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All four Democratic gubernatorial candidates commit to Tampa debate

The Tampa debate is on for all four major Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

The campaigns for Andrew Gillum and Philip Levine joined those of Chris King and Gwen Graham Thursday in announcing they have committed to a debate being planned in Tampa on April 18.

After Gillum challenged his rivals to agree to a series of debates Thursday, in quick succession King’s and Graham’s campaigns, and then Gillum’s and Levine’s all announced they have committed to one at WTVT-TV, the Fox affiliate in Tampa.

Gillum’s campaign said they were the first to pledge to that debate but kept quiet about it, waiting for the station to firm everything up and announce.

“We’re pleased two of the other campaigns [King and Graham] have agreed to debate on stage there, and we look forward to adding more debates. Democrats deserve to hear from all of the campaigns all over the state,” said Gillum’s Campaign Communications Director Geoff Burgan.

Around the same time he was issuing that statement, Levine’s campaign also announced his commitment.

“Mayor Levine looks forward to participating in the April 18th debate in the Tampa Bay area, and share his vision for Florida, coupled with his record of progressive accomplishments as a successful two-term Mayor,” said his consultant Christian Ulvert.

The station has not announced any details about time or format.

Andrew Gillum issues debate challenge; Chris King, Gwen Graham say they’ve confirmed

Is a debate between Democratic gubernatorial candidates at a Tampa TV station on April 18 in the works? The campaigns for Chris King and Gwen Graham say yes, while the campaign for Andrew Gillum, who’s been challenging his rivals to debates, and the campaign for Philip Levine are mum.

On Thursday afternoon, Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, renewed his call for a series of debates between Democratic gubernatorial candidates. King’s campaign quickly responded by not only saying he agrees with the call for debates, but that he has committed to one on April 18 in Tampa.

Graham’s campaign then confirmed that she, too, has agreed to a proposed debate at WTVT-TV, the Fox affiliate in Tampa.

Since those responses raising the prospect of the Tampa debate came in, there has been no reaction from Gillum’s campaign, nor any response from the campaign of Levine, the former Miami Beach mayor.

Officials at WTVT-TV were not immediately available Wednesday to confirm their plans, or those of any candidates.

“Last October, we challenged our fellow Democratic campaigns to at least six debates in red and blue counties across our state. We are now less than six months from primary election day, but unfortunately we’ve been met with silence,” Gillum’s campaign Communications Director Geoff Burgan said in a news release. “As the policy differences between the candidates have become clear recently, we know it’s time to take this discussion directly to voters. Floridians deserve to know where we stand on expanding health care to every Floridian, transforming the economy for working people, consistently fighting for gun safety, standing up for public schools, and protecting our environment. We hope our fellow candidates will stop avoiding these debates and give our voters a chance to kick the tires.”

We’re in, responded King’s campaign spokesman Avery Jaffe.

“Our campaign has already accepted a televised debate invitation from WTVT-TV in Tampa and we hope the other candidates will join Chris at their studios on April 18,” Jaffe said in a written response issued by King’s campaign.

When advised of King’s campaign statement, Graham’s campaign said that she also has agreed to be in the WTVT-TV debate, and that she has received a confirmation from the station.

In the statement released by his campaign, King said, “Voters deserve to hear where the candidates stand and I’m ready to offer Floridians my vision for new leadership and fresh ideas. If Florida Democrats want to win, we should face the voters and offer them real solutions in a debate, not stale talking points. We must compete in every corner of our state and take no one for granted, and that means making sure Spanish-language, African American, Haitian, Caribbean, LGBT and other diverse media outlets are included in these debates.”

A couple of cracks in the Gwen Graham facade

Take a good look at the picture below of Democratic candidate for Governor Gwen Graham participating in her latest “workday.”

On Tuesday, the former U.S. Representative was at the Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) in Immokalee. Graham spent a shift helping out at an early childhood education center to learn more about their pre-K and Head Start programs, and the needs of migrant families.

Of note: Bob Graham performed a workday with the RCMA as Governor in 1983.

What you see in the picture (and the other five or six that Graham’s campaign sent to me) is the very essence of compassion and empathy. It’s Clintonian “I feel your pain.”

I see a mother who knows the value of being patient with a child.

I see a wife who had the strength to help her husband through a battle with cancer.

Burnishing her sympathy cred: Democratic candidate for Governor Gwen Graham spent Tuesday working at an early childhood education center in Immokalee to learn about “the needs of the migrant families” there.

I see the gentle wrinkles of time underneath a face beaming with hope.

