Gwen Graham Archives - Florida Politics

Jeff Clemens endorses Andrew Gillum for Governor

Add Sen. Jeff Clemens to the list of Democratic leaders backing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

The Gillum campaign announced Wednesday that Clemens, the Senate Democratic Leader-designate, has endorsed Gillum’s 2018 gubernatorial bid. In a statement, Clemens called Gillum a “bold leader whose vision will transform Florida.”

“Andrew will prioritize the people we serve, not the privileged few who have had their way in Tallahassee for decades,” said Clemens. “Strong values like top-flight education for every child, an economy that works for workers as well as small business owners, and healthcare that protects the vulnerable by covering Floridians with pre-existing conditions.”

Clemens went on to say that Gillum is the best person to “challenge the status quo.”

“Andrew knows we can do better, and I have confidence he will make the Legislature do its job,” he said.

Gillum is one of three Democrats currently vying to replace Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando businessman Chris King have also filed to run.

“It’s an honor to receive Leader Designate Jeff Clemens’ endorsement. He is a true champion for Florida’s working people, and as a former Mayor, he knows the critical importance of building strong communities everywhere in Florida,” said Gillum in a statement. “I look forward to working with him to build an economy that serves all Floridians – not the special interests.”

 

Adam Putnam weighs in on controversial education bill

Adam Putnam, the leading Republican candidate for governor in 2018weighed in on the state’s massive K-12 public schools bill, which affects everything from charter schools to school uniforms.

Gov. Rick Scott “ought to take a hard look at vetoing [HB 7069],” Putnam said Tuesday according to AP reporter Gary Fineout.

Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner made his remarks before the monthly Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee, talking about the controversial 278-page bill passed earlier this month on the second to last night of the Legislative Session.

(You can see his comment via the Florida Channel here).

The bill’s premiere feature is $140 million for a new “Schools of Hope” program, which creates incentives for specialized charter schools to set up in low-income areas, which critics say will compete with struggling traditional public schools.

HB 7069 also gives $234 million in teacher bonuses, through both the contentious “Best & Brightest” program and a mechanism where “highly effective” teachers would get $1,200 in guaranteed bonuses for each of the next three school years.

Teachers ranked “effective” would potentially earn up to $800 each year, depending on available money.

While teachers’ unions, school board members and (seemingly) the entire Democratic Party establishment is against the bill, charter school and voucher advocates are strongly behind it.

“I have concerns about the way that bill, along with much of the budget, was fashioned completely in the dark and behind closed doors,” Putnam told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.

Putnam also criticized the process leading to the bill’s passage, saying: “Not only the public didn’t know what was in it, but some of the people voting didn’t know.”

His comments come a day after the Florida Democratic Party took Putnam to task, saying he was missing-in-action regarding his stand on what has become one of the most provocative bills to soon reach Scott’s desk.

“Florida voters deserve more than a feel-good bus tour from someone who claims he’s qualified to be the governor,” said FDP communications director Johanna Cervone said Monday. “Adam Putnam has been a politician since he was 22. He knows better, and he knows that he owes Florida voters an answer on HB 7069.

“Putnam needs to break his silence and give voters a straight answer: do you support a veto of HB 7069 — yes or no?”

The FDP said they were “demanding” Putnam issue a public statement on the matter immediately.

Chris King, Andrew Gillum and Gwen Graham — three declared Democrats running for governor — have all publicly blasted HB 7069.

 

Three Tampa Bay Democratic lawmakers line up behind Gwen Graham for governor

Three prominent Tampa Bay-area Democrats are lining up behind Gwen Graham in her bid for Florida governor.

St. Petersburg-based state Sen. Darryl Rouson, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice and Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez are endorsing the former congresswoman, the Graham campaign announced Tuesday.

“I’m honored to have the support of these Tampa and St. Petersburg leaders who are working every day on issues Floridians care about,” Graham said in a statement. “As governor, I will work with them to protect our environment, create opportunities for all, and reform Florida’s criminal justice system.”

The 54-year-old former one-term Democratic Representative from Tallahassee announced her candidacy for governor earlier this month.

“Gwen understands criminal justice reform, protecting voting rights and creating jobs are paramount issues to our community,” State Senator Darryl Rouson said. “She’s sponsored legislation to protect voting rights and personally spent time learning more about rehabilitation with ex-offenders seeking jobs and a second shot at life. Gwen has the passion, experience, and fortitude to make our streets safer, reform our criminal justice system and restore voting rights to the 1.5 million Floridians currently disenfranchised.”

