Gwen Graham Archives - Page 2 of 34 - Florida Politics

Gwen Graham gets backing of Amy Mercado, Lori Berman, Barbara Watson

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham announced the endorsements of three key Democratic women lawmakers Friday afternoon.

The former congresswoman has picked up the endorsements of state Reps. Amy Mercado of Orlando, Barbara Watson of Miami Gardens, and Lori Berman of Lantana.

Graham is campaigning against fellow Democrats Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King, striving for the 2018 primary nomination for governor.

Mercado, vice chair of the House Progressive Caucus, said in a news release issued by Graham’s campaign that the congresswoman “stood up for our shared values in Washington.”

“She voted to defend Obamacare, co-sponsored legislation to raise the minimum wage, and worked to protect Florida’s environment,” Mercado continued. “She has the courage to fight for our priorities and the experience to get things done.”

Watson, of Miami Gardens, said she was impressed when Graham spent a work day two weeks ago teaching and serving lunch at Carol City Senior High in her district.

“It showed me she cares about every student, regardless of their zip code or background. After years of Republican attacks on our public education system, we need a governor who will end high-stakes testing and the current system of demoralizing school grades,” Watson said in the release.

Berman, who sponsored legislation supporting the Equal Rights Amendment in Florida, cited Graham’s grasp of issues facing Florida women.

“She knows that women should get equal pay for equal work. She knows that women can be trusted to make their own decisions,” Berman stated in the release. “I look forward to partnering with Gwen, as Florida’s next governor, in fighting for policies that help Florida’s women and further our values.”

Graham called the trio great people and great friends.

“They’re fighting every day against the education industry that degrades our schools and the Tallahassee insiders who do nothing to help middle-class folks but don’t hesitate to threaten our water and land with fracking,” Graham stated in the release. “I’m so proud they are standing with me – together, we are going to fully fund our schools, protect our water and natural resources and have a real economic plan that creates real jobs.”

Governor’s race candidates drawing big checks

Three Democrats and one Republican running so far for the 2018 Florida governor’s race are starting out with war chests built with big checks, from such sources as August A. Busch, George Soros, David King and Wayne Hogan, mainly cut to their independent political committees that have no limits.

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam leads the pack — by far — but had an enormous head start on the others. Putnam’s Florida Grown PC opened in March 0f 2015, followed by Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s Florida Forward PC in March of 2016, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham‘s Our Florida PC, and Winter Park businessman Chris King‘s Rise and Lead, Florida PC, earlier this year.

Still, with just 2017 figures tallied, Putnam’s Florida Grown has pulled in 120 checks of $10,000 or more; while Gillum’s Forward Florida has 21; Graham’s Our Florida, 19; and King’s Rise and Lead, five.

All the numbers reported here are through the end of April, posted Thursday on the Florida Division of Elections’ website.

King, who built wealth through a company developing affordable housing, has the biggest check so far, $1 million to his official campaign committee, from himself. Only he and Gillum have been officially in the race long enough to report official campaign committee donations, which normally are limited to $3,000 checks, except from the candidate. Gillum’s biggest official campaign committee check is just that, $3,000.

King raised $1.38 million in his official campaign committee, including another check from himself for $62,000, and $422,000 in his Rise and Lead independent committee. His father, attorney David King, also has contributed $166,000, and Winter Park accountant Thomas Beck, $47,000, to Rise and Lead.

But the independent committees are where the bulk of the candidates’ early money sits.

Putnam, who officially filed to run last week, had raised $11.4 million in his Florida Grown committee over the past 26 months, with $9.8 million of that coming in checks of at least $10,000. This year that committee has raised $3,96 million on checks of at least $10,000 to Florida Grown, which has raised a grand total of $4.58 million, on a total of 1,118 individual contributions this year.

The 2017 checks to Florida Grown are topped by FP&L’s $250,000 in January, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee Florida Jobs PAC’s $150,000 in February. The Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC also cut two $100,000 checks, in February and April.

Another 15 individuals, companies and PACs have donated $100,000 apiece, including Disney Worldwide Services, the Associated Industries of Florida’s AIF PAC, Anheuser-Busch Breweries heir August A. Busch of St. Louis, and several agriculture interests including U.S. Sugar Corp. of Clewiston, Vero Beach citrus magnate William Becker, Myakka City industrial farmer John Falkner, and Peace River Citrus Products of Arcadia.