I know this is cheesy to say, but I got emotional when I first saw these pictures of Graham, who admittedly is probably my first or second choice to be the next Governor of Florida.

If nothing else, what I see here is the exact opposite of the awkward (albeit effective) current occupant of the Governor’s Mansion.

I see the opposite of the wannabe Fox News studio host who is also running for Governor (Ron DeSantis).

I see the opposite of the less-than-genuine Republican who is most likely to face Graham in November (Adam Putnam).

Yet, as I look at the earnestness of this woman, with whom I have connected but really don’t know, I can’t help but wonder:

Why isn’t her campaign doing better?

Why is she struggling to raise real money?

Why do so many Democrats say that she is “boring” on the campaign trail?

Why do I have this bad feeling in my stomach about where Graham’s campaign will end?

Graham is in a difficult position right now as the politics of Parkland reshape the Democratic primary and the gubernatorial race.

On her left, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is winning the competition for earned media. He’s on MSNBC. He’s being written up in The Washington Post. Kevin Cate, one of his media advisers, can show you stats about clicks and likes and retweets that indicate Gillum is the candidate most in sync with Democratic primary voters.

On Graham’s other flank is former Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine. Where Gillum’s campaign is being infused with the oxygen of earned media, Levine’s effort is being propelled by a seemingly unending number of personal checks to pay for a stream of television ads.

Also in the mix is Orlando businessman Chris King, who has yet to register with most voters, but whose presence in the race is just another indication that the primary is a wide-open affair.

The polls indicate that Graham is the nominal front-runner. And it’s a mistake to label Graham, as POLITICO Florida’s Marc Caputo does, a “weak” front-runner.

To the contrary, she’s a good candidate running against three other good candidates. This primary will be won with the four candidates separated by no more than a dozen or so points.

Yet there are too-frequent reminders that Graham’s position atop the polls is precarious.

Gillum recently announced that he has the support of top Democratic fundraiser Bob Poe.

On Wednesday, Levine scored the endorsement of former state lawmaker Keith Fitzgerald, who will serve as a policy adviser to the campaign. Why is this significant? Because Fitz — so respected by the Steve Schales of the party — is the kind of center-left Democrat Graham needs to win the primary.

Had Graham won the backing of Poe and/or Fitzgerald, it probably would not have registered. It would have just been another indication of Graham sewing up the establishment’s support.

Instead, there are now two more cracks in Gwen Graham’s facade.

It’s becoming hard to look at.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball pushes assessments of CD 7, CD 16 in Democrats’ direction

Concluding that all the recent special elections and other factors are putting Democrats in a good position, the political assessment service Sabato’s Crystal Ball is pushing its views of the congressional races involving Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan and Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in the direction of improving chances for Democrats.

In updates of congressional race assessments announced Thursday morning, Sabato’s Crystal Ball changed its rating of Murphy’s Florida’s 7th Congressional District from “Leans Democratic” to “Likely Democratic,” and changed Buchanan’s Florida’s 16th Congressional District from “Safe Republican” to “Likely Republican.”

Sabato’s Crystal Ball made such changes up and down the board nationally in anticipation of a “Blue Wave” this fall, nudging the assessments of 26 races all in the Democrats’ direction, starting with a special election coming up next week in western Pennsylvania, which is being changed from “Leans Republican” to “Toss Up.”

Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball is run out of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, assessing federal elections. In the new report update, Murphy, of Winter Park, and Buchanan’s chief Democratic opponent, Sarasota attorney David Shapiro, have improved chances based on what’s been happening since the 2016 general election and the consequential anticipated trend into the fall, according to the report issued Thursday.

“Democrats have been consistently overperforming Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential performance in special elections held since Donald Trump’s election,” Kyle Kondik, Sabato’s managing editor, said in a news release issued Thursday morning. “My colleague Geoffrey Skelley has been tracking these elections, which are mostly for state legislative seats but also include a handful of congressional specials, and he calculates that Democrats have been running on average 13 points ahead of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 margin in the nearly 90 races held so far featuring a Democrat and a Republican.

“That speaks to the overall political environment, which clearly favors Democrats right now,” Kondik added.

Murphy has a primary opponent, Orlando lawyer Chardo Richarson, but the matchup for the seat representing Seminole County and north-central Orange County is likely to be her re-election effort versus a Republican challenge from either Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill, or Winter Park state Rep. Mike Miller. CD 16 has several other candidates, but the match expected there is Buchanan and Shapiro.