St. Petersburg City Council Chair and former Sierra Club activist Darden Rice calls Graham “a champion for Florida’s environment.”

“She’s fought to ban oil drilling off our beaches, and she understands the threat climate change poses to our entire state,” Rice said. “As governor, she’ll take on climate deniers and polluters to protect Florida from drilling, fracking, and rising tides.”

“Gwen Graham is the leader we need to fight back against Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and create opportunities for every Floridian, regardless of where they come from or what language they speak,” Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez said. “As governor, Gwen will build an economy that works for all by investing in technical education, supporting public transportation and raising the minimum wage.”

Suarez’s endorsement of Graham is not a surprise. He ran former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham’s office in central Florida for about four years.

Bob Graham is Gwen’s father. He served as Florida governor from 1979 to 1987, a senator from 1987 to 2005, and is something of a living legend among Florida Democrats.

Graham is one of three Democrats officially running for governor, along with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King.

Florida leaders react to the bombing at a concert in Manchester

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Tuesday for the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that left 22 people dead and sparked a stampede of young concertgoers.

The attack was the deadliest in Britain since four suicide bombers killed 52 London commuters on subway trains and a bus in July 2005.

Here is a compilation of reaction from Florida’s elected officials and leaders about the tragedy:

— Sen. Marco Rubio on Twitter: “Our prayers are with the people of Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on Twitter: “My thoughts and prayers are with Britain and the families impacted by this horrific act in Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Twitter: “Praying for the people of Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Val Demings on Twitter : “Standing with and praying for Manchester today.  Another cowardly attack against innocent people.”

— U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch on Twitter: “Tonight in #Manchester, enormous amounts of horror, grief, and pain. From America and beyond, we join you in sympathy, outrage and resolve.”

— U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn on Facebook: “Leah and I send our sincere condolences to the British people as they respond to another heinous act of terrorism. The events in Manchester remind us again that these vicious killers will consider any target, even a crowd of teenagers and children at a music concert. We stand with resolve alongside our British friends in the face of this threat.”

— U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings: “I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of yesterday’s terror attack in Manchester. As England’s law enforcement continues working to establish the full details of this horrific attack against innocent children and families, the American people stand side-by-side in grief, anger, and resolve. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the city of Manchester and all of England as they come to terms with this terrible atrocity.”

— U.S. Rep. Al Lawson on Twitter: “Our thoughts and prayers are with #Manchester and the United Kingdom for all the victims of tonight’s attack. Such sad news.”

— U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “As I am writing yet another statement expressing horror and condolences after another inexplicable terror attack, I feel the angst and anger of a mother who has sent my children off to a concert just like last night’s in Manchester.

The terror attack that apparently targeted innocent young people was a truly despicable act committed by cowards. As Americans, we are heartbroken and horrified by this mass murder of young adults and even children, but make no mistake: our resolve to make our world a safer one for our children is only strengthened, and our commitment to working with our British ally in pursuit of that goal remains unshakeable.

Our thoughts are now with the victims, their families and all the people of Manchester. And while many facts are still unknown, Americans will not waver in seeking justice and standing up against the hate that motivates such heinous crimes. And we will never let these pretenders who hold themselves out as the only true defenders of Islam to be recognized as anything more than what they are: murderers.”

— Gov. Rick Scott on Twitter: “Praying for everyone in Manchester tonight. This is an absolute tragedy and our hearts are with those who were harmed and their loved ones. Also praying for the safety and security of Manchester of law enforcement and first responders during this unimaginably challenging time.”

On Tuesday morning, the governor tweeted: “(First Lady Ann Scott) and I continue to pray for the 22 innocent lives lost in the senseless act of hate and terror in Manchester last night. Florida stands with the British people.”

— Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on Twitter: “Horrible and senseless. We mourn those lost and pray for swift justice.”

— Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Twitter: “Terrorists who take the lives of innocent people are nothing but cowards & they must be brought to justice. My prayers to Manchester.”

— Democrat Gwen Graham on Twitter: “As a mom, my heart breaks. Praying for the children and families, parents and grandparents in Manchester.”

— Democrat Andrew Gillum on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by #Manchester tonight. Prayers to the families affected & the UK.

— House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Twitter: “My deepest sympathies and prayers for strength go out to the victims, parents, & families of the terror attack in the U.K.”

— Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto on Twitter: “Prayers to our British friends this evening. What a horrible tragedy.”

— Sen. Debbie Mayfield on Twitter: “My heart goes out to those in Manchester, especially to the families and first responders. Our prayers are with you and the United States of America will always stand by you.”