Gillum, who entered the race in early March, has the most-active official campaign fund, with more than 5,439 donations totaling $413,000, and consequently the greatest number of small donations. So far, he’s received 4,609 donations of less than $100 in that fund, compared with 233 for King, and 1,354 in Putnam’s Florida Grown PC.

Gillum’s Florida Forward PC, which he opened a year before, has taken only seven checks under $100. That committee has received 21 checks of at least $10,000, totaling $495,000 of the $665,000 Florida Forward has raised.

Tops among Gillum’s big donors are New York billionaire liberal-cause rainmaker George Soros, who donated $100,000 at the end of March; his son Alex Soros of New York, who donated $50,000 the same day; and Hollywood TV and movie producer Norman Lear, who donated $50,000, also on March 31.

Graham, who also officially filed last week, had raised $679,000 since early February in her Our Florida PC. Nineteen checks of at least $10,000 accounted for much of that, $645,000.

Those checks are topped by $250,000 she transferred into that committee from her congressional campaign committee in February. After that, airport construction magnate James Finch of Lynn Haven, health care software entrepreneur Michael Singer of Alachua, and attorney Wayne Hogan of Jacksonville, a former congressional candidate, each contributed $50,000.

As for the states of origin for the money, Gillum has shown the most ability to raise money outside of Florida, particularly in California and New York. His official campaign has drawn 282 checks from California totaling $39,000, and 213 from New York, also totaling about $39,000. He also has 104 checks from Georgia, totaling about $10,000.

Gillum has 3,815 checks from Floridians, good for $268,000.

His Florida Forward committee shows a similar pattern, though dominated by those big Soros and Lear checks. Four checks from New York brought in $165,000, and seven checks from California brought in $121,000. From Florida, Forward Florida has received 46 checks for about $287,000. The committee also has gotten $41,000 out of Massachusetts, and $37,000 out of Georgia.

Relative to what he’s drawn from the Sunshine State, Putnam has done very little out of state fundraising, with at least 3,055 checks from Floridians, totaling more than $10,800,000, in his Florida Grown PC. He has gotten $157,000 out of Missouri, including that big Busch donation, on eight checks; and more than $50,000 from Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, on a handful of checks.

Likewise, King and Graham have drawn relatively little from out-of-state.

Graham’s Our Florida PC has gotten 27 of 32 checks from Florida, tallying $623,000 of her $679,000. Another check came in from Washington D.C. for $20,000; two came in from Rhode Island totaling $20,000, and one from Utah for $10,000.

King’s official campaign committee has received 403 of its 480 checks from Floridians, worth $1.31 million of that committee’s $1.38 million total. He’s gotten seven checks each from Colorado and North Carolina, totaling $18,000 and $11,000 respectively. His Rise and Lead PC has received no out-of-state checks.

Gwen Graham works a shift with Operation New Hope, helping ex-offenders

Gwen Graham’s latest Workday focused on efforts to find affordable housing, workforce training and family reintegration for ex-offenders.

The newly announced Democratic candidate for governor worked Wednesday with Operation New Hope in Jacksonville.

“The ex-offenders I met today are working to put their lives back on track. They just want a second chance at becoming contributing members of their community — and Operation New Hope is giving them that chance,” Graham said in a statement. “Operation New Hope serves as an example for reintegration programs throughout our state and nation. Jacksonville is fortunate to have such a great organization, and I am fortunate to have spent the day working with them.”

As part of the Workday, the former North Florida congresswoman worked alongside Jarvis Guthrie, an ex-offender who now works with Operation New Hope as a recruitment coordinator. Guthrie spoke with Graham about the importance the program has had in his life.

“I am not a label of crime, but a product of second chances,” Guthrie said.

Founded in 1999, Operation New Hope placed more than 2,500 ex-offenders back into the workforce. The organization helped to “break the cycle” for as many as 7,200 children of ex-offenders, who are more likely to become offenders themselves. Operation New Hope also helped to build or restore 80 homes.

“Gwen has proven through her leadership that she has concern and care for all of Floridians,” said Kevin Gay, CEO and founder of Operation New Hope. “She understands Operation New Hope does more than help individuals — it’s an investment in our entire state’s future.”

 

Gwen Graham talks about making a difference in first campaign video

Gwen Graham is out with her first campaign video, highlighting recent Workdays and her 2018 gubernatorial launch.

“My love for Florida runs deep, but my patience, my patience for inaction in the state I love has run out,” Graham says in the video over scenes of her announcement speech and Workdays across Florida teaching, installing solar panels and restoring wetlands.

Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, formally announced her 2018 run on May 2. Since then, she’s been traveling the state participating in Workdays and meeting with Floridians.

“I really could care less about the title of governor. I would prefer always to be just Gwen,” she says in the video. “But what I do care about is being in a position where I can make a difference for Floridians and the state that I love so much. But I still just want everyone to call me Gwen.”

Graham, who is the daughter of former senator and Gov. Bob Graham, faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King in the Democratic primary. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando attorney John Morgan are both believed to be considering a run.

On the Republican side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam officially launched his campaign Wednesday. Sen. Jack Latvala and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also believed to be considering a run.

Gwen Graham surges to front in Dems’ gubernatorial money race

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has quickly surged to the front of the pack in campaign fundraising in her drive for the Florida governor’s office in 2018.

Graham, who officially entered the race on May 2, raised more than $429,000 in April for her independent political committee, Our Florida, her official campaign announced. That’s almost as much as her two primary opponents, Chris King and Andrew Gillum raised combined in April.

Graham, of Tallahassee, also has transferred $1.2 million from her former congressional campaign. With expenses, that brings the committee’s bankroll to $1.629 million, her official campaign reported Wednesday.

“I’m not just running for governor to win back our state — I’m running to renew the Florida we all love. Thank you to everyone who believes in this movement and has contributed to help us succeed.” Graham stated in a news release. “We will have the resources to communicate our message in every corner of this state and take on any Republican candidate.”

Her two primary opponents thus far also reported strong April fundraising efforts, but not as strong as Graham’s.

Winter Park affordable housing developer King reported raising $300,000 in April and finished the month with about $1.5 million in hand. His contributions thus far including money he has given his own campaign, $1 million to start, and, according to Politico, another $100,000 or so in April.

Tallahassee Mayor Gillum reported raising just over $200,000 in April, bringing his total fundraising to about $1.1 million. He reported having $743,000 of that in the bank at the end of April.

Graham’s April haul included several big checks. Airport construction magnate James Finch of Lynn Haven, health care software entrepreneur Michael Singer of Alachua, and attorney Wayne Hogan of Jacksonville each contributed $50,000. Fifteen other individuals, companies or committees, including EMILY’s List, contributed at least $10,000.

Still, the challenge ahead for any of Democrats is that of Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who filed for the governor’s race last week and officially kicked off his campaign Wednesday in his hometown of Bartow. His Florida Grown Political Committee ended March with $7.7 million in the bank.

None of the candidates’ April official campaign committee numbers, nor Putnam’s Florida Grown numbers, had been posted yet Wednesday by the Florida Division of Elections.

Richard Corcoran joins calls for medical marijuana special session

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has added his voice to those calling for a special legislative session on medical marijuana.

Corcoran spoke Wednesday on “The Morning Show with Preston Scott” on WFLA-FM radio in Tallahassee.

Lawmakers failed to come to agreement this Legislative Session on a bill that would implement the medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed in 2016. Just over 71 percent of statewide voters approved the measure.

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

“It absolutely needs to be dealt with,” Corcoran told Scott. “When you have 71 percent of the voters say, ‘we want legalized medical marijuana,’ and the fact we couldn’t get (an implementing bill) done, to just leave it to bureaucrats sitting at the Department of Health would be a gross injustice.

“I do believe and support the notion that we should come back and address and finalize dealing with medical marijuana,” he added.

“Does that mean a special session?” Scott asked.

“It would, absolutely,” Corcoran said.

Senate President Joe Negron on Monday also signaled his inclination for a special session.

“I think that’s something that now that session is over and our budget passed that we’ll confer with the House and governor, and then make a decision on whether that’s something we should do,” he told reporters. “I think the Legislature does have a responsibility to be involved in that implementation, so that’s something we’ll look at.”

Others, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham and Orlando trial attorney John Morgan also called for a special session on medical marijuana, with Morgan doing so in a nearly nine-minute video on Twitter.

Morgan has been behind the amendment since it was first filed for 2014, when it failed to get enough votes.

Under the state constitution, a special session can be convened by proclamation of Gov. Rick Scott, or “by consent of two-thirds of the membership of each house.”

A state law also 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.”

Another section of that statute allows 20 percent of state lawmakers to request a special session, after which the Florida Department of State must poll all members, who have to approve on a three-fifths vote.

Andrew Gillum

Andrew Gillum calls for ‘strengthening’ Obamacare in Florida

A day after the end of the 2017 Legislative Session, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Monday called on state lawmakers to pass a bill “strengthening insurance protections for those with pre-existing conditions.”