In discussing the chances for Murphy and other Democratic incumbents seeking re-election, Sabato’ Crystal Ball stated, “We’re upgrading every single Democratic incumbent to at least the ‘Likely Democratic’ category, and moving several Democratic incumbents off the competitive board altogether. That’s not to say one or more won’t fall back into a more competitive category later this year — certainly someone very well could in the event of a strong, late-breaking Republican candidacy or a major gaffe or scandal — but for now every single Democratic incumbent seems like at least a decent favorite in the fall.”

As for Buchanan’s chances, the report called CD 16, stretching from south Hillsborough County through Sarasota County, a “deep sleeper Democratic target.”

Chris King attacks Gwen Graham’s record on guns; she calls attack ‘predictable but sad’

Saying the Democratic Party needs a gubernatorial nominee with the passion to be “transformational” in addressing gun legislation, Chris King on Wednesday went after poll-leader Gwen Graham, contending that when she was in Congress she “never supported an assault weapons ban.”

Speaking in Tallahassee Wednesday, King said the party needs “a champion for gun safety and for a ban on weapons of war.”

“Gwen Graham, who is a good person, but in my view has not demonstrated a record that is passionate about eliminating weapons of war from our streets. In Congress, Congresswoman Graham never supported an assault weapons ban,” King told reporters.

Graham’s campaign disputed King’s assertion that she lacks passion to pursue an assault weapons ban, saying she had been on the front lines pushing for gun reform, including in Orlando and in Washington following the June 12, 2016, massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. She dismissed King’s affront as a “small attack.”

“These attacks are predictable, but sad. Democrats attacking fellow Democrats won’t do anything to solve the mass-shooting crisis,” she said in a written statement. “That’s a choice my opponents are making — all I can tell you is, it was a lot harder beating an NRA-endorsed Republican congressman  [U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland] and nearly $300,000 in NRA money spent against me than dealing with these small attacks from fellow Democrats.”

King and Graham also are competing with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine for the Aug. 28 Democratic primary. All four have come out with strong positions seeking bans on assault weapons. King mentioned neither Gillum nor Levine, though he did say the Democratic field was full of tough candidates.

King contended that the call of students and families touched by the massacre at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland included a call for addressing assault weapons, and that the legislation that has emerged has fallen far short. He said the state needs a Democratic governor, “and we have had them in the past, we have had Democratic governors from LeRoy Collins to Lawton Chiles,” who “created a political climate around issues they felt strongly about.” (In those historical references, King may have implicitly included but didn’t specifically mention Gov. Bob Graham, Gwen Graham’s father.)

“This was a massive incident of gun violence. And our one-party state government … has not even been willing to debate, to debate, the discussion on banning the sale of weapons of war in the state of Florida. I feel so strongly about this issue, and I would be a governor that, if I could not do this legislatively, I would work to use the bully pulpit to do it through the amendment process,” King said.

“I believe the next governor of Florida has to be transformational, and has to be transformational on the issue of gun safety. They have to have an appetite, an energy, a passion for this because this is a tough issue,” King said. “This is going to be a hard change to make in the state of Florida. The forces against us are tough. But I believe I’m that candidate.”

He then went after Graham, saying that several major mass shootings occurred while Graham was in Congress, including the San Bernardino shooting of 2015. King said that 151 House Democrats sponsored or cosponsored a bill to ban assault weapons, and that another 24 Democrats joined after the Pulse massacre. [In fact, House Resolution 4269, the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2015,” had a total of 149 cosponsors, all Democrats, including the 24 who signed on in the two weeks immediately following the Pulse mass murder.]

“As far as I can tell, Congresswoman Graham, when she was serving there, never added her name as a cosponsor,” King said.

She didn’t.

However, her campaign contended she has had a long record, otherwise, of pushing for gun law reforms, including regulation of armor-piercing bullets; that she had, two weeks after the Pulse massacre, come to Orlando where she called for taking weapons of war off our streets; and had, last summer, become the first candidate for governor to release a full plan for gun safety, including banning large-capacity magazines and assault weapons.

Carlos Smith’s $1M Pulse memorial amendment draws some Republicans, but fails

An attempt by Orlando Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith to get the state to provide $1 million to help build a Pulse nightclub memorial in Orlando drew some crossover votes from Republicans (including many from Central Florida) but failed in the House Tuesday night.

The proposed amendment, which would have added $1 million for the Pulse memorial to the $1 million for a Parkland memorial already included in House Bill 7026, the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act,” was voted down 67-49.