— Rep. Chris Sprowls on Twitter: “Our hearts are with the families of those killed in #ManchesterArena last night. May we unite together to eliminate terror.”

— Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Twitter: “My prayers go out to those in Manchester, as a Father of 2 little girls, I can’t imagine what these families are going through.”

— Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on Twitter: “Outrage!!–Manchester terrorist attack. Tears & prayers for the victims and families.”

— State Attorney Melissa Nelson: “We’re all grieving for the victims and those affected by yesterday’s bombing in Manchester.

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Haitian refugees get six-month extension, split reactions from advocates

Tens of thousands of Haitian refugees living in Florida received another six months to stay, news that some political leaders — primarily Democrats — are hailing as a victory.

Others say it’s not enough.

On Monday, U.S. Department of Homeland Security John F. Kelly announced his decision to extend — for an additional six months — the Temporary Protected Status designation for Haiti. This extension is effective July 23, 2017, through Jan. 22, 2018.

That drew applause from Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy and two Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Gwen Graham and Andrew Gillum.

At the same time, Kelly indicated that Haitian refugees should get ready to go home soon – a message that some Democratic supporters of Florida’s Haitian refugees, particularly U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz denounced, at least in part.

Estimates show that more than a quarter million Haitians are living in Florida, though most are not refugees covered by the TPS designation. There are an estimated 58,000 who have TPS status nationwide, with Florida having the most.

An estimated 28,000 Haitians live in the Orlando area in 2014, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by the Migration Policy Institute. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach area had the most in the nation, 197,000. The Naples-Fort Myers region also had nearly 20,000.

“Extending temporary protected status for Haitian nationals living in the United States is the right decision, both morally and economically,” Murphy, whose Orlando-Seminole County-based district is home to many Haitians, said in a release.

“The decision to extend temporary protected status, announced during Haitian Heritage Month, is welcome news for Florida and all those displaced by the devastating earthquake who now call our state home,” Graham, a former member of Congress from Tallahassee, declared in a news release.

“Today’s decision was a victory for the Haitian community, particularly here in Florida,” Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, stated in a release. “The Trump Administration and Congress have not always been welcoming to refugees in recent years, but I’m glad today’s decision will provide relief for those in need.”

Not so fast, said others, upset that the extension is for six months, not the usual 18, and noting that Kelly suggested the extension is only to give everyone time for repatriation.

“This six-month extension should allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States, and should also provide the Haitian government with the time it needs to prepare for the future repatriation of all current TPS recipients,” Kelly stated in a news release on his announcement.

“This is a ‘pack your bags’ extension, not a real one,” said Jeremy Cruz-Haicken, president of the UNITE HERE Local 737 labor union that represents nearly 500 Haitian refugees who work at Walt Disney World.

His union and others in the Orlando hospitality industry are planning a rally near Universal Studios to demand that the Trump administration grant a long-term TPS renewal.

“I continue to believe, and will continue to champion, that a full TPS renewal of 18 months is in the best interest of both Haiti and the United States,” Hastings said in a statement from his office. “Haiti continues to face daily challenges from the earthquake that laid waste to the country in 2010, the subsequent introduction of cholera by United Nations’ troops, and Hurricane Matthew, which devastated the country just last year.

“As noted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director James McCament in his memorandum to Secretary Kelly, TPS extensions of less than 18 months create needless operational challenges related to adjudicating re-registration applications and employment documents for the more than 58,000 Haitian nationals residing in the United States,” Hastings added.

In a statement, Deutch offered both applause and concern:

“I am pleased that the administration gave Haitians a temporary six-month extension of TPS rather than abruptly ending the humanitarian measure and throwing thousands of lives in limbo, But it’s quite clear that conditions in Haiti won’t improve sufficiently in six months to justify letting TPS expire. This six-month extension keeps tens of thousands of Haitians uncertain of their future.

“Progress has been made in Haiti, but the country is still far from recovered. Sending these people back into dangerous conditions directly violates the principle reason for granting TPS in the first place.”

Wasserman Schultz added similar thoughts.

“Today’s decision to provide a six-month grace period from deportation for more than 58,000 Haitians is a welcome but temporary solution, and it falls woefully short of what is needed,” she stated in a release. “The move appears to be designed to allow families time to voluntarily return to Haiti or prepare to leave the country. It’s the absolute minimum that the Department of Homeland Security could have done.

