seeks to rework ESOL funding to account for Puerto Ricans in Florida

Democratic U.S. Sen. Stephanie Murphy said Monday she intends to introduce legislation that would rework how the federal government provides funding for English as a second language programs, in order to account for incoming Spanish-speaking students from Puerto Rico.

Appearing at a Puerto Rico forum in Orlando Monday morning, Murphy, of Winter Park, said the current federal formulas weigh students moving in from foreign countries who do not speak English, but do not account adequately for Spanish-speaking students who move from Puerto Rico.

Last year more than 1,200 new Puerto Rico students enrolled in English as a second language programs in Orange County alone.

“Puerto Rico, of course, is not a foreign country. So students who move from the island to Florida are not sufficiently counted in that formula,” Murphy told the gathering. “And therefore Florida and Central Florida specifically does not receive the amount of funding it should. In the coming days I will file a bill in Congress to fix this formula. Our children deserve a first-class education, and I hope this bill, if enacted into law, will help.”

The panel discussion, which included Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando, Orange County School Board Member Joie Cadle and Republican Anthony Suarez, president of the Puerto Rico Bar Association of Central Florida, provided a broad chat on issues ranging from statehood, to equality in federal funding, to migration to Florida, but not much depth.

Murphy reiterated her position of supporting statehood as “the next logical step for Puerto Rico,’ cautioning, however, “you’ll never hear me criticize those who support independence.”

Torres raised questions he said Puerto Ricans are asking about the potential of statehood – notably, will it help or hurt islanders?

Citing curiosity from his uncle recently visiting from Ponce, Torres offered, “What we need to know in Puerto Rico is, what is statehood gonna do to us? What is the benefit of statehood? Is this deficit going to be addressed? The Medicaid problem? The other issues we face here?”

Observer Peter Vivaldi, a Republican who ran against Torres last year, expressed disappointment afterwards that Murphy continues to express support for statehood but said she offers no action on the issue.

Prior to the panel discussion, when a reporter asked what Congress might do about potential statehood,  or what she might do to promote it, Murphy did not answer specifically. When another reporter asked about a Republican-dominated Congress showing no interest in Puerto Rico becoming a 51st state, she replied, “I believe that now that they [Puerto Rico voters] have overwhelmingly voted for statehood, it’s not a question of whether Puerto Rico becomes a state, but when. I look forward to supporting the government of Puerto Rico as well as their delegate in Congress as they try to seek to advance that.”

Vivaldi said he thought there would be more discussion about statehood, but much of the panel discussion covered other Puerto Rico topics.

“I heard the congresswoman’s statement, where she stands. I understand she is for the people of Puerto Rico…. She understands the issue going on, but I also would like to hear more of the fight in her,” Vivaldi said. “Just coming out and doing a press conference, or doing statements is not enough. We want to see the vote. We want to see Congress in action.”

That also underscored an exchange earlier between Torres and Suarez, with Torres blaming Republicans for holding up any Puerto Rico action in Congress, and Suarez reminding him that the Republican platform actually calls for statehood for Puerto Rico.

“The proof will be in the pudding,” Suarez said.

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