The proposal got yes votes from all Democrats, and eight Republicans, including five from Central Florida: state Reps. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs, Mike Miller of Winter Park, Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden, Rene Plasencia of Orlando, and Scott Plakon of Longwood. They joined Smith and other Central Florida Democratic state Reps. Bruce Antone of Orlando, Kamia Brown of Ocoee, John Cortes of Kissimmee, and Amy Mercado of Orlando. Republican state Reps. Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers, Chris Latvala of Clearwater, and Holly Raschein of Key Largo also voted yes.

Among the Central Florida delegation voting against the $1 million for the Pulse memorial fund were Republican state Reps. Jason Brodeur of Sanford, Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud, David Santiago of Deltona, and Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora.

The OnePulse Foundation has been planning and raising money for a major memorial and museum on the site of the former popular Orlando gay nightclub where 49 people were murdered in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016.

Smith, who has been intensely outspoken in trying to get the Florida Legislature to address Pulse alongside its efforts to address the Feb. 14 massacre at Douglas High School, declared on Twitter late Tuesday night that he was disappointed, but he expressed thanks “to the 8 Republicans who voted YES.”

“49 deeply symbolic votes in support of remembering our 49 angels,” Smith added.

Philip Levine placing another nearly $2 million in TV ads

Expressing frustration with what the Florida Legislature is doing with guns and schools, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is placing another nearly $2 million buy for statewide TV commercials this month, his campaign announced Monday.

The commercials will continue for a while with his “We Will” spot that launched in late February on a $750,000 statewide-buy, declaring the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School “a wakeup call we can’t ignore.” By mid-March that likely will be replaced by a new TV commercial, his campaign indicated.

Levine is running against former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and businessman Chris King for the Aug. 28 Democratic primary nomination. He is the only Democrat to air TV commercials yet, and his buys already have gone over $4 million prior to March. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

The latest TV buy will be split between Levine’s independent political committee “All About Florida” and his official Levine for Governor campaign. All About Florida will be spending $630,000 to continue running “We Will” through about March 11, while the official campaign will spend about $1.3 million on TV commercials for the rest of the month. All the commercials will run statewide, in either English or Spanish, depending upon the stations.

“As the Republican Legislature continues their political double talk on legislation, Mayor Philip Levine has made it clear that the time is now to enact sensible gun safety reforms that take Florida from having the weakest gun safety laws in the nation to the strongest,” declared a statement released by campaign consultant Christian Ulvert. “The Mayor opposes efforts to arm teachers with weapons and reaffirms the public’s call for an assault weapons ban, raising the age to 21 for gun purchases, and universal background checks, in addition to closing any loopholes.”

In the current “We Will” commercial Levine expresses his goals of “reasonable gun regulations, better background checks, and a permanent ban on assault rifles.”

The commercial begins with Levine standing next to a school bus saying, “When we send our children off to school, we want to know they’re safe. But here in Florida, despite 14 school shootings in 8 years, we still have some of the weakest gun laws in the nation. And the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High is a wakeup call we can’t ignore.

Orange County voters might not see a Democrat for Sheriff on 2018 ballot

Orange County voters might not have the choice to vote for a Democrat for the position of sheriff this year even though it is a partisan office and Democrats dominate the county’s voter rolls.

There are two registered Democrats, Orlando Police Chief John Mina and retired Florida Highway Patrol Maj. Jose “Joe” Lopez, running for sheriff in Orange County. But neither will appear on November’s ballot as a Democrat. Mina already is running as an independent, and Lopez would have to change to independent status to stay in the race this year.

They both used to be Republicans. And they both switched and joined the Democratic Party last year — too late to be able to qualify to run this year as Democrats.

Officially, the office doesn’t come up again for re-election until 2020, so both Mina and Lopez would be OK if that’s when the election took place. Demings, who was just re-elected in 2016, is running for Orange County mayor this year. He is expected to stay in that race [for which he’s the early favorite] and therefore submit his resignation by June 8, to take effect in December. That would open up his sheriff’s office to special elections this year for a two-year term, with partisan primaries set for August 28 and a general election for Nov. 6.

Florida law says a candidate has to wait 365 days to run as a partisan after joining a party.

Mina switched his party affiliation on Sept. 1, 2017, becoming a Democrat four days too late to be able to run in the 2018 Democratic primary. Two weeks ago, he filed to run for sheriff as an independent candidate.

Lopez switched his party affiliation on Dec. 19, 2017, becoming a Democrat months too late to run under the party. Nonetheless, on Feb. 1 he filed to run for sheriff as a Democrat. He would have to switch to independent status by the June qualifying period to be on a ballot this year, Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said.