“However, this additional time does provide an opportunity to make the very compelling case that sending people back to a country still ravaged by earthquake, food shortages, disease and other harsh conditions is simply inhumane,” Wasserman Schultz added. “I will continue to work with advocates, the Administration and other lawmakers to extend this deadline as quickly as possible. America needs a smart, compassionate deportation policy in cases where a safe return can’t be guaranteed, or a home country cannot successfully reintegrate its own people. Haiti is clearly such a case.”

Andrew Gillum picks up Julian Castro’s endorsement in Governor’s race

Democrat Andrew Gillum has picked up the endorsement of former HUD Director Julian Castro in his quest for the Florida governor’s office in 2018.

Castro, from San Antonio, was U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Barack Obama.

He also will participate in a fundraising event in Miami early next month for Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, Gillum’s campaign announced.

“Our nation is at its best when it matches hard work with real opportunity. That’s the essence of the American Dream,” Castro said in a news release issued by Gillum’s campaign. “I’m proud to support Andrew Gillum for Governor because Andrew, the son of a construction worker and a bus driver, has worked hard to achieve his own dreams — and he’s worked just as hard to ensure that Floridians from every walk of life can achieve theirs.”

Gillum faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King heading toward a Democratic primary. So far Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has the Republican path pretty much to himself.

“When Andrew is Governor, he will fight so that every child in Florida has the opportunity to grow and succeed in the Sunshine State,” Castro continued. “He is the candidate Democrats can best trust to stand with the courage of conviction, even when it’s not politically convenient,” Castro continued.

Gillum called Castro’s endorsement an honor.

“As HUD Secretary and San Antonio’s Mayor, Julian has put children’s health, well-being and opportunity at the forefront of his work. He has worked to ensure all of our children — no matter if they grew up in a big city or rural town — have every chance to succeed,” Gillum said. “It is an honor to have his endorsement as we continue sharing our vision for a Florida that works for everyone.”

Still no decision from Joe Negron on marijuana Special Session

Senate President Joe Negron has yet to decide to join House Speaker Richard Corcoran in calling for a Special Session on medical marijuana implementation, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Negron, a Stuart Republican, is still “in the process of having discussions with senators in response to the memorandum he sent last Thursday,” Katie Betta said in an email. 

Negron had sought input from fellow senators after the 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to guide state Health regulators on the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment.

An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

A state law provides that the “President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, by joint proclamation duly filed with the Department of State, may convene the Legislature in special session.”

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, last week called for a Special Session during WFLA-FM radio’s “The Morning Show with Preston Scott.”

“I do believe and support the notion that we should come back and address and finalize dealing with medical marijuana,” Corcoran told Scott. “Does that mean a special session?” Scott asked. “It would, absolutely,” Corcoran said.

Others chiming in on social media for a Special Session include Sens. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican; Dana Young, a Tampa Republican; Travis Hutson, an Elkton Republican; and Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who also penned the only “formal response” as of Friday.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham and Orlando trial attorney John Morgan have called for a session on medical marijuana, with Morgan doing so in a nearly nine-minute video on TwitterMorgan has been behind the amendment since it was first filed for 2014, when it failed to get enough votes.

Civil rights icon John Lewis endorses Gwen Graham

Gwen Graham has scored the endorsement of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis.

“Only one Democrat for Governor of Florida —my good friend Gwen Graham — has the passion and commitment, the track record and the leadership skills to stand up, speak out, protect our priorities, and get things done,” the Georgia Democrat said in a statement. “Gwen is a champion for the progressive values so many of us share, and I am proud to give Gwen Graham my strongest endorsement for Governor of Florida.”

The endorsement comes on the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Give Us the Ballot” speech, according to the campaign. In the speech, King called for voting rights for African Americans.

Graham marched with Lewis and President Barack Obama across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, joined him and other House Democrats in a sit-in to demand commonsense gun safety, and co-sponsored legislation to protect voting rights while in Congress.

“Congressman John Lewis’s support and friendship mean the world to me. Marching with him to mark the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, sitting in with him to demand commonsense gun reform, and fighting for voting rights with him are among my proudest moments while representing Florida in Congress,” the former congresswoman said in a statement. “As governor, I will expand voting rights, pass gun reform to make our cities and streets safer and create opportunities for all Floridians.”

Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, is one of three Democrats running for governor in 2018. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King are also running.

Three Leon County officials endorse Gwen Graham for governor

Three Leon County officials are throwing their support behind Gwen Graham.

Leon County Commissioners John Dailey and Kristin Dozier, and Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor Tabitha Frazier have endorsed Graham for governor, her campaign announced Tuesday. In a statement, Graham said she was “proud to have the support” of the local leaders, and pledged to support “elected officials on all levels to diversify our economy, invest in our schools, and protect our land and water.”

