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Republicans flip registration in Polk, Volusia, continue statewide gains

Republicans are boasting they have taken voter-registration edges over Polk and Volusia County Democrats, continuing a trend of trimming a once sizable advantage for Democrats statewide.

With Polk and Volusia counting slightly more Republicans than Democrats in registration data recorded through August 31, the Republican Party of Florida says it’s flipped 12 counties to a Republican advantage in two years.

But it’s not just in those counties.

Democrats in August 2013 had more than 500,000 statewide registered voters over Republicans. With the latest count, the Democrats advantage was cut nearly in half to just 275,000.

Florida has grown, and so have the parties. There now are 12.8 million registered voters in Florida, compared with 11.8 million in August 2013. While both major parties have more registered voters than ever, Republicans’ growth has kept up with the state population, the Democrats’ has not.

Independent voters and third parties made up the difference, growing in proportion to the state population (faster than either major party), taking share away from Democrats statewide.

In August 2013 Democrats boasted 39.6 percent of all registered Florida voters, but just 37.5 percent in August 2017.

Republicans saw their share slip some from 2013 through 2015, and then grow back. But August numbers reflected the same proportion of Florida voters, 35.4 percent, as they had in August 2013.

That still means a 2.1 percent registered-voter advantage for Democrats. Yet it was twice that, 4.2 points, in 2013.

Republicans since January 2016 have taken voter registration leads in 12 counties: Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Gulf, Hardee, Holmes, Okeechobee, Pinellas, Polk, Suwannee, Volusia and Washington.

Republican Party of Florida State Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said several factors were leading to the advances, notably a return to training local executive committees and volunteers on voter registration, and emphasizing it. He said when counties tip, it creates momentum, and he predicted the party’s advantage in Polk and Volusia to grow like it has in other counties.

The Florida Democratic Party did not respond to an inquiry about the latest voter registration numbers.

“You’re going to see a lot more people register Republican than they were before, at a faster pace, because people are going to start realizing that Democrats can’t get elected in those counties, and the only primaries that will happen will be on the Republican side,” Ingoglia said.

Republicans now hold voter registration advantages in 40 of Florida’s 67 counties.

Yet Democrats have command of most of the big, urban counties, giving them the statewide advantage. Of the seven counties with more than a half million registered voters, Democrats are in control of six, and only behind Republicans in Pinellas, which flipped to GOP strength last year.

Republicans are dominant in voter registration in mid-size counties. Of 25 counties with between 100,000 and 500,000 registered voters, Republicans have an advantage in 21, including Polk and Volusia.

Florida Democrats in Congress call for Florida special session to replace statue

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz now has gotten the other ten Florida Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to join her call for a one-day Florida Legislature special session to replace Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith‘s statue in the U.S. Capitol.

“We must denounce symbols of what supremacy and stand up for love and compassion – not just with words, but with our deeds,” state letters from the 11 Florida Democratic members of Congress to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “As the third largest state, and easily one of the most diverse in our nation, Florida has an opportunity to send a defining message.”

Wasserman Schultz first called for such a special session on her own, on Aug. 15.

The issue involves one of Florida’s two state representation statues in the U.S. Capitol. In 2016 the Florida Legislature voted to replace the Smith statute, but in 2017 was unable to agree on a replacement, so the statue remains.

The new congressional letter calls for Scott, Negron and Corcoran to act immediately, “in the shadow of Charlottesville,” to “stand at a crucial moment when leaders and institutions must confront hate and violence without ambiguity.”

A spokesman for Scott’s office expressed confidence that the legislature would take care of the matter as soon as possible. In January. When the regular 2018 Legislative Session convenes.

“In 2016, Governor Scott signed a bill that replaced this statue at the U.S. Capitol. A committee was quickly convened, public input was gathered and three names were submitted to the Legislature for consideration for a replacement. It is now up to the Legislature to decide how to resolve this issue and Governor Scott hopes they do so when they convene in January,” McKinley Lewis said in a statement.

The offices of Negron and Corcoran did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the letter.

When Wasserman Schultz first made her call two weeks ago, Corcoran responded by accusing her of being out of touch and grandstanding, noting that the Florida Legislature already had voted to replace Smith’s statue and was working on picking a replacement.