Lopez said on Monday he was considering an independent run. But he also held out the prospect that Demings might change his mind. So, Lopez said he is considering not officially revising his status unless and until he officially has to, and that would not be until Demings submits his resignation.

That’s not a problem for the third candidate in the contest. Retired Orange County Sheriff’s Capt. Thomas Stroup has been a Republican at least since 1994, which is how far back the county’s electronic records go.

If any other Republicans enter the race, there would be an August 28 primary, and Stroup would be in it. If not, or if he wins such a primary, he can appear on the Nov. 6 ballot as a Republican.

Meanwhile, if any other Democrats decide to get into the race, they could grab the Democrats’ track onto a November ballot that also could feature Republican Stroup and independents Mina and Lopez.

Normally, Democrats can expect a huge advantage in Orange County. Party members currently hold all county constitutional offices: sheriff, supervisor of elections, clerk of courts, tax collector, comptroller and property appraiser. Forty-two percent of the county’s voters are registered as Democrats, and 27 percent as Republicans. Independent voters make up 31 percent of the Orange County electorate.

All nominations clear Senate Ethics and Elections Committee

With little opposition raised — except for Democrats’ votes against three recent appointments to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission — the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee recommended Monday that the chamber back all 89 appointments and nominations awaiting confirmation.

The committee’s favorable recommendations include Florida Secretary of Environmental Protection Noah Valenstein, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Phillip Eric Sutton, Secretary of the Department of the Florida Lottery Jim Poppell, Florida Secretary of Management Services Erin Marie-Geraghty Rock, and Florida Secretary of Transportation Michael Dew.

Of them, Valenstein received a bit of grilling from Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami on Everglades restoration and from Democratic Sen. Victor Torres on fracking; and Dew was grilled by Torres and Rodriguez on local projects, and particularly hard by Republican Sen. Tom Lee on longterm funding plans, given concerns about trends in transportation. But both earned unanimous recommendations of approval, as did almost every nomination before the committee Monday.

For a while, Lee laid into Dew, all but accusing the transportation head of not convincing him that the department was doing enough to prepare for rising popularity of electric cars, the ensuing decline of gasoline taxes, and the consequential potential for major revenue and budgetary crunches for Florida’s transportation systems.

As Lee questioned him on the technology and consumer trends toward less gasoline, and the state’s population and transportation trends, Dew kept assuring that those were items that his staff kept track of, but that he could not offer the committee any specifics.

Lee pressed for the department’s projections, and Dew responded, “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” Lee pressed for whether and when gas tax revenue might fall below increasing Florida needs, and Dew responded, “I’d have to plot that out.

Finally, Lee seemed to lose all patience when Dew appeared to hedge on even accepting what Lee was proposing, that trend lines meant there is or will be an inevitable disparity between the state’s tax revenue and transportation expenses.

“So you don’t know there is a dramatic disparity? You’re the secretary of the Department of Transportation, and you you’re telling don’t know that there has been a disparity in the amount of gas tax raised per capita over the past 20 years in this state?” Lee challenged.

“Senator, I know that trend is there, I just don’t want to quote you a figure incorrectly,” Dew offered.

“So, again, what is it you recommend we do?” Lee demanded.

‘”My recommendation is that we continue to watch the problem,” Dew responded. “It’s something we have to watch for right now, but it is not going to be a ‘tomorrow’ problem.”

With that, Dew got an 8-0 vote recommending his confirmation.

The only nominees who did not get unanimous support were three recent appointees to FWC, who previously had been flagged for criticism in a report in the Tampa Bay Times because none of them appeared to have any previous background in wildlife conservation.

The panel’s three Democrats, Torres, Rodriguez, and Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens all voted against supporting the appointments of Gary Lester, vice president of community relations at The Villages; Gary Nicklaus, 48, son of golfing great Jack Nicklaus; and Sonya Rood, 53, wife of developer and former Bahamas ambassador John Rood, who is also former chief financial officer of the Republican Party of Florida. They each got 5-3 approvals from the committee.

Democrats react to Parkland reforms, criticize lack of assault weapons ban

Gun-reform measures released by Gov. Rick Scott and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature are being hailed as the greatest proposed deviations from hard line pro-gun laws in the Sunshine State in recent history — but Democratic officials, groups and politicians have been quick to claim the proposals are inadequate.

The legislative initiatives released Friday are intended to address issues unearthed by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre. Scott and the Legislature have proposed banning the sale of bump stocks and raising the minimum age to 21 for the purchase of all guns, with some exceptions for military and law enforcement personnel.

Both plans have hefty price tags. The Legislature wants to allocate $263 million for school safety improvements and $102 million for mental health services; respectively, Scott wants $450 million and $50 million.

The Legislature is backing the idea of the “Marshal Program,” in which school faculty members are trained to carry firearms on campuses. Scott does not support the idea.

State leadership announced the measures in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz fatally shot 17 students and teachers with an assault rifle.

As expected, the Parkland-inspired proposals are not being lauded across party lines. At the crux of Democrats’ criticism is the absence of a proposed ban on assault weapons.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson:

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum: 

“The Governor’s proposal still falls well short on assault weapons, even though this is the time for a statewide ban and Marjory Stoneman Douglas students are demanding one,” Gillum’s campaign said in a written statement. “Republicans’ own polling shows a majority, including a majority of Florida gun owners, want a ban on these weapons of war.”

But, citing a Republican-commissioned poll that shows the majority of Floridians and state gun owners support a ban on assault weapons, the campaign criticized Scott for not attempting to halt assault rifle sales.

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

The proposals announced Friday were “too little, too late.”

“Investing in safer schools is long overdue — and must be prioritized and fully funded this year. … Raising the age for purchasing all firearms is long overdue — and must be passed this Legislative session,” Graham said in a statement. She also called for an assault weapons ban.

Gubernatorial candidate Phillip Levine:

Levine agreed with “making school safety a top priority in Florida,” along with providing for more intensive background checks, mental health screens and additional law enforcement resources at schools.

But, joining the battle cry of his Democratic colleagues, Levine ultimately criticized the Legislature and Scott for not banning assault rifles.

“The elephant in the room is still there: we must get assault rifles off the streets and away from our schools. Permanently,” Levine said in a prepared statement. “Freedom should not come with a warning label: ‘These guns may be harmful to children’s survival,’ but with a guarantee that these killing weapons remain on the battlefields, not in classrooms.”

Gubernatorial candidate Chris King:

“In 20 years of one-party rule, Florida’s leaders have utterly failed to take action to end the scourge of gun violence in our state and today’s proposals from Governor Scott and the GOP legislature are too little, too late. Governor Scott’s plan does nothing to ensure universal background checks and would not ban military-style assault weapons. Tallahassee has ignored our voices for far too long––their time to act was long before Parkland or Pulse. Now we must take up the cause ourselves and elect new leaders who offer fresh ideas, bold solutions.”

Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon:

“We can beef up mental health screenings, raise the age for gun purchases, and dream up other stopgap measures, but the threat to our children and our citizens will continue until we finally take bold action ban assault weapons designed for the battlefield from easy access in our communities. Without that, the voices of the students, and the will of the people, continue to be ignored.”

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz:

“These measures backed by the gun lobby are unacceptable. If leadership is truly willing to have a real and open discussion and debate on the merits of policies to save the lives of Floridians, then I am ready and fully committed to working hard to achieve a product that will keep our constituents safe. If this is the normal bait and switch that will leave Democrats shut-out of the “process” while they crow of bipartisanship, then I will call it like I see it; a sad attempt to cover their asses in the face of tragedy.”

State Rep. Shevrin Jones:

State Rep. Kionne McGhee:

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith:

State Rep. David Richardson:

Florida Democratic Party:

On the Legislature-backed proposal to train and arm school faculty, the FDP called it a measure “to keep the gun lobby happy and advance Richard Corcoran‘s political ambitions at the expense of the lives of our children.”

“The only people who think that putting guns in the hands of teachers is a good idea are Richard Corcoran and Donald Trump,” claimed FDP spokesman Kevin Donohoe. “Both Republicans and Democrats have agreed that arming teachers is dangerous and will make our schools more unsafe, endanger the lives of students and teachers, and do very little to prevent mass shootings.”

State Attorney General candidate Ryan Torrens:

“As America is enveloped in our crisis of gun violence, I am reminded of President Franklin Roosevelt in his First Inaugural Address when he said: ‘Our nation asks for action and action now!’

“Sadly, our legislature, backed by the NRA, voted against even bringing an assault weapons ban up for a vote. It is clear that the Florida GOP is going to keep putting the NRA and their own reelection before the safety of our children and our families.

“Not only is our legislature refusing to act, but in 2011, the legislature actually passed a law prohibiting local governments from passing reasonable gun ordinances to protect their children and families. This is absurd.”

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