Dailey has served in District 3 since 2006, and currently serves as the chairman of the board. Dailey said he got to know Graham while she was working for the local school district.

“She fought to find common ground and solutions to the challenges we faced, while always putting our children first,” he said in a statement. “She’ll bring that same approach to state government and work with cities and counties to get things done.”

Elected in 2010, Dozier represents District 5 on the Leon County Board of County Commissioners. She served a stint as chairwoman of the board for 2013-14.

“Gwen understands that to diversify Florida’s economy in the 21st Century, we must start by investing in education, from technical training in middle schools to robust community college programs,” said Dozier, who spearheaded the Domi Station incubator project in Tallahassee, in a statement. “As governor, Gwen will partner with local leaders to develop job training and create good-paying careers.”

Frazier, an environmental activist, said she was backing Graham because she “understands the environmental issues Florida is facing and genuinely listens to all the people she represents.”

“The North Florida farmers I work with as a Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor credit Gwen for taking the time to learn about and work on the issues affecting them on her Workdays and during her Farm Tour,” she said in a statement. “To meet Gwen is to love Gwen. She is passionate about protecting Florida’s environment while creating opportunities for its citizens. She has the ability, perseverance, and intelligence to be the honest change we need here in Florida and to bring a Democrat back to the Governor’s Mansion.”

Graham, a former congresswoman and the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, is one of three Democrats running for governor in 2018. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King have also thrown their hats in the race.

Chris King says uncontested Republican rule has failed Florida’s working families

Unlike the other four Democrats who have either entered the race for governor or are seriously flirting with the possibility, Winter Park businessman Chris King is somewhat of a blank slate for the majority of party members in Florida.

That’s why appearances at events like Monday night’s Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee are taking on added significance.

“We have an affordable housing crisis all over the state,” King addressed Democrats gathered at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County in Ybor City. “It is felt deeply here in Hillsborough County. There are 2.6 Floridians who don’t have access to a doctor who knows their name. Forty-five percent of our jobs pay less than $15 an hour, we have partisan gerrymandering, we’ve been fighting for years, we have toxic algae blooms we  can see from space, 90 percent of our students are in public school, and 90 percent of the conversation coming out of Tally is about.”

He paused as the crowd quietly announced: “Charters.”

During his 22-minute speech, the 38-year-old King talked policy and biography. He followed that with another 15 minutes of question-and-answer with DEC members.

King is CEO of Elevation Financial group, the Winter Park company he began over a decade ago with his brother, which invests in affordable and senior housing in the Southeast. While he hits the familiar Democratic talking points — education, health care and the environment — King also makes an issue out of the lack of affordable housing in the state, an issue which many other Democrats only give lip service.

“It’s not fair that we have huge tax cuts to the biggest corporations in America while were raiding the affordable housing trust fund to the tune of $1.7 billion over the last 15 years, which has been an all-out attack on seniors, on law enforcement, on recent college graduates, anyone who wants to make a life here in Florida” he said, referring to the fact that for the 10th year in a row, state lawmakers are proposing to sweep money from the affordable housing trust funds into the general revenue fund to spend on other purposes.

Echoing Bernie Sanders, King says the biggest problem in Florida is an economy which isn’t working for enough working families.

“Our economy is going in one direction — down,” he says, casting a different version of Florida than the one depicted last week by the only Republican to declare his candidacy for governor, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam.

“The story that is not told — and we haven’t done a good job as Democrats, unfortunately of telling it over the last several decades — is that the party that stands up and says they’re the party of economic opportunity, they’re the party of growth and business and jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, actually in the last 15 years in Florida we’ve been on a steady decline. It’s not talked about, but it’s felt by working families all over Florida.”

King says that Florida’s per capita GDP is nearly identical today to where it was in 2000, and says that blame for that economic stagnation is completely on Republicans, who have controlled all levers of state government for nearly two decades.

“Florida is not growing, and it’s hurting families and our ability to do really anything that you and I care about,” King continued. He said if elected he would implement a “jump start fund” to make capital accessible to small business people.

King is one of three Democrats to have officially entered the 2018 sweepstakes for governor. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was the first candidate out of the gate, and was followed by former Tallahassee area Congresswoman Gwen Graham two weeks ago.

Orlando attorney/entrepreneur John Morgan says he’s no rush to declare if he’s running (or not), while Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is in a “testing the waters” phase. Levine will speak at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club this Friday.

 

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