Gillum, the sitting mayor of Tallahassee, appeared at the Florida Press Center with two local women who told of their family members’ troubles getting coverage and treatment: One has a son with a chromosomal disorder and the other’s sister lives with Crohn’s disease, an incurable digestive malady.

Gillum’s proposal, a priority if he’s elected in 2018, has three goals: Prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions; charge them the same premiums as those without such conditions; and “end the discriminatory practice of charging women higher premiums than men.”

The first two already are part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” which President Donald Trump and GOP members of Congress have so far unsuccessfully tried to repeal. The federal law is the signature act of former President Barack Obama

Gillum’s proposal, light on specifics, may be more pipe dream than policy—at least for now—with a GOP-controlled Legislature and an insurance industry averse to change.

He said he had had “some behind-the-scenes conversations” with members of the industry, though he declined to say who, and couldn’t provide a financial impact of his proposal.

A request for comment was sent to Audrey S. Brown, the president and CEO of the Florida Association of Health Plans, which represents managed-care companies.

Gillum also dodged a question about whether he supported an “individual mandate,” insurance parlance for a legal requirement to buy health insurance. That’s also part of the ACA.

“We believe, and I certainly believe, that health care is a right,” he said. “We also know that it has a tremendous impact on this state’s economy. We unfortunately have a governor that did not allow the full benefits of the ACA to be felt. We would work toward a strengthening of the ACA.”

GOP Gov. Rick Scott, a former for-profit hospital chain executive who’s term-limited next year, has declined to expand Medicaid under the ACA to provide health coverage to more poor and working-poor Floridians. That decision was supported the Republican-controlled House.

Denise Wilson, a banking trainer, told of her young son’s struggle with Potocki-Shaffer syndrome, which affects bones and tissues. He’s needed surgery just to maintain his ability to move, she said.

She told of having “to go through hoops” to get him treatment: “And when you have a child with special needs, your life is hoops.”

And Avril Wood, a “state worker,” said her younger sister’s need for Crohn’s treatment has caused her family constant worries over paying for insurance and medications.

Crohn’s “causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

“My sister is loving and kind,” Wood said, verging on tears. “This has ravaged our family … My parents are wondering if they’re going to run out of money in their retirement. Given the choice between bankruptcy and keeping my sister alive, they will choose bankruptcy. And that thought is cruel.”

The 37-year-old Gillum was first elected to public office in 2003, when he became Tallahassee’s youngest city council member ever at 23. He was elected mayor in 2014.

He still faces an Leon County Sheriff’s Office investigation into whether he broke state ethics law by using a city-owned email program to send campaign-related and other political messages.

Other declared Democratic candidates for governor include former Tallahassee-area congresswoman Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is likely to be the the first Republican to declare; his announcement is expected Wednesday in Bartow.

Gwen Graham calls on Rick Scott to veto ‘education-eviscerating’ budget

Hours after Florida lawmakers approved the new state spending plan, Gwen Graham is demanding Gov. Rick Scott veto the Legislature’s “education-eviscerating” budget.

In a statement Tuesday morning, the newly announced Democratic candidate for governor said, if elected, she would veto any budget that shortchanges Florida schools in favor of the “education industry.”

“For decades, Floridians have pleaded with their elected officials to support our public schools — but year after year, the legislature and governor abandon their responsibility to our children,” Graham said. “As a mother and PTA president, I saw firsthand how important every dollar is to Florida’s schools.”

Late Monday evening, legislators ended an extended 2017 legislative Session by approving an $83 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1. Critics argued the proposed spending plan is a significant blow to public education, with a modest $25 increase in PreK-12 schools per-student funding, much less than the $200 increase per student Scott requested.

Graham discussed her most recent “Workday” event last week at Miami Carol City Senior High, where the former congresswoman from Tallahassee worked alongside teachers “who struggle to pay off their personal student loans,” while spending their own money on school supplies.

“Once again, Republicans say this budget increases funding for students — but any teacher or parent can tell you it’s a lie,” Graham continued. “We haven’t yet recovered from Rick Scott’s first year of devastating education cuts, and now they want to reduce per-student funding to school districts even more.

“This terrible trend should end today with Governor Scott’s immediate veto of the budget and policy bill.”

“As governor,” she added. “I will veto any budget or policy that shortchanges our schools in favor of the education industry. I’ll cancel the legislature’s summer vacation and demand they start over from scratch. We no longer have time for rhetoric or games.

“Now is the time to hold Tallahassee politicians accountable and finally give our children the education they deserve.”

If Scott vetoes the entire state budget, lawmakers would have to return for a special session to recalculate. The governor has previously criticized cuts to incentive programs like VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida but has not gone as far as to publicly say he would veto the budget outright.

“I’m going to look at my options,” Scott told the Tampa Bay Times during a tour stop in Tampa Last week. “That’s an option I have. But what I do every year is I go through (the budget) and say what’s good for our Florida families? I represent everybody in the state, so I’m going to do what’s best for every family in the state.”

Annette Taddeo announces bid to replace Frank Artiles in Senate

Annette Taddeo is throwing her hat in the race to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles.

 Taddeo announced Tuesday she was running in the Senate District 40 special election to replace Artiles, the Miami-Dade Republican who resigned last month amid scandal.

“Through our campaign, we can right a wrong and show how this community can come together, regardless of race, gender or religion,” she said in a statement. “I know that in this election, residents from every part of Senate District 40, including those who stood firm in demanding Frank Artiles resign, will send a clear message to Tallahassee that the days of division are behind us.”

The 50-year-old Democrat is no stranger to campaigns. In 2016, she ran in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, where she faced former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia in the Democratic Party. She received 49 percent of the vote to Garcia’s 51 percent.

According to Taddeo’s campaign, she carried 59 of the 91 precincts shared by the congressional and state Senate district.

“Miami-Dade families know that to get real results for our residents we need to take a people first approach to Tallahassee,” she said in a statement. “I am excited for the journey ahead and campaigning hard to earn the support of my neighbors in Senate District 40.”

Taddeo was former Gov. Charlie Crist’s running mate in 2014 when he ran for governor as a Democrat. In 2008, she challenged Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 18th Congressional District, receiving 42 percent of the vote to Ros-Lehtinen’s 58 percent.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday the dates for the special election to replace Artiles, who resigned in April after he made national news after he accosted two black colleagues at a private club in Tallahassee. The special primary election is July 25, with a special general election on Sept. 26.

State Rep. Daisy Baez has already filed to run for the Senate District 40 seat, and has already grabbed the endorsements of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, both of whom are running for governor in 2018.

On the Republican side, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz is considering a run. Former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla has already filed to run.

Joe Negron open to special session on medical marijuana

Senate President Joe Negron hasn’t closed the door to a special session to tackle medical marijuana.

The Stuart Republican said Monday he thinks the Legislature has a responsibility to be involved in the implementation of the 2016 medical marijuana, and said the Senate would discuss its options with the House and Gov. Rick Scott. His remarks came after the adjournment of the 2017 Legislative Session, during which lawmakers failed to pass an implementing bill.

“I think that’s something that now that session is over and our budget passed that we’ll confer with the House and governor, and then make a decision on whether that’s something we should do,” he told reporters Monday. “I think the Legislature does have a responsibility to be involved in that implementation, so that’s something we’ll look at.”

While lawmakers agreed on most key parts of an implementing bill, negotiations collapsed Friday, the final day the Legislature could take up policy issues, after the chambers couldn’t agree on the number of retail locations medical marijuana treatment centers could operate.

The House voted 99-16 on a bill that put the limit at 100 per treatment center. The Senate, which limited storefronts to five per license holder, did not take it up.

That now means the Department of Health will be charged with coming up with rules for patients, caregivers, doctors and treatment centers by July 3 and have them implemented by October.

Several advocates, including John Morgan, the bombastic Orlando Democrat who poured millions into the medical marijuana campaign, have called for a special session to address the issue. Morgan, who had a very public fall-out with his former ally Ben Pollara over proposed legislation, has said he would urge Scott to call a special session to implement the amendment.

He isn’t the only one calling for a special session. On Monday, Gwen Graham, a former U.S. representative and 2018 gubernatorial candidate, called for a special session, saying “failure to enact Amendment 2 to legalize medical marijuana, which passed with 71.32 percent approval in 2016, is just the latest example of the Legislature ignoring Florida voters.”

“I watched my husband battle cancer and the sickening effects of chemotherapy. So many patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases could use medical marijuana as a way to treat their pain,” she said in a statement. “Floridians spent years begging the legislature to take action before taking their case to the voters, but once again, the legislature is ignoring them. If the people of Florida give me the honor of serving as governor, their voices will be heard.”

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

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