Gwen Graham – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Email insights: Rick Kriseman hits Andrew Gillum over ‘smear campaign’

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman slammed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum in an email Friday for “using dirty Republican tricks and tactics” to smear primary rival Gwen Graham.

The email, sent out by Graham’s campaign, is the latest round of drama relating to Collective SuperPAC. It’s connected to The Collective, a national group that supports African-American political candidates.

The so-called “dark money” super PAC has been running ads for weeks across the state slamming the former Congresswoman for being a moderate, or even a Republican sympathizer.

Now that a new round of ads is rolling out in the Tampa Bay area, Kriseman said he’d had enough.

“It is disappointing to see an out-of-state secret money super PAC come into our city and attack a fellow progressive Democrat,” Kriseman said. “After 20 years of one-party Republican rule in Tallahassee and with Donald Trump in the White House, Democrats must stand as a united front to win back our state in November.

“St. Petersburg Democrats will reject smear campaigns. They want something to vote for — not against. We have many strong candidates running in this Democratic primary and we won’t win back our state by using dirty Republican tricks and tactics. We must be better than them and show Florida voters a new path forward to end the status quo in Tallahassee.”

The second-term St. Pete mayor joins a chorus of Democrats who have blasted Gillum over The Collective’s targeting of Graham, including Jacksonville DemocratsRuth’s List and three former Florida Democratic Party chairs, among others.

Gillum, for the most part, has remained silent on the third-party group’s smears. He also was slow in issuing a denouncement — from his campaign, not himself — after Sunshine State News writer and Gillum supporter Leslie Wimes called Graham a “skank.”

Gillum and Graham are running for the Democratic nomination alongside Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, Winter Park businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. The primary election is Aug. 28.

Update: More Tampa Bay-area Democrats are standing in Graham’s corner.

On Friday afternoon state Sen. Darryl Rouson, St. Petersburg City Councilor Darden Rice and Tampa City Councilor Mike Suarez joined Kriseman in admonishing Gillum for the third-party ads.

“I strongly condemn all ad hominem attacks against Gwen Graham or any of our Democratic candidates for Governor. I urge all candidates to refrain from hiding behind dark money committees that hide their donors and expenditures. We don’t need this type of politics in Pinellas or Hillsborough Counties or anywhere in Florida,” Rouson said.

Rice said she was “outraged to see Andrew Gillum’s negative Super PAC ad try to smear Gwen Graham’s progressive record. On the first day of her campaign for Congress, in conservative Panama City, Gwen Graham stood up for LGBTQ Floridians and supported marriage equality.”

Suarez, who is running to succeed Bob Buckhorn as Tampa Mayor, added that “the same day Gwen Graham was uniting Democrats against Donald Trump’s anti-refugee policies, Andrew Gillum’s Super PAC was purchasing ad time to attack her. That says everything Florida Democrats need to know about this race.”

In addition to more quotes from Tampa Bay pols, the Graham campaign cited a PolitiFact post debunking The Collective’s claim that voted “against President Obama 52 percent of the time” during her one term in the U.S. House

Chris King digital ad offers his highlights from Democrats’ debates

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is launching a new digital video ad offering two minutes of his highlights from the three Democratic debates this month.

Swing for the Fences,” provides eight clips of King’s better moments in the debates, plus one of Democratic front-runner Philip Levine‘s response to a King attack that leaves Levine getting jeered. There’s also a shot of rival Gwen Graham looking annoyed as King makes an indirect attack on her. Democrat Andrew Gillum appears in some of the debate shots but doesn’t get a close-up or a line. Democrat Jeff Greene has not yet appeared in any debates.

Interspersed in the video are text compliments lifted from media coverage about King’s debate performances.

King’s campaign said the ad would target Democratic voters on Facebook, statewide, as part of the campaign’s ongoing six-figure online media buy.

The ad shows King, the Winter Park entrepreneur, mentioning his positions on such topics as affordable housing, criminal justice reform, marijuana legalization, wage growth, immigration, and abortion.

“If you want the status quo, I’m not your guy,” King says in one of the debates, as the ad wraps up. “If you want to swing for the fences and dream again, I’m Chris King, and I want to be your governor.”

Poll: Philip Levine and Gwen Graham tight, Chris King in third

A new poll from RABA Research is finding similar results from one disclosed earlier this week that the Florida Democratic primary race for the governor’s election is close to a dead heat between former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

The poll, using random digit dialing and excluding cell phones, surveyed of 660 Florida Democrats last Friday and Saturday, found Levine’s support at 27 percent, Graham’s at 26 percent, Winter Park businessman Chris King at 15 percent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 8 percent, and Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene at 3 percent.

Just 21 percent of those surveyed said they did not know, or that they wanted someone else.

“The race is a coming down to the wire. Phillip Levine and Gwen Graham lead the field with Chris King coming in a strong third,” John Davis of RABA Research said in a news release. “The coming weeks will be critical in determining whom Democrats put up as their nominee.”

RABA is a reasonably new polling outfit claiming bipartisan roots, founded in 2016 by Republican media strategist Kim Alfano and Democratic campaign consultant Brad Anderson, among others. Their polls have been cited by FiveThirtyEight, Politico and NBC News, among others, though their record is slim thus far. FiveThirtyEight has assessed just two of their polls, giving them only a C rating, and a very slight Democratic lean.

