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Adam Putnam political committee brings in more than $2.3 million in 2016

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam raised more than $2 million in 2016, boosting his war chest ahead of a likely 2018 gubernatorial bid.

State records show Florida Grown, Putnam’s political committee, raised more than $2.3 million through Nov. 30. The committee has raised more than $6.3 million since February 2015, according to state campaign finance records.

Records show Florida Grown spent nearly $1.4 million in 2016, including at least $240,000 for political consulting and $51,450 for advertising and advertising design work.

Putnam is one of several Republicans pondering a 2018 gubernatorial bid. While he hasn’t formally announced his plans for 2018, many consider Putnam to be the man-to-beat in what will likely be a crowded Republican field.

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford announced on Dec. 22 he decided against a 2018 bid, saying his role in the 2018 gubernatorial election “should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate.”

“My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting Republican candidates that share my conservative convictions and can keep Florida headed in the right direction.”

But Weatherford is far from the only Republican considering hoping in the race. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is believed to be considering a run, and a recent Gravis Marketing poll conducted for the Orlando Political Observer tested how Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater and former Rep. David Jolly would fare on the ballot.

The field is expected to be just as crowded on the Democratic side. Former Rep. Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham; John Morgan, an Orlando trial attorney and top Democratic donor; Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine; Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn; and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are all considering a run.

Will Weatherford’s decision enhances, not removes, future options

I think Will Weatherford’s just-announced decision not to run for governor in 2018 merely delays the inevitable. I believe he will be Florida’s governor eventually, and that will be a good thing.

Weatherford, the Land O’Lakes Republican, is a smart, articulate, center-right conservative in the Jeb Bush tradition. He has a strong legislative resume, including a turn as House Speaker. At age 37, he also is young enough that he can afford to wait eight years, which is another way of saying “Merry Christmas, Adam Putnam.”

The sea certainly does seem to be parting among Republicans for Putnam to make his move on the governor’s mansion. Florida CFO Jeff Atwater has shown no appetite for the job. Attorney General Pam Bondi is more likely targeted for a job in Washington.

Weatherford would have been a formidable challenger, but says his top concern right now is family.

He has four children – the oldest is 8, the youngest is 2. Last year he and his brothers Drew and Sam launched Weatherford Partners, a venture capital group, and serves as managing partner. Tellingly, he did not fall into the Republican conga line in the presidential race. He said he did not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

His decision to sit out the governor’s race this time removes a lot of drama, for sure. Weatherford and Putnam are pals, but so were Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and we saw how that went.

If Weatherford had gotten into the race, it could have gotten bloody for Republicans. Having two candidates as strong and well-known as Putnam and Weatherford could have split the party, but what this does is increase the likelihood of a Putnam coronation for the nomination.

It allows Putnam to stay low-key for the next year or so, stockpiling cash and support while waiting for the Democrat slugfest between Gwen Graham (assuming her husband’s prostate cancer doesn’t worsen) and possibly Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Weatherford can campaign now for Putnam, and wouldn’t a photo of the two of them together on a platform make for a mighty fine poster for Republicans?

Weatherford will need to find a way to stay in the public eye. As he saw with Jeb Bush, sitting on the sidelines for too long in politics means someone else is getting all the headlines. A cabinet job or gubernatorial appointment to a public post could both keep him in the news and allow him to tend to family matters.

Deciding for now to wait doesn’t remove Weatherford’s options. If anything, it enhances them. If his aim is to one day sit in the governor’s chair – and, really, why wouldn’t it be – then stepping back now doesn’t hurt his chances one bit.

Will Weatherford opts out of 2018 gubernatorial bid

Will Weatherford is taking a pass on 2018.

The former House Speaker said Thursday he won’t run for governor in two years, saying his role in the 2018 gubernatorial election “should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate.”

“My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting Republican candidates that share my conservative convictions and can keep Florida headed in the right direction.”

First elected to the Florida House in 2006, Weatherford quickly rose to a leadership. He was selected to serve as House Speaker for the 2012-14 legislative session, during which time he was one of the youngest Speakers in the country.

He used his time in office to advocate for education reform, lower taxes and free-market health care. And in 2014, he led the charge to push through legislation that allowed children of immigrants in the country illegally to pay in-state tuition rates at state universities.

Weatherford left the public sector at the end of his term in 2014, choosing to spend more time with his growing family. He and his wife, Courtney, have four children — Ella Kate, Molly, Madelyn, and William, who was born in September 2014.

But almost as soon as he left office, the chatter began about his next step. He was often mentioned as a potential 2018 contender, and earlier this year indicated he was considering a run.

“I tell people I’m not running towards it, but I’m not running away from it,” he told the Tampa Bay Times in May. “I’m really focused on our company and our business. My guess is sometime after the election I’ll have to make a decision internally.”

Weatherford is the managing partner of Weatherford Partners, a venture capital and consulting firm he founded with his brothers, Sam and Drew.

“For Will, I know this was not an easy decision to make, but it’s a decision that is right for him at this juncture in life,” said Alan Bense, a former House Speaker and Weatherford’s father-in-law, in a statement. “I have no doubt that when the time is right for him and his family, Will will answer Florida’s call and return to public service. His core conservative principles are rock solid and his commitment to doing what’s right – even when unpopular – will never go out of style.”

Bense continued: “Florida’s loss is our family’s gain. We enjoy the time we spend with Will, Courtney, and their four wonderful children. I look forward to seeing what’s in store for Will down the road.”

A supporter of former Gov. Jeb Bush, Weatherford was an often outspoken critic of then-candidate Donald Trump. He has said didn’t vote for Trump, called the president-elect a divisive figure, and has indicated the negative tone of recent elections doesn’t appeal to him.

Weatherford is one of the first potential Republican contenders to make his 2018 plans known, and Republican leaders said they were disappointed he decided against a run.

“He’s a fine young man,” said Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican. “I would have looked forward to supporting him.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is largely believed to be preparing for a gubernatorial bid, raising nearly $6.4 million for his political committee since February 2015. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has also been mentioned as a possible 2018 contender.

On Thursday, Putnam said Weatherford’s “passion (for) giving all Floridians the (opportunity) to fulfill their God given potential is matched only by (his) devotion to family.”

“(Will Weatherford) was a great Speaker for Floridians,” tweeted Putnam shortly after Weatherford’s announcement. “His voice will always be heard by people seeking serious solutions to challenges.”

The 2018 is expected to be hotly contested on both sides of the aisle. Several Democrats — including Gwen Graham, the one-term congresswoman and daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham; John Morgan, an Orlando trial attorney and top Democratic donor; and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn — are considering a run.

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Gwen Graham, in final news conference, claims $2.5 million in benefits to constituents

Congresswoman Gwen Graham said Monday that her constituent service efforts had helped people in her North Florida district secure $2.5 million in government benefits — and her thriftiness in running her office helped her return $375,000 in unspent money to Congress — during the past two years.

“Our office is an example that you can get a lot done and still be fiscally conservative,” the Democrat said during a news conference at Tallahassee City Hall, where she maintains a district office.

Aides said it would be her final meeting with reporters before leaving office early next year.

“We made constituent service or No. 1 priority,” Graham said. So much so that she has discussed its importance with Neal Dunn, the Republican from Panama City elected in November to replace Graham in a radically redistricted Congressional District 2.

“I will work with him on that,” Graham said. “I hope he continues that focus on constituent services. Because, of all the things you do in Congress, there is nothing more important that helping people back home. I have had that conversation with him I know that, in his heart, he wants to do the same.”

Graham said her office helped constituents secure $489,000 in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits; $293,000 in Veterans Administration benefits; $118,000 from the IRS; and $100,000 in Deepwater Horizon claims.

Of her office’s operating budget, Graham in prepared remarks that, “with smart management, government can provide essential services to help people while also being fiscally responsible.”

Graham has made no secret of her plans to run for governor in 2018, but also that her husband’s diagnosis with Stage IV prostate cancer might prove a complication. Steve Hurm, her husband, is due at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa this week for tests.

Asked about it Monday, Graham said: “My husband said to me today, ‘Do not make this about my cancer.'”

She added: “Life does throw you curve balls sometimes, but there is no one who is a bigger supporter of mine than my husband. I am looking forward to what the future holds with him by my side.”

When can we expect an announcement?

“Don’t worry — it’ll happen sooner rather than later.”

Graham previewed the outline of the case she might make to voters.

“For 20 years, there has been a Republican dominance in state government. I think that has really hurt the state of Florida,” she said.

She hopes to “put aside partisanship. Put aside politics and just work together with good people,” she said.

“We have a lot of serious issues in this state. If I make the decision to run — and, again, I’m clearly falling in that camp of knowing we need to have a Democratic governor in 2018 — what I bring will be very beneficial to our state’s future.”

 

Husband’s cancer is a factor in Gwen Graham’s decision to run for governor

Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham says she wants to run for governor, and she plans to run for governor. But there’s one very important factor that’s weighing on her decision: her husband has cancer.

“Every part of me wants to run for governor, that’s what I feel passionate about, that’s what I know I need to do for the state of Florida, but things happen in life that could take me off that path. I hope not,” Graham said Wednesday evening while conducting her last “work day” as a congresswoman — helping sell Christmas trees at an outdoor stand.

The work days were a signature of her father Bob Graham‘s time as Florida governor and a U.S. senator. Like her father, she spends time experiencing different jobs as a way to reach out to constituents and voters.

She decided not to seek a second term in Congress after the Florida Supreme Court ordered new congressional districts be drawn so that don’t favor incumbents or political parties. Graham’s district became far more Republican and she decided to explore a 2018 run for governor rather than risk re-election.

She sounded a lot like a candidate when talking with reporters outside the Christmas tree stand, saying she plans to campaign in all 67 counties and discussing her campaign strategy. But she said she’s waiting to see how treatment progresses on her husband Steve Hurm‘s prostate cancer.

“He absolutely wants me to run. He’s very supportive of that and I couldn’t do it without him by my side,” she said. “I wouldn’t do it without him by my side.”

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is leaving office in 2019 due to term limits. Among other Democrats believed to be considering a run are Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and trial lawyer John Morgan. Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is also considering a run.

The Republican Governors Association is already preparing for a potential Graham candidacy, wasting little time after this year’s election to begin attacking Graham in news releases. The association called Graham “just another Washington politician.” Graham hadn’t held elected office before winning her House seat two years ago.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Gwen Graham shifts Christmas Trees, offers health advice to men

Gwen Graham spent her last workday as a U.S. Representative at a Christmas tree stand in Tallahassee, helping customers select trees to take home — and reflecting on her time in Washington and plans to run for governor.

“Are you that Gwen?” one customer asked.

She was, engaging in a campaign tactic that propelled her father, Bob Graham into the governor’s office in 1978 and later the U.S. Senate, and helped send his daughter to Washington.

“It’s a real opportunity to know people on a different level than you might if they just came to talk to you in your office or met you in Costco or something,” Graham said.

Underlining her point, a man wearing a UPS polo shirt showed up to wish Graham well. She’d worked with him slinging packages him last Christmas, Graham said.

As for her future, Graham said she fully intends to seek the governorship but that the timing of her announcement would depend on the health of her husband, Steve Hurm, a Tallahassee lawyer. He’s due at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa Wednesday for evaluation of Stage IV prostate cancer.

“Every part of me wants to run for governor,” Graham told reporters. “It’s what I know I need to do for the state of Florida. But things happen in life that might take me off that path. I hope not.”

Hurm has been encouraging her to campaign. “I wouldn’t do it without him by my side,” she said.

Presuming Graham does run, she’ll make campaigning her day job until Election Day on Nov. 6, 2018, she said. She plans to keep her existing team together, including Julia Woodward, her chief of staff and campaign manager during her run for Congress.

Of leaving Congress after a single term (having been redistricted into an overwhelmingly Republican seat), she said the experience was “bittersweet.”

“The opportunity in Washington to work together — Democrats, Republicans — to actually get things done is real. It can be done.”

As for her husband’s health, Graham had this advice for gentlemen of a certain age: Get your PSA test and take the results seriously.

“In today’s world, you can Google anything and you can find a reason to not see it as a real health warning,” she said. A positive result “means that you seriously need to go the next step and find out if it’s prostate cancer. That’s my new crusade.”

Andrew Gillum is “real deal” for governor, supporters say

The push to draft Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to run for governor has picked up two more supporters.

Mayor Lauren Poe of Gainesville and Mayor Eric Jones of West Park hopped on the bandwagon Thursday.

Gillum, a 37-year-old Democrat, has been the capital’s mayor since 2014. He first was a city commissioner, the youngest person ever elected to that body.

“As mayors from across the state of Florida, we know the importance of having a governor who understands the needs of our cities,” Poe and Jones, both Democrats, said in a joint statement. “We believe that Mayor Andrew Gillum’s nearly 14 years of local government experience will be a huge asset as the next governor of our state.

“We have admired Andrew’s innovative, inspired and forward-looking leadership,” they said. “He created a jobs program to help young people find quality work, and he has developed unique ways to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start businesses.

“Under his leadership, Tallahassee was named one of the top cities nationwide to receive designation as a TechHire community by President Obama’s White House, allowing residents to train for the jobs of tomorrow’s economy,” the mayors added. “In short, Mayor Andrew Gillum is the real deal.”

The jockeying for the 2018 governor’s race already has begun; current GOP Gov. Rick Scott is term-limited.

On the Democratic side, outgoing Congresswoman Gwen Graham, also of Tallahassee, has announced she is considering running. Other names mentioned include Democratic mayors Bob Buckhorn of Tampa and Philip Levine of Miami Beach.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam so far is the most likely Republican candidate to announce a run for 2018.

Gillum’s star has been rising steadily, especially after disclosures that his name was on a short list to be running mate to then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

He also flirted with running for the newly redrawn, Democrat-heavy 5th Congressional District that stretches from Jacksonville to Gainesville. But Gillum stayed out of the race, and former state lawmaker Al Lawson, another Democrat, won the seat.

Email Insights: Republican Governors Association takes aim at Gwen Graham

The 2018 gubernatorial race has officially begun — even though none of the likely candidates have filed paperwork to run.

In an email Thursday, the Republican Governors Association blasted outgoing Rep. Gwen Graham, one of several Democrats considering a 2018 run. The association said Graham’s office hasn’t responded to Freedom of Information Act requests made by the Republican Governors Association.

According to documents provided by the Republican Governors Association, the organization requested all documents related to Graham Companies, real estate and development projects in Florida, and the “American Dream Project” in Miami. The request was made in October; and in an email Thursday, the RGA said the documents would “give voters valuable insight into how she conducts her congressional office.”

“When it comes to transparency, Gwen Graham says one thing, but does another. Graham says she believes that Florida families deserve full transparency, but as her actions have demonstrated, she only believes in full transparency until it could impact her quest for political power,” said Jon Thompson, the director of communications for the Republican Governors Association, in a statement. “Graham should immediately release her congressional records so that Florida voters know exactly how she was using her influence as a Washington politician to benefit her political ambitions.”

Graham has resigned from the board and said Thursday she has no involvement in the project mentioned in the FOIA request.

“As the RGA probably already knows, I voluntarily resigned from the company’s board when I was elected to Congress, and I have no involvement with this project,” she said in a statement. “We are 23 months away from the Governor’s election in Florida, and there will be plenty of time for the RGA to engage in this petty nonsense and partisan attacks. For the rest of 2016, I’m focused on finishing the job I was elected to do and then enjoying the holiday season with my family. I recommend the folks at the RGA do the same.”

She continued: “So here’s some advice for the DC crowd from a mother: Turn off your Twitter accounts and your press release machines for a few weeks; go spend time with your family, visit friends, check out some museums, read a book, and join the rest of our great nation in spending a few weeks without the nonstop vitriolic back and forth of Washington type politics.”

The Freedom of Information Act doesn’t apply to Congress. According to a March 2016 article in Government Executive, correspondence between members of Congress and individuals, and draft bills are protected and considered private.

Thompson acknowledged in an email to FloridaPolitics.com on Thursday that the “law does not require” Graham to release the records the RGA is requesting. However, he said the group feels that “as someone running for governor, who consistently talks a big game on transparency, she would want to release these records so that FL voters know exactly what she was communicating to her colleagues and business interests.”

Graham is one of several Democrats believed to be pondering a run for governor in 2018. The North Florida congresswoman did not run for re-election, and is wrapping up her first term in the U.S. House. Earlier this week, WFSU reported that, during her final floor speech recently, Graham said she was fortunate to grow up in a “family dedicated to public service.”

According to WFSU, she went on to say she “never planned to follow in my father’s footsteps into politics. But as, as our country became more divided, my thoughts began to change.” Graham is the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham.

In April, she told Florida Politics that she realized her heart and her head are leading her “toward running for governor.” She stopped short of actually announcing, though has dropped hints about her intentions along the way. In October, she told a packed crowd at the weekly “Café Con Tampa” lecture series that she will “run a 67-county strategy” if she runs.

If she does decide to run, she could face a crowded field Democratic field. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are all believed to be considering a run. John Morgan has said he is weighing his options, after a group of South Florida politicos started a petition drive to draft him for governor. And a group of Democratic college students recently started their own petition in hopes of convincing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to throw his hat in the race.

On the Republican side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is believed to be gearing up for his own gubernatorial bid.

__Tallahassee-based reporter Jim Rosica contributed to this report.

 

Phil Levine tells his constituents that gridlock “is not an option”

It was almost exactly a year ago when the Miami Beach City Commission passed a resolution authorizing Mayor Philip Levine and City Manager Jimmy Morales to begin discussions with officials in Miami, Miami-Dade County and the Florida Department of Transportation on a project that would link Miami Beach to Miami via a wireless streetcar in what has become known as the Beach Corridor project. That system would also run through Miami Beach.

In an email statement issued sent Tuesday, Levine says he remains fully committed to the project, but won’t commit any financial resources until he gets full buy-in from the Miami-Dade County government.

“This is instrumental, as our taxpayers alone should not bear the full responsibility of building a rail corridor that connects Miami Beach to the City of Miami,” he writes. “But, we know that for it to be a successful system, connectivity throughout Miami Beach and key points in Miami are essential.”

Miami-Dade County has said it will apply for federal and state funding for its part of the Beach Corridor, but Levine said earlier this summer that Miami Beach would explore their own local alternative funding source,

The Miami Beach City Commission was scheduled to consider an interim agreement with Greater Miami Tramlink Partners last month, but that vote was delayed as city leaders said that they’d prefer more time to communicate with the public about the proposal, the Miami Herald reports.

In his communique, Levine refers to the $400 million plan to combat sea level rise as an example of how Miami Beach under his leadership knows what’s doing.

“We built a plan, funded it through responsible revenue choices and implemented a program that saw pumps installed, elevated roads and dry streets,” he writes. “Imagine our city today if we would have allowed political rhetoric and opportunism to guide the way as opposed to thoughtful and rational leadership?”

And Levine is promising the taxpayers of Miami Beach he’s not going to commit to anything until everyone in Miami, the state of Florida and the feds are onboard and on the same page.

“I know the process is never easy, but continued gridlock by policymakers is not an option, he writes. “We cannot allow “grandstanding” for political “points” to slow down the progress that we’ve made. This is why my commitment to you remains unchanged. I will ensure that a transparent process through open dialogue continues and that ZERO tax dollars are committed until we have the full support from our local, state and federal partners and then and ONLY then will this vision be brought back to the commission for their consideration.”

The Miami Beach Mayor also is looking forward to getting in on that major infrastructure bill that President-elect Donald Trump continues to talk about.

“We have a choice, ” he surmises. “We can either continue the empty transportation promises that have plagued our city and county for over 40 years by allowing it to be “demagogued,” or we can continue forward  without  committing funds and/or obligating our city contractually but pushing the process along internally so we are ready, willing and able partners when Miami Dade County commits to a connection across the causeway.”

Levine has not denied reports that he is considering a run for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, and being able to pull off the Beach Corridor project would add to his credentials for him to run a statewide campaign on. Other potential candidates include Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and trial attorney and major Democratic fundraiser John Morgan. 

John Morgan torn on possible governor run, and in no hurry

John Morgan has powerful split emotions about the prospect of running for governor in 2018 as a Democrat, and figures he has at least a year to decide.

Morgan, the 60-year-old Orlando trial attorney who championed Florida’s Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative this year, said others – not he – are pushing for him to run for governor. And while flattered, he insisted it’s not his idea, and he’s not giving it any serious thought yet.

“I don’t think I have to do anything this year, 2017,” Morgan said in an interview with FloridaPolitics.com.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not thinking about it now, if only when he’s driving around, kicking it around in his head.

“The advantage I have, for better worse, is they [any other candidates for governor in 2018] are going to have to spend $25 million at a bare-bones minimum to have any name ID. To me that’s a starting number,” he continued. “And so for better or worse, except for Miami and Fort Lauderdale, I[his Morgan & Morgan law firm featuring him in TV and billboard advertising] am in all those markets, and have been for 30 years or so. I also have the advantage of four years of [campaigning statewide for medical] marijuana, and a very big following. When people come up to me, they thank me for marijuana.”

A group of south Florida politicos, led by Democratic operative Ben Pollara, have put together “For The Governor,” a campaign pushing a petition drive to draft John Morgan for governor, through social media and other communications. Pollara was Morgan’s former campaign manager for United For Care, which ran the successful Amendment 2 campaign this year.

Pollara said he’s in the process of formally incorporating a For The Governor Political Committee and expects to begin raising money.

He and Morgan both stated that they had not discussed the initiative with each other, though Morgan hasn’t dismissed it.

“You’ve got to be careful because our egos can really get us into trouble,” Morgan said. “Everybody says, ‘I like you. I like you. I like you. I want you to do it.’ All of the sudden you like what you are hearing, and all of the sudden you go off on a venture you shouldn’t go off on, for a lot of reasons.

“I’ve got a great life.”

In the interview, Morgan quickly explored several reasons why he wouldn’t dream of running for governor.

* He professes no clear Florida governing platform at this point, other than a strong conviction that something must be done about low wages in Florida. And he’s not convinced that his being governor would be the most effective way for him to address that; he’s exploring another constitutional amendment initiative to do so.

“I would only want to do it [run for governor] if there was something that I thought that I could make a difference in. And what I worry about is, even if I defy all odds, and win, could I even get anything done with a Republican senate and house?” he said.

* He’s very close to U.S. Rep. Gwen Grahamthe most likely Democratic candidate for governor so far, and particularly close with her father, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham. And he expressed admiration for other potential Democratic candidates, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn,  and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

* He even likes some potential Republican gubernatorial candidates, citing Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran and former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, among others.

“If I find someone who inspired me, then I would go, ‘You now what? the state would be in good hands with this person.’ It doesn’t matter if they’re a Republican or Democrat,” Morgan said.

* His business interests are complex on a level approaching Donald Trump’s, and he’s not sure he wants to unwind, disengage or liquify anything. Besides his law firm, which is in 18 Florida cities and eight other states, his business interests including hotels, real estate, shopping centers, and attractions.

* Finally, he’s not crazy about enduring personal attacks and knows his profession and lifestyle leave him and his family wide open to ugly anti-Morgan campaign smears.

“I’ve been on TV for 30 years, so I’ve had people writing mean things to me, calling me with mean things, discussing my fat face, my, you know, whatever, so I’m used to mean things. But with this [draft John Morgan campaign] out there, the meanness out there ramps up a little. So I’m like, ‘Who wants this?'” Morgan said. “I’m used to the one-offs. I’m used to people writing me: ‘You’re an ambulance chaser.’ But I’m not used to this where everybody can weigh in. That’s been kind of unnerving.

“It seems like in politics people believe they have a special license to be meaner than usual. That’s what I’ve found these last few weeks,” he said, adding it bothers him, “Because I like to be liked.”

But Morgan does see reasons to run.

He’s not convinced Graham or the other Democrats can actually win. He’s at a point in his life when he’s contemplating the difference between being “successful” and being “significant.” He takes his victory with the medical marijuana initiative to heart on a humanitarian level. He likes that feeling. And he thinks more must and can be done.

“You know, there are things I believe very fervently. I believe that the real issue out there in America is people are not paid fair wages for a fair day’s work,” he said. “Now I don’t know what the number is. I don’t know what the number is. But I believe peoples’ frustration is, they go out, they do everything right, they put on a uniform, and at the end of the day they’re further behind than they were before.”

Perhaps the answer is another constitutional amendment initiative, one aimed at creating a living wage in Florida, Morgan said.

“I’ve already started researching what that language would look like. It may be that my best bet to do what I want to do would be to have a constitutional amendment. I now know how to navigate that world, after making lots of mistakes the first time around,” Morgan said. “But is $15 too much? Would that pass? What’s the magic number? I don’t know.”

The lessons Morgan draws from 2016 political victors is that voters are rejecting career politicians and the status quo, whether it’s Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica of Winter Park. Morgan is certain he fits the outsider identity. If he ran and won, he said he’d pledge a one-term tenure and donate the governor’s salary to charity.

He believes voters want someone who’s less partisan and more practical. Morgan has backed Republicans in the past and said he certainly would in the future. He even praised Gov. Rick Scott for being single-minded on jobs, and for delivering on that.

But mostly, Morgan said, voters deserve someone with compassion for them, and that’s a mark he believes he has.

“What I think is missing in politics today is compassion. I think it’s too much not about what’s for us but what’s for them,” Morgan said. “I don’t believe somebody should be a non-violent felon, go to jail, and not have their civil rights restored. That’s a crime. I don’t believe drug addiction is a crime. The leader I’m looking for is someone who is compassionate and thinks about people first. And I think that includes the minimum wage.”

Pollara and others pushing the draft-Morgan campaign have many of the same concerns about a Morgan run that Morgan himself expressed. Yet they also have his same concerns about the Democrats’ prospects without Morgan. The next governor will oversee another redistricting, which could lock a party’s power in Florida for another decade, Pollara cautioned.

The draft Morgan effort, he said, is “a product of anxiety we Democrats feel about this upcoming governor’s race. Now we’re looking at 2020 redistricting,” which could lead to a “generation of irrelevance” for Democrats.

Morgan also expressed a clear, proud sense of accomplishment, having pushed medical marijuana into Florida’s constitution.

“I got beat with the marijuana the first go around [in a failed 2014 campaign.] I learned my lessons,” Morgan said. “And I think the people who are supporting e the fact I didn’t quit, and I won, and I didn’t just win, I won in a big way.

“And what I did in four years was more than any legislator has done in the last 40 years.”

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