The latest letter was signed by the 11 Democrats Florida has elected to the U.S. House, Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Kathy Castor of Tampa, Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Darren Soto of Orlando, Frederica Wilson Miami Gardens, Val Demings of Orlando, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

“The legislature’s inaction leaves in place of honor, a symbol that represents a painful and horrific period in American history for so many Floridians and Americans,” the letter states.

“No family visiting our nation’s Capital should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred, inequality and oppression.

“We urge you to take immediate action by calling a one-day special session during the Florida House and Senate’s upcoming interim committee meetings that already are scheduled in Tallahassee and finish this important and historic work.”

Nine Florida Democrats urge Donald Trump to rescind transgender ban

Nine of Florida’s 11 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter Tuesday urging President Donald Trump to reconsider his recently announced ban on transgendered people in the military.

“There is no place for discrimination in our Armed Forces or indeed anywhere else in American society,” the letter signed by most Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives reads.

“Enforcing your ban could mean discharging active duty soldiers, sailors, Marines and members of the Air Force who serve honorably. It also would mean barring other patriotic Americans from serving in the future. Both actions are detrimental to our national security, ill-advised, and contrary to the values upon which our nation was built,” it continues.

The letter states there are thousands of active-duty transgender service members and refutes Trump’s contention that they have been a disruption or burden on the military, saying they serve with equal distinction, and are “equally deserving of our gratitude and respect.”

The letter also argues that the ban is likely unconstitutional.

The 143 signatories Tuesday afternoon included Democratic U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor of Tampa, Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, and Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Darren Soto, both of Orlando, had not signed the most recent copy sent to, but Soto’s office said he fully endorsed the letter and wanted to sign it but did not get the chance before the letter was closed.

Last month, after Trump signaled, in a Twitter post, his intention to ban transgendered people, Soto released a statement that included, “There are over 15,000 transgender military service men and women currently risking their lives every day protecting our country. Now, we must also protect them. I proudly stand with the transgender troops serving in the U.S military, you make us proud to be American! “

Demings office did not respond to an inquiry about why she had not signed the letter.

In a Facebook post Murphy, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote, “All people who are willing and qualified to defend our nation and to protect those who fight alongside them should be free to serve.”

Democrat Dawn Antonis files to run for HD 44 in 2018

As  Democratic party officials await the chance to name a replacement candidate for the House District 44 special election in October, a candidate has filed to run for that seat when it’s up next year for a full term.

Dawn Marie Antonis, 51, of Winter Garden, filed late Wednesday as a Democrat to run in 2018 in the HD 44 election.

That seat is open now and awaiting a special election this fall to fill it for the last year of the current term. Unofficially, Democrats have apparently lost their candidate and party officials are eagerly and nervously waiting for Paul Chandler to file his paperwork to make his withdrawal official, so that they can name a replacement.

On the Republican side, former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski won the primary Aug. 15.

Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge said at a luncheon forum Thursday that several potential candidates are interested, but the executive committee has not yet met to make any decisions on a replacement, while waiting for Chandler to formally leave the race.

Hodge said Antonis likely will be considered, but that she is not the only potential candidate.

“I’m sure when we have our meeting she’ll be asking us to consider her for nomination for the special election,” Hodge said.

Antonis said she would welcome the committee’s consideration.

She is the first vice president of the West Orange Democratic Women’s Club, and had been active on the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016.

She has some political experience, having once run for a city council seat in her native New Jersey, and she said she has attended some training this year, and that everything seems to have come together for her to run in HD 44.

Paul Chandler: I didn’t jump off HD 44 race, I was pushed

Ex-Democratic House District 44 candidate Paul Chandler said late Tuesday he had no intention of withdrawing from the race and was confident he could win both a legal challenge and the special election itself — until state party officials whom he said had never supported him threatened to sabotage his campaign if he didn’t quit.

Chandler, announced Tuesday morning he would withdraw from the HD 44 special election contest due to outside circumstances. Among those circumstances is the prospect that the Democrats wanting to pick another candidate in time to be on all the ballots for the Oct. 10 contest.

Orange County Democratic Chairman Wes Hodge insisted he did not push Chandler out, or threaten his campaign if he did not quit. Ryan Ray, with the state Party’s Victory Fund, said the party spoke to him “about how best to move forward.”

Republicans nominated Winter Garden businessman Bobby Olszewski on Aug. 15, and he’s heavily favored, with money, party backing, experience and name identification.

Chandler, who founded and runs a medical records company, has largely funded his own campaign, but has been visibly campaigning for weeks, particularly on social media.

Two weeks ago a Republican in the district, Chris Hart, filed a lawsuit in Leon County charging that Chandler was ineligible to run for the Florida House of Representatives this year because he voted in Missouri last year. The Florida Constitution says you have to have resided in Florida for two years before being eligible to go into the Florida Legislature.

If a judge agrees with Hart’s charge that Chandler is ineligible to run, he would be thrown off the ballot. If that happens in court, Florida law says, no one could replace him.

Yet if Chandler quits, Florida law allows the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee to replace him on the ballot. The timetable window is closing for that quickly.

Chandler called the lawsuit charges frivolous, arguing that he could still meet the requirement of “having resided” in Florida for two years prior to taking office, regardless of his voting history. He accused the Republicans of using a “bogus lawsuit” to try to win the election outside the ballot box, and accused the Democratic Party of caving.

On Monday afternoon Chandler said he received ultimatums from a state Democratic Party official: quit now or the party will make sure no loyal donor will take your call, and no loyal grassroots volunteer will offer to help.

“They said they would do what it takes to make sure I would not win,” Chandler said.

In a written statement, Ray said House Victory met and some with Chandler when he became a candidate, and told him it would support him in the general election. “When it became clear his candidacy faced legal issues, just days after a fractious Republican primary, we spoke with Paul and his campaign about how best to move forward,” Ray added. “Any loyal Democrat understands the urgency of fielding a competitive candidate against today’s Donald Trump-led Republican party at all levels.

“The course of action we and Paul are taking ensures that,” he added.

Hodge, the Orange County democratic leader, said he had a different type of conversation with Chandler.

“I had the conversation with him that this lawsuit does not look good… and we have to look at what’s best for the party versus what’s best for the individual. And [I asked] would you be willing to step aside? At no point in time did I make any threats.”

Hodge said they have plenty of candidate options to consider, and time to mount a serious campaign.

Republicans have owned HD 44 for a long time. Still, the gap between Republican and Democratic registered voters is not huge – 36 percent to 32 percent – and Hillary Clinton actually carried the district last November. The seat became open when Republican incumbent state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle resigned this spring to take a judicial appointment.

Chandler argued there was no better time to flip the district than during a special election with no incumbent, and he charged that the Democratic party leaders showed no interest in the district or his campaign until now, “and they just threw it all away.”

Technically, Chandler is still in the running. That’s because he hasn’t filed his exit paperwork with the Florida Secretary of State’s Office yet. That’s pushing the timetable for Democrats to file their own paperwork in Tallahassee and with the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office, to nominate a new candidate to replace him, and then to get the name on the military absentee ballots Orange County, which will be going out soon.

“I will turn in my resignation to the secretary of state when I turn it in,” he said.

Congressional aide probe includes workers in six Florida Democrats’ offices

Arrested Democratic congressional staffer Imran Awan or his relatives — all reportedly under federal criminal investigation — also worked for five other Democratic Florida members of Congress besides U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is on the hot seat.

U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Darren Soto of Orlando, Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, and Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, now a gubernatorial candidate, also employed Awan or one of his family members, wife Hina Alvi, and brothers Jamal Awan and Abid Awan, as part-time, shared, information technology employees in their offices.

However, unlike Wasserman Schultz, of Weston, who kept Imran Awan on her payroll through months of publicly-reported federal investigations into potential theft and misuse of congressional equipment and data, the other five members of Florida’s delegation all cut their ties with the Awan family member employees early.

The FBI and U.S. Capitol Police arrested Imran Awan at Washington’s Dulles International Airport on July 24, as he reportedly was trying to leave the country. He was charged with bank fraud, and other charges may be pending. Last week he and Alvi were indicted on bank fraud and other charges.

Neither of Imran Awan’s brothers have been arrested or accused of anything, though media reports dating to early February indicated that the FBI was investigating all four members of the Awan family.

They all worked for numerous Democratic members of the U.S. House, some for more than a decade, as IT specialists. House members chose independently to hire or fire them, and they were paid from office staff payroll budgets.

In early February, U.S. House of Representatives leaders informed members of Congress that the Awans were under investigation. News of that broke in Washington a couple of days later. Murphy, Soto, Frankel, and Wilson all terminated the Awans in their offices on Feb. 2 or Feb. 3, according to House of Representatives office budget disbursement documents. Graham already had terminated Jamal Awan on Jan. 2.

Still, some published reports, notably in The Daily Caller, which has broken much of the Awan story, have suggested the Awans had legal and financial troubles long before February, dating to 2009, which some have argued should have sent up red flags to Democratic members employing them.

Wasserman Schultz, who fired Imran Awan on July 25, has said she had serious questions about how and why the investigation was being pursued, and did not want to dismiss him unless she saw evidence of wrongdoing.

Other Democratic members took a different approach. Response from Soto’s spokesman was typical:

“Abid Awan served as an IT system administrator in Congressman Darren Soto’s office for one month. He was immediately fired upon learning he was under investigation, lost access to the House system and could no longer perform his job duties,” Oriana Pina said in a statement to “Abid was hired based on the recommendation of several other House offices for whom he worked.”

Records show Soto paid the least amount to Abid Awan, $103 this year.

“Mr. Abid Awan was hired by a number of other offices and at the suggestion of other offices,” Murphy’s spokesman Javier Hernandez said. “He was terminated as soon as we were informed of the allegations.”

Murphy had paid Abid Awan $1,033 this year.

“We were one of 20-plus member offices that were using the services of Abid Awan to provide technical support for our computing technology,” Frankel’s spokeswoman Rachel Huxley-Cohen said in a statement. “Our contract with him has been terminated.”

Frankel paid Abid Awan $1,833 in 2017.

“Imran Awan, our former IT administrator, was a shared employee who began working for the congresswoman at the start of her first term. He was terminated as soon as we learned about the allegations of wrongdoing,” Wilson’s spokeswoman Joyce Jones said in a statement. “His official termination date was February 2, 2017. We cannot discuss the details of an ongoing investigation.”

Wilson paid Imran Awan $1,778 this year.

Graham’s spokesman, Matt Harringer, said Jamal Awan’s services were used only to close out Graham’s congressional computer accounts in the first two days of January as she prepared to leave Congress at the end of her tenure. The Awan investigation was not revealed until about a month later.

Graham paid Jamal Awan $111 this year.

Wasserman Schultz has remained defensive of Imran Awan. House records only are available through March 31. Through then, Wasserman Schultz had paid Imran Awan $1,605 this year. She also had employed Nina Alvi, but only through March 7, according to the first quarter House disbursement records. Alvi was paid $3,394.

Wasserman Schultz first employed Imran Awan in her office in 2005. Last week she issued a lengthy statement defending her decision to keep him on until the arrest:

“As a mother, a Jew, and a member of Congress, if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s this: my commitment to doing what’s right and just — even if it isn’t what’s easy and simple — is unyielding.

“Whether that meant standing in opposition to the Terri Schiavo bill, combating prejudice by encouraging my colleagues to bring Muslim-American constituents to the State of the Union, or questioning whether an employee has been afforded due process before terminating him, I have never been afraid to stand alone when justice demands it.

“Undoubtedly, the easier path would have been to terminate Mr. Awan, despite the fact that I had not received any evidence of his alleged wrongdoing; but that is not the woman my constituents elected, and that is not the mother my children know me to be.

“Over time, the investigation raised troubling concerns for me about fair treatment, due process, and potential ethnic and religious profiling. As the representative of Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, one of the most vibrant and diverse districts in the nation, I may not always be the darling of the conservative media, but I will always protect the democratic and pluralistic values that we South Floridians hold so dear, and I will always live up to the oath I took when my constituents first sent me to Washington: to support and defend the Constitution.

“At the end of the day, there are times in our lives when we must do what may be hard but right, even when there is a cost. This was one of those times for me, and I would make the same decision again.”

Democratic candidates vow to back anti-discrimination law

Three Democratic candidates for governor pledged Saturday to support legislation that would prohibit discrimination in jobs and housing based on sexual orientation.

Despite support from the business community, the legislation, known as the “Competitive Workforce Act,” has stalled in the Legislature in recent years. Also, a call for Gov. Rick Scott to use his executive power to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in state agencies has gone unheeded.

“If you elect me governor, you won’t have to wait any longer,” Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum told the LGBTA Democratic Caucus, which represents the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“Florida is too big, too proud, too diverse a state for our politics to reflect an error of yesteryear, yesterdecade, yestercentury,” Gillum said during a caucus conference in Tallahassee.

Candidate Chris King, a Winter Park businessman, said passing the anti-discrimination law is both morally and economically right for the state.

“I want to make sure everyone is comfortable here, everyone is safe here, everyone is protected here,” King said.

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee said she would work to “stop discrimination in its tracks.”

“We’re going to protect every Floridian, no matter what color their skin is, where they come from, or who they love,” Graham said in a prepared text of her speech Saturday night to the caucus.

All three candidates said, if elected in November 2018, they would sign an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in state agencies.

Two candidates talked about how ending discrimination was personal for them.

King talked about the discrimination faced by his older brother, David, growing up as a gay man in the South. He said his brother, who moved to California, took his own life at age 30 after battling depression and mental illness.

King said his brother’s experience has compelled him to make anti-discrimination initiatives a centerpiece of his campaign and underscored the importance of speaking “with moral clarity on these issues.”

“I promise you I will,” King told the caucus. “I will give it my best shot.”

Gillum said his older brother, Terrance, faced similar discrimination as a young gay man in Gainesville, moving to California as soon as he could “so that he could live and be himself.”

Gillum said throughout his 15-year public career he has spoken out for LGBT issues.

“Not only because it’s the right thing to do but it was my little way of showing my big brother that I saw him,” he said.

Graham recounted her support for marriage equality during her successful 2014 campaign for Congress in a North Florida district that covered some of the most conservative regions in the state. She said it was one of the first questions a reporter asked her in a Panama City stop.

“I proudly told him if one of my sons or daughter were gay, if one of your children were gay, I would want them to be happy, and that means supporting them no matter who they want to marry,” Graham said.

King, who is an affordable-housing developer, said he will also stress an economic message in his campaign.

“I don’t believe a Democratic candidate is going to win in 2018 if we don’t win the economic debate, if we don’t convince folks that this party has a vision and has a plan to lift up people and make this a more fair, homegrown economy,” King said.

He said he would work to improve affordable housing, expand health-care coverage and support public schools.

Gillum said Democrats need a “bold” message on issues like discrimination, climate change and health care and need to advocate it statewide.

“We have to give voters a reason to choose us. It’s not going to be by capitulating. It’s not going to be by Republican-lite,” Gillum said. “We have to offer a different, bolder vision.”

However, Gillum acknowledged that his campaign has been hindered by an ongoing FBI investigation into Tallahassee city government, although he said he has been assured he is not a target of the investigation and is fully cooperating with federal investigators.

“I’m 1,000 percent confident that when the facts are all the way known I will be removed from under this cloud,” Gillum said.

Graham said she has proven her political viability by winning election to a North Florida congressional seat, while not wavering on traditional Democratic issues. Graham did not run for a second term in Washington after the district was redrawn and became a Republican stronghold.

“I stood up for my values on marriage equality, for a woman’s right to choose, for protecting the environment — and you know what, not everyone agreed with me, but they knew I said what I believed and believed what I said,” Graham said.

She also said she followed through on her campaign promises once in office. “Folks aren’t used to public servants actually doing what they say,” she said.

Terry Fleming, president of the LGBTA Democratic Caucus, said the group has not endorsed a candidate but will consider it after the candidates formally qualify next year.

Other potential Democratic candidates include Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan.

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.

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