This survey does not take the usual “likely voters” track for Democrats; instead, it redistributes weight between super voters and new voters, with those who indicated the potential to vote in the August 28 primary. Among those surveyed, 79 percent they were almost certain they would vote, 10 percent said probably, and 11 percent said there was a 50-50 chance.

RABA reported a margin of error of 3.8 percent for overall results.

Two things this poll has in common with one conducted by the Republican-leaning political research organization Let’s Preserve The American Dream earlier this month while differing from many other polls: the overall conclusion that Levine and Graham are in front, in a very tight race; and a survey sample that took in a large percentage of female voters – 59 percent in the RABA survey. That’s reflective of the past two Democratic primaries in Florida, in which women made up 60 percent of the turnout.

Levine’s been running TV commercials almost all year; Graham started hers, only in the I-4 corridor, early this month; and King launched his statewide in April. Greene launched a huge ad buy this week, after the survey.

Among other findings:

— Graham was the only Democrat that had a majority of respondents having formed an opinion about her, but just barely — 52 percent.

— She also had the best favorable/unfavorable ratio in the pack, with 43 percent saying they had a favorable opinion of her, and 9 percent an unfavorable opinion. Levine’s ratio was 36 to 13 percent; King was 29 to 11 percent; Gillum was 26 to 10 percent. Greene, who might have been remembered by respondents at that point last week only for his failed 2010 U.S. Senate campaign in which he found himself fighting off several negative stories, registered 11 percent favorable, 21 percent unfavorable, with a huge 68 percent saying they are not sure.

— Just 29 percent said Florida was heading in the right direction, 48 percent in the wrong direction, and 23 percent said they were not sure.

— The cross-tab breakouts showed standings in all 10 Florida media markets, with Levine doing well in most of South Florida; Graham in Orlando and much of the Panhandle; Levine leading Graham comfortably in Tampa; Gillum holding down Tallahassee; and King with sizable advantages in Jacksonville and Gainesville, while also slightly leading Levine in West Palm Beach, Greene’s home turf.

Gwen Graham’s new TV spot focuses on Medicaid expansion

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is launching her second television commercial today — once again only in Tampa Bay and Orlando — and pushing hard for Medicaid expansion in Florida.

Her latest 30-second spot, “Absolute,” begins like a dramatic movie trailer with pounding music and flashing images of Tallahassee and someone being rushed on a hospital gurney, as Graham begins, “It’s disgusting what’s going on in Tallahassee. It didn’t used to be this way.”

That cuts to the obligatory reference and images of Graham’s father, former Gov. and U.S. Sen Bob Graham, as a narrator reminds viewers that he expanded health care and then noting that it’s now up to his daughter.

Gwen Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, then declares, “It is an absolute failure of the Republican Legislature that we haven’t taken Medicaid expansion. We will take Medicaid expansion.”

She also states another wish, a little vaguer and somewhat less of a pledge: “And every Floridian should be able to buy into the same type of insurance that Tallahassee politicians get.”

Graham has pledged to work with the Legislature to expand health care, and she has said she would take it directly to the voters with a state constitutional amendment if the Legislature refuses to act.

“Medicaid expansion is critical to our state. As governor, I will work with the Legislature to expand health care — and if they won’t, I will veto their priorities until they are willing to listen to the priorities of everyday Floridians,” Graham stated in a news release about her new TV commercial. “And if the Legislature refuses to act, I believe the people of Florida will do their job for them.”

Graham faces Jeff Greene, Philip Levine, Andrew Gillum, and Chris King in the August 28 Democratic primary. Greene, Levine, and King have been running statewide television commercials, while, so far, Graham has appeared content to concentrate on capturing the I-4 corridor, from where much of the Democratic vote came in the 2014 and 2016 primaries.

Gillum’s campaign has not yet gone up on television, although a national political committee supporting him ran statewide ads for him earlier this spring.

The winner gets to take on the Republican nominee, either Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam or U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Adam Putnam with five county sherriffs

Panhandle sheriffs line up behind Adam Putnam for Governor

Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign announced Wednesday that it had locked down another eight endorsements from Republican county sheriffs.

Included in the new bloc of backers, all of whom hail from the Panhandle, were Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson, Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley, Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford, Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison, Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson, Jackson County Sheriff Louis Roberts III and Liberty County Sheriff Eddie Joe White.

 “As a true native Floridian, Adam possesses an undeniable love for the citizens of our great state and has shown it countless times during his career. Adam has supported law enforcement officers even though the political climate has been turned against us in recent years. I support Adam Putnam because I know he will do what is right for the people of Florida,” Johnson said.

All of the Panhandle sheriffs claimed Putnam, a Bartow Republican, was the best choice out of the seven major guv candidates when it comes to public safety, and many of them also stressed the core strengths the Putnam campaign has touted over the past year he’s been in the guv race — that he is both the most experienced and the most “Floridian” candidate running to lead the Sunshine State.

“It is profoundly humbling to have the support of our sheriffs and law enforcement and to have them embrace my Secure Florida First Agenda,” Putnam said in a news release. “To lead Florida, to protect Florida, to keep Florida safe, you must know Florida and you must put Florida first. Today, we recognize that to put Florida first, we have to put law enforcement first.”

The sheriffs announced Wednesday make for 17 backers county lawmen so far, with the nine who announced their support last week hailing from the Tampa Bay region. He has also been endorsed by the Florida Fraternal Order of Police.

Last week’s sheriff nods came with an equal number 30-second videos where each sheriff announced his support and ended with the same campaign catchphrase: “Adam Putnam stands with law enforcement and we stand with Adam Putnam.”

Putnam faces Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Republican primary. Through May, he was far in the lead, fundraising-wise with more than $30 million raised for his campaign and political committee compared to around $10.8 million for DeSantis, whose total includes $1.1 million he raised for his now-defunct re-election campaign in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

Running on the Democratic side are Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Winter Park businessman Chris King, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene.

The primary election is Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

Gwen Graham seeks Rick Scott’s records on Florida’s federal family separation facilities

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is going after state public records on what Gov. Rick Scott‘s office might have known about the immigrant child detention facility in Homestead and “any other facilities in the state.”

Her public records request submitted Tuesday declares that such detention facilities have created “a moral crisis.” Graham is demanding to know what Scott’s office knows about transfers of unaccompanied children to Homestead and when he and his office knew it.

In a news release, Graham also called for Scott to take a stand against the federal policy: challenging President Donald Trump in court and dispatching the state’s legal and child welfare advocates to assist the children in detention.

She charged that the children separated from their parents and sent to the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children are “being held hostage by Trump for political purposes.

It a “sick game,” Graham added.

“Seeing photos of these children, listening to their screams, I think of my own children and how hard I would fight if anyone tried to separate us,” Graham stated in a news release. “Floridians deserve to know what Rick Scott knows about the Trump administration using our state in their political plot to separate families and what he’s doing to assist or stop Trump from bringing children to our state.”

Graham is requesting all records between the state of Florida and the federal government concerning the child detention facility in Homestead as well as any others in the state.

She’s seeking records relating to the federal policy begun in April of prosecuting almost all undocumented immigrants, a process that leads to the parents essentially being jailed while the children are sent off alone to live in harsh detention centers without their parents. The resulting stories, pictures, and videos of terrified and anguished children have horrified much of the world, resulting in widespread outrage and finger-pointing. Yet the process continues.

Scott issued a statement saying he does not favor the policy, but also pointing fingers and not calling for any immediate action to stop it.

Graham and almost all the Democrats have called for immediate actions to stop the policy. Her public records request also is a response to reports that the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children may be holding up to 1,000 children mostly brought from the southwest border under this policy. She’s also referencing unconfirmed reports that there may be other such facilities either in Florida or in the works for Florida.

Graham called on Scott to stop President Donald Trump‘s administration from using Florida in their plans to separate families and to immediately take action to assist the children reportedly being transported to Florida from the border.

“Floridians need more than just words — they need action. Governor Rick Scott should immediately challenge Donald Trump in court to stop him from using Florida as a pawn in this sick game of separating families and detaining children,” Graham stated in the news release. “If Scott won’t stand up to Trump, I will. Unless the Trump administration reverses this cruel and inhuman practice, one of my first acts on my first day as governor will be to take Trump to court.”

In addition to urging Scott to take legal action, Graham urged other actions:

— Immediately asking Attorney General Pam Bondi and his Scott’s general counsel to coordinate with all state attorneys, law firms engaged by the state of Florida, legal aid organizations, and Guardian Ad Litem programs to obtain volunteer advocates for each of the children transported to Florida.

— Immediately order the Florida Department of Children and Families, and all of its community contractors, to coordinate with the federal government in providing the best possible temporary living conditions for the kids transported to Florida and in quickly reuniting them with their families.

“These children are so strong — but we can’t expect them to carry this pain alone. They need someone to be their voice in court proceedings. They need someone to ensure they’re being cared for while separated from their families,” Graham added. “We know Trump won’t do it — so now is the time for our state’s leaders to step up and show compassion. These are children. Regardless of politics, we each have a moral obligation to do everything in our power to help them.”

Jeff Greene launches two TV commercials, blasting Trump, remembering Dad

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene is airing his first television commercials to Florida this week, starting with a 30-second spot showing him being tough with his Palm Beach neighbor President Donald Trump.

He is also launching a 60-second spot that highlights his father’s economic struggles and what they mean to him now.

Greene is going up in a big way, spending $2.9 million of his own money on this week alone on the TV ads and a digital buy, which his campaign said is four times the dollar amount of his closest Democratic competitor.

Greene, the Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor, entered the race June 1. And after a lull, he is leaping into a battle royale that already has Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Andrew Gillum and Chris King racing toward the August 28 Democratic primary for governor.

The 30-second ad is called “Jeff Greene Stands Up to Trump,” but might as well take the name of the commercial’s tagline that is an early theme of Greene’s campaign rhetoric: “The timid need not apply.”

A press release Tuesday morning states: “Greene’s unique appeal to Florida Democrats lies in his ability to spend whatever it takes to go toe-to-toe with historically better-funded Republicans in the general election to help Democrats regain control of the governor’s mansion for the first time in 20 years without being beholden to special interest groups.”

The Trump commercial begins with a narrator declaring, “Jeff Greene stood up to Trump on national TV.” Greene is then shown appearing on CNBC in a pre-2016 election interview in which he says, “I know enough about Donald Trump to be scared to death to see him as our president.”

The narrator then takes over, adding: “Is standing up to him on gun safety, affordable health care, and women’s choice. But Jeff is the only candidate in America who was willing to stand up to Trump in his own dining room.”

That features a brief video clip, without audio, of Trump and Greene standing a few feet apart from each other at Mar-a-Lago angrily yelling and gesturing at each other.

In the longer commercial Greene tells the story of how, when he was 15, his father lost his textile mill machinery business in 1970 after the New England textile industry collapsed.

“When you lose your job you lose your dignity. You lose your pride. You could see the angst in his eyes,” Greene recalled.

“In Florida today, people are barely live week-to-week, paycheck-to-paycheck, and I know exactly what it’s doing to them because it happened to my family,” Greene says, as the video turns to shots of individual Floridians.

“We should have a responsive government that takes care of their needs. And as Governor, I’ll make sure that happens.”

The commercial then seeks to take viewers to the heart, though some might see it as melodramatic.

“Jeff Greene is running for governor, but maybe he’s really running for his dad,” the narrator concludes.

[The links have been broken but the videos can be seen here.]

Philip Levine, Gwen Graham close in new poll

A new poll produced by the research organization Let’s Preserve the American Dream finds the Democratic gubernatorial race tight between Philip Levine and Gwen Graham, with newcomer Jeff Greene having a lot of ground to make up.

The poll was privately circulated June 12 by Ryan Tyson, vice president of political operations for the Associated Industries of Florida. Tyson also led the polling for the Let’s Preserve group, which has surveyed the race for two years.

This latest poll, taken June 6-9, shows Levine, the former Miami Beach mayor, with 24 percent of likely Democratic voters; former Congresswoman Graham with 21 percent; Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum with 11 percent; and Orlando businessman Chris King with 4 percent.

Greene, who filed to run June 1, received 3 percent. Thirty-seven percent of Democrats were undecided.

In a cover memo, Tyson noted that while Levine has a much wider lead in other polls, a comparison of internals, demographic samples, convince him that “this race is as close as the top lines suggest.”

In particular, the Let’s Preserve poll heavily sampled women voters — 58 percent of the survey group — taking in account the high female turnouts of the past two Democratic primary elections.

The Democratic gubernatorial primary may be the most competitive Florida has seen in a very long time, Tyson said.

“This one has not been given the attention it deserves,” he added. “It’s historic.”

The poll was conducted June 5-9 with 800 likely Democratic voters in Florida and high percentage [52 percent] over cellphones; it cites a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent, meaning Levine and Graham were essentially tied.

At that time, Levine and King were the only ones heavily advertising on television. King had just begun airing TV ads only a couple of weeks earlier; Greene had been in the race only a few days and hadn’t yet begun campaigning.

Graham launched her first TV commercial on June 6.

Polling also found that Graham and Levine were the only Democratic candidates to have cracked 50 percent in name identification, and are the only ones with significant favorability ratios.

Levine, who has been on TV since January, has a 69 percent name ID and a 43-5 percent ratio of favorable to unfavorable opinions among the Democrats surveyed.

Nevertheless, 21 percent have no opinion of the former mayor.

In contrast, Graham has a 38-6 percent ratio of favorable to unfavorable, with 17 percent having no opinion of her. Gillum’s ratios were 24-8 percent, with 17 percent offering no opinion; King is at 16-5 percent, with 19 percent having no opinion. Greene is 8-6 percent, with 19 percent having no opinion.

This leaves much room for potential movement in those numbers before the August 28 primary, as the report points out.

“The fun has just begun in this primary,” Tyson remarked. “Levine is up, but Graham has cash and is communicating. Now a supposed self-funder [Greene] is in and if he does begin to spend, who will he take from?

“Expect some changes in this one as spending really starts to ramp up.”

Jeff Greene preparing to launch Governor’s race ad blitz, with education on his mind

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene is getting ready to reintroduce himself to Floridians with his first round of TV commercials starting next week.

And while he’s remaining coy on the content, the Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor is making it clear that public education reform is at the top of his list of issues.

Greene, who filed for the race June 1, has just ten weeks until the August 28 Democratic primary to do what no Democrat has done in more than a year of campaigning (at least according to polls showing a substantial undecided pool): distinguish himself from the pack.

He’s intent on doing so, he said, by convincing voters that it’s not just about a Democrat winning in November, but about a Democrat having the ability to turn things around in Tallahassee.

“It’s all well and good to say I have good ideas. You have to be able to get things done. The way I look at this election, for me, this is like an eighteen-wheeler moving down the highway, you know, pretty high-speed. It’s basically the Republican governors and the Republican-controlled Legislature that has sat in Tallahassee for a long, long, time,” Greene said in a lengthy interview with Florida Politics Friday afternoon.

“What that truck has done, is it has dismantled a lot of things I’m talking about. It has not been focused on upward mobility for people who are kind of behind the eight ball. It has not been focused on improving education, or taking care of people who need help from Tallahassee,” he continued. “So you need someone who can, number one, jam the brakes on that truck, turn it around and start going the other way quickly.”

During the interview, Greene took mild, dismissive potshots at his Democratic rivals: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Winter Park businessman Chris King, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

“When I stack my resume up against these other guys, you just don’t think, Andrew Gillum? He’s a perfectly nice guy,” Greene said. “But he’s in his 30s or something,” said the 63-year-old Greene. “He’s never been in the economy. He’s been a mayor. He has good ideas? I don’t know. I don’t really believe that he, or Chris King, or any of them really have the ability, the skill set to go into something as complex as an $88 billion budget in the state of Florida and turn all of these things around in a big way.”

Greene repeatedly pointed to details of his life story, starting from a childhood of modest means, and how his opportunities for quality education helped make him a successful real estate investor and developer, and a very wealthy man, to demonstrate his work ethic, empathy with people struggling to make ends meet, the root of his goal for Florida education, and a demonstration that he can succeed.

“Do I want to stack up my resume alongside the resumes of Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, Chris King, and Philip Levine?” he said. “All day long.”

He laughed when reminded that Gov. Rick Scott offered a similar rags-to-riches life story when he, like Greene, ran an outsider campaign.

Greene offered some respect toward Scott, saying he works hard for what he believes, but also took some fairly respectful shots at the Republican, suggesting that his Republican priorities have been all wrong for Florida, and are only working for wealthy people such as Greene and Scott.

In contrast, Greene leveled blistering attacks on fellow billionaire-turned-politician President Donald Trump, Greene’s neighbor in Palm Beach, calling him a “narcissistic, egocentric, cheap guy,” and declaring he can’t wait to fight with him on issues.

Greene’s is a fledgling campaign, still bringing on consultants and not disclosing most of them yet. After a silent first week, he only began going public this week with public appearances and media interviews.

The Florida Politics interview was by phone from his Palm Beach office.

The TV commercials start next week, with promises of a “robust digital strategy” to go along with them.

Greene, who spent $24 million of his own money on his failed run for the U.S. Senate in 2010, said he’s willing to contribute his own money again because he and his wife Mei Sze Greene already have committed to donating billions of dollars to charity. As long as they’re doing so, he said he’s convinced he can make the most difference for people as governor, so what’s a few tens of millions more?

Previous reports have quoted Greene as saying he’s willing to spend up to $200 million of his own money. But Friday, he dismissed that figure as perhaps a flip answer, and certainly both far beyond necessary and probably pragmatically impossible anyway, considering how short the campaign will be.

Yet Greene plans to almost entirely self-fund his campaign, as he did in 2010. He said he does not want to be accepting donations from anyone who might come back thinking they were holding IOUs, a scenario he accused Scott of following and Levine of risking. Greene said he might open up to small donations, perhaps with a $100 maximum, so that people can participate.

“I’ll spend as little as I have to, but we will spend whatever it takes,” he said Friday.

Greene begins his life story by describing his education, and it seems that is where his campaign will start.

In 1970 his father’s business, selling machine equipment to textile mills throughout New England, went bust when the entire New England textile industry went bust. The family’s middle-class lifestyle vanished. His parents moved from Worcester, Mass., to West Palm Beach to start over, and never really recovered back to middle class. But even then, Greene said, Florida’s schools were considered “not that great,” while Massachusetts schools were found among the best.

So, a 15-year-old Greene was left to live with an elderly great-aunt, to finish high school. That got him into Johns Hopkins University, which led to Harvard Business School.

Almost fifty years later, he said, he can’t believe that Florida’s schools still rank among the nation’s lowest quartile in spending and quality. And on the flip side, Massachusetts is one of the nation’s hotbeds for 21st-century high-tech companies and venture capital investment, he said, while Florida is not.

[Levine, who also spent much of his childhood in Massachusetts and then became a successful and wealthy businessman has made the same argument.]

“To me, this is ridiculous,” Greene said. “How can a state, how can a people be that complacent where they would accept this level of failure in the most important thing of all, which is educating our children, providing them with the tools they need to succeed?”

Education is not a new top-priority for the Democrats. Graham, a former public schools counsel and PTA mom, has declared it her top priority throughout her campaign. Gillum has proposed a minimum $50,000 salary to attract quality teachers. Levine has proposed a $10,000-a-year pay hike for teachers.

King has laid out several education proposals, paid for in part by money saved from his plan to reduce prison incarceration.

Like King, Greene is proposing free community college. Like several candidates, including Republican Adam Putnam, he’s offering more vocational and technical education.

But Greene distinguishes between what he has in mind — technical education for 21st-century jobs — and what he said Putnam is considering, which he argues is technical education for existing jobs, something Greene predicts will be going away soon, in the next wave of technology.

Greene also seeks mandatory preschool early education for all 3- and 4-year-olds.

He pressed for an emphasis on making sure students can read by third grade. He said he would find ways to reintroduce arts, music, and other humanities education back into all the schools, arguing that such teaching is critical to making students want to learn and become well-rounded adults. He argued for early education in computer coding.

Greene is not opposed to standardized testing, saying its necessary to benchmark where students are, but he said he wants it rolled back. Teachers have to have the time and flexibility to teach, he said.

The state’s universities need to be improved to compete with the nation’s best, to be world-class, not just pretty good, Greene said.

But the priority must be on pre-K education, he insisted.

Greene cited a study on returns on investment in education: “Early childhood education, it’s like a 100 times return on investment, over universities,” he said.

Greene dismissed the notion that he has to figure out now how to pay for it all right now, contending there will be time for deep dives into the budgets to find the money. He said he’d seen studies suggesting that his preschool idea could cost $1 billion-$1.2 billion, which, without being specific yet, he said ought to be easily found in the state’s $88 billion annual budget. The rest of it is a matter of turning the truck around on Republican priorities, he suggested.

If the money can’t be found, Greene said, he would be open (as a last resort) to raising taxes on “the super rich” — like himself — to pay for education.

“We’re undertaxed,” he added.

“If the cost of being undertaxed is we are destroying the lives and not giving opportunities to our children, then perhaps we should look at that. I just don’t think that is the problem yet. We have to look at the low-hanging fruit first,” Greene continued.

“We’re not a poor state. We have a huge talent pool. People moving here all the time. All the retirees. It’s not like we’re a coal mining state where all the coal mines have closed. We’re a state that’s generally growing. We have more and more retirees, and more and more tourists and more and more people coming here. We have a vibrant economy, it [education] is just something we’ve not cared about.”

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Closer look at November

Who cares? And what do they care about?

Those were two very telling — but perhaps overlooked — questions recently surveyed by the Florida Chamber. By determining how voters feel about the state’s direction and what tops their list of priorities before they head to the ballots, the Chamber’s latest poll helps to inform guesswork ahead of the midterm election, when Florida will elect a U.S. Senator, Governor, Cabinet and a slew of other positions.

Gun issues, the chamber found, have taken a back seat compared to results of an April poll in which gun-related concerns topped the list of statewide voter priorities. Currently, “jobs and the economy” rank first, topping the list for 14 percent of voters, followed by “education” at 13 percent and “gun issues” at 10 percent.

Another telling survey item gauged whether voters believe Florida is on the right or wrong track. The question is a strong predictor of voter turnout.

At the state level, Republicans are in control. This meshed well with how Republican voters feel about the state’s direction. An overwhelming majority (roughly 76 percent) answered “right track,” while just 10 percent felt the Sunshine State is heading in the wrong direction and 11 percent were unsure.

On the other hand, 50 percent of Democratic voters answered “wrong track,” while 29 percent felt the state is headed in the right direction; 17 percent were unsure.

Meanwhile, independent voters overall had a more positive interpretation of the state’s direction than Democrats. More than half answered “right direction,” 27 percent answered “wrong direction,” and 18 percent were unsure.

In total, around 52 percent of respondents felt the state was headed in the right direction. Just 30 percent believe the state is on the wrong track; 17 percent are unsure.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

Scott rebuts report on debris removal — Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has refuted suggestions that it steered contracts to companies to remove debris in areas especially hard-hit by Hurricane Irma. A CBS4 investigative report this week showed two companies, which submitted emergency debris removal bids at the request of the state, invoiced more than $43 million for their post-Irma services. The report claims that similar companies already under contract could’ve done the same work for $13 million. Scott responded to the report, saying the emergency services were needed: “It’s easy for these vendors to look back and say they would have shown up and completed the work for cheaper, but in the days following the storm, they were clearly overleveraged and did not have the people or equipment to fulfill their commitments. I will never let special interests get in the way of storm recovery. We sent additional resources to get the job done for a community that needed help and given a choice; I would do the same thing again.”

Putnam downplays missed background checks — Following a Florida Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam responded to questions about a Tampa Bay Times report published last week showing that an employee under his supervision failed to use a background check system (one of a few) required for some Floridians who wish to obtain a concealed-carry license. The Commissioner told reporters that “public safety was not at risk” and that none of the 291 permit holders who have since had their licenses revoked were arrested during the lapse. The initial Times report found that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) went unused for a little more than a year in 2016-17 because an employee could not log in to the system. Putnam’s office has told the public that only 365 applications would’ve required use of the NICS, because two other databases are used for most applicants. When asked how applicants got by without further review, Putnam said, “It was a thing that happens to anybody with a computer: She (referring to the former employee) emailed I.T. and said, ‘my password isn’t working.’ They emailed her back with instructions on how to fix the problem. By her own admission, she dropped the ball.”

Amendments face uphill battle — A poll conducted by the Florida Chamber shows that, as of now, only a few proposed revisions to the state’s Constitution could pass in November. Of the 13 ideas primed for the ballot, just four met the 60 percent voter approval threshold needed to pass an amendment, although many surveyed voters were “unsure” of each proposition. The amendments with enough support currently, per the poll, include: Amendment 1, which would increase the state’s homestead exemption on property taxes; Amendment 3, which would give voters sole discretion on future gambling expansion; Amendment 7, which would extend death benefits to families of military and first responders killed on duty; and Amendment 8, which would impose school board term limits and let the state establish schools without school board approval.

Horrible’ citrus season ends — The United States Department of Agriculture this week forecast Florida citrus production for the 2017-2018 season will be its lowest since World War II. The USDA estimates Florida is on track to wrap its season with 44.95 million boxes of oranges, its premier citrus crop. Before Hurricane Irma, a storm that authorities described as “lethal” to citrus groves, private estimates expected Florida growers to produce 75 million boxes of oranges. Each box weighs 90 pounds. “This brings a very difficult citrus season to a close,” said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. “We look forward to a quiet, resilient season in the fall.” The silver lining for Florida farmers awaits federal action. A federally funded $2.36 billion disaster package and a $340 million block grant are expected to dramatically mitigate losses incurred by Hurricane Irma.

Troubled nursing home gets small victory — The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where 12 residents died during a power outage that followed Hurricane Irma, won a small dispute in court this week after a judge ruled the state must provide requested death records to the Broward County nursing home for “a reasonable fee.” The ruling comes after the Rehabilitation Center was asked to pay $5 each for paper records of the nearly 6,000 deaths that occurred across the state at the same time, reports Michael Moline for Florida Politics. The nursing home requested the records in the hopes of establishing that its staff acted reasonably in declining to evacuate residents before Hurricane Irma swept through the state.

Cabinet reaches conservation easement milestone

With the recent approval of more than 8,300 acres purchased through a unique conservation easement program, the Florida Cabinet is touting a more than 1,000-percent increase in acres preserved under three sitting members of the Cabinet who’ve been at their posts since 2011.

Those members include Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Current Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis replaced the former CFO Jeff Atwater, who was elected in 2011 and 2014.

Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet marks an easement record.

The easement program, known as the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, is a cooperative between the state and local ranchers that seeks to preserve active agriculture ops and the environmental benefits they offer. On Wednesday, the Cabinet surpassed 50,000 acres of protected land through 45 easements in total since Scott and most of the Cabinet took office.

“We must continue to prioritize the conservation of our agricultural lands and world-renowned natural spaces,” said Commissioner Putnam. “Through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, we partner with farmers and ranchers to preserve the invaluable pieces of our rural economy and environment to help preserve what makes Florida such a special place to live.”

Wednesday’s approved easements include Goolsby Ranch in Highlands County, Howze Ranch in Manatee County, Sampala Lake Ranch in Madison County and Rodman Plantation in Putnam County.

Instagram of the week 

Nominate an ‘Agriculture Woman of the Year’

Agriculture Commissioner Putnam is accepting nominations for the 2018 “Woman of the Year in Agriculture” award, which recognizes women in all areas of the industry who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.

Dr. Martha Rhodes Roberts, 2017 Woman of the Year in Florida Agriculture. Nominations for 2018 are now open.

Nominations can be sent by mail to Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Plaza Level 10, The Capitol, 400 S Monroe St., Tallahassee FL 32399-0800. By fax, 850-617-7744. Or email to Clay.Hollis@FreshFromFlorida.com.

More information about the “Woman of the Year in Agriculture” award and past award winners can be found at FreshFromFlorida.com.

The deadline for submitting nominations is July 31.

Patronis highlights AOB abuse arrest

As lawmakers and elected officials target abuse of assignment of benefits, or AOB, Chief Financial Officer Patronis is spreading the word that those that engage in the form of insurance fraud could face severe criminal penalties.

In a news release this week, Patronis drew attention to the case of Timothy Matthew Cox, who arrested earlier this month for an AOB fraud scheme that impacted 19 homeowners in eight counties across Florida and in one Texas County. Cox owns Nationwide Catastrophe Services and Restoration Response Services, which he allegedly used to pocket almost $140,000 for unfinished home repairs needed after natural disasters.

Jimmy Patronis highlights the crackdown on AOB abuse.

“Criminals who prey on Florida families after a hurricane or tropical storm are some of the worst we see,” Patronis said. “This type of fraud has skyrocketed and impacts all Florida consumers.”

Per the news release, the Bureau of Insurance Fraud — overseen by Patronis — found that “Cox pressured homeowners to sign an AOB contract to have damages repaired.” But, “after receiving the insurance payments, Cox’s team never started any of the work they were contracted to perform.”

And according to Patronis, Cox’ case may not be an isolated one: “With more than 100 ongoing investigations statewide, we are coming for anyone who takes advantage of our residents during vulnerable times.”

The Week in Appointments

Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority

Luz Weinberg and Leonard Boord were appointed this week to serve terms ending April 6, 2022. Weinberg, 46, of Miami, is the CEO of GlobComm, LLC, and is a graduate of Florida International University. She succeeds Cliff Waters. Boord, 57, of Miami, founded Slon Capital. He currently serves on the Florida International University Board of Trustees.

Hernando County Board of County Commissioners John Mitten will serve during the suspension of Commissioner Nicholas Nicholson for a term ending Nov. 16, 2020.

Broward College District Board of Trustees

Matthew Caldwell, not to be confused with the state Representative from Lehigh Acres, will serve a term that began June 14 and ends May 31, 2022. He is the president and CEO of Florida Panthers Hockey Club. Caldwell currently serves on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club.

Women’s Hall of Fame

Adela Hernandez Gonzmart, Janet Petro and Lee Bird Leavengood were inducted Thursday by Gov. Scott. Gonzmart, (1920-2001), helped manage “The Columbia” — the oldest restaurant in Florida — and was a community advocate who helped co-found the Latino Scholarship Fund at the University of South Florida. Petro, 58, has worked as a commissioned officer and helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army and was the first female Deputy in the history of John F. Kennedy Space Center. Leavengood, 89, has a long history of contributing work to the University of South Florida. She championed the creation of the University of South Florida’s Division of Senior programs, now known as the Osher Lifelong Learning Center.

FDLE upgrades alert system

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says it updated its AMBER and Missing Child Alert Public Notification System this week.

Using what’s called an Everbridge platform, people can now receive AMBER and Missing Child Alerts through text messages as well as email. In the coming months, citizens will also be able to sign up to receive alerts through voice calls, TDD/TTY messaging, and through mobile device apps.

Known for its work during Hurricane Irma, the Everbridge platform will soon be handling AMBER Alerts.

To use the new system, however, they must create an Everbridge account (click here). Current subscribers will continue to receive email alerts, but to access the additional functions, an Everbridge account is needed.

Everbridge will use your email and phone numbers to send Florida AMBER and Missing Child Alert notifications only. Information will not be sold or distributed. Everbridge is used by government agencies to issue emergency alerts, like severe weather warnings, nationally and in Florida.

FWC to meet in Sarasota

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet June 19-20 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota. Meetings both days are open to the public.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. and the public will be provided opportunities to speak on agenda items each day. The Commission will also provide time for public comment on subjects not on the agenda at the end of the first day. Those who wish to offer comments during this period will be asked to make sure their comments are not related to any agenda item.

For the full June 19-20 agenda and links to background reports, go to MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings.”

Those who can’t attend can follow coverage at Twitter.com/MyFWC (@MyFWC) and join the conversation by using the #FWC2018 hashtag. Check the Florida Channel for possible live video coverage at TheFloridaChannel.org.

FWC: Don’t forget about dive flags

For some counties along the Gulf Coast, the annual quest for bay scallops begins today.

But before Floridians jump into the water, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants them to hoist their dive flags, which signal to nearby boaters that there are divers down below or at the surface.

“Displaying and understanding what constitutes a proper divers-down symbol are critical,” said Capt. Tom Shipp of FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “These safety devices are meant to alert boaters to the presence of people under the water’s surface and to give them plenty of room.”

The iconic red rectangle with a white diagonal stripe must be displayed via a flag on a vessel or a buoy in the water. Each must be at least a foot in length and width if presented from the water, and at least 20 inches by 24 inches and flown at the highest point of a vessel if used in flag form.

Vessels are instructed to stay at least 100 feet from a flag when maneuvering through rivers, channels and inlets, and at least 300 feet from a flag in open waters. Divers, unsurprisingly, are asked to remain within the same boundaries of their flag.

Scallop season begins in Dixie County and a portion of Taylor County today and lasts through Sept. 10. In Franklin, Levy, Citrus, Hernando and the Northwest portion of Taylor County, the season begins July 1 and continues through Sept. 24. Pasco County’s season starts July 20 and ends July 29, and Gulf County’s season takes place Aug. 17 through Sept. 30.

Lawmakers ask for legislative action amid background check report

Politicians across the state chimed in with criticism following a Tampa Bay Times report that showed the Florida Department of Agriculture failed to use one of a few background check tools for more than a year.

A few Democratic state legislators have taken that criticism a step further and are calling for legislative action in the wake of the report.

Linda Stewart calls for action in the background check snafu.

State Sens. Linda Stewart of Orlando and Kevin Rader of Delray Beach penned a letter to Senate President Joe Negron requesting the creation of “a special select committee under Senate Rule 1.5 ‘to provide the measure of full transparency the public demands from their elected officials.’”

Rader, who is vice chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the Department of Agriculture, said he was not made aware of the issue during the 2018 Legislative Session.

“Was it a cover-up?” Rader posited. “Was it a way to rubber stamp what they knew they had already done?”

Similarly, in the state House, Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz, whose district encompasses Parkland, wrote a letter to House Speaker Richard Corcoran asking him to convene the House Government Accountability Committee and the Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee to address the report.

Miami Democrats chip in for new Coral Gables fire station

State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez and state Rep. Nicholas X. Duran this week presented a $1.5 million check to the City of Coral Gables for the purchase of land required to build a much-needed new fire station.

Funding for the land purchase was secured during the 2018 Legislative Session. It will help Coral Gables take the first step toward constructing a fire station in Cartagena Park. Currently, traffic congestion has limited first responders’ access to the area.

Jose Javier Rodriguez and Nicholas X. Duran present $1.5 million to the City of Coral Gables.

“Ensuring and supporting the public’s safety is a top priority for the City of Coral Gables. Senator Rodriguez and I are proud to support added protection measures by continuing to work closely with our municipal partners,” Duran said in a prepared statement. “Efforts to secure increased safety and expand green space is undoubtedly a win for all residents.”

Following the land purchase, the city is expected to build its fourth fire station at the park, which connects to an 11-mile bike trail along Old Cutler Road. Per a news release, “The fire station will provide necessary supervision to the area as well as enhanced safety for all visitors enjoying this regional attraction.”

Dana Young delivers check to Redefining Refuge

A Lutz-based nonprofit that advocates for sexually exploited and trafficked youth got a visit this week from Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young, who arrived with a $500,000 check from the state in tow.

Dana Young awards $500K to a Lutz-based nonprofit that advocates for sexually exploited and trafficked youth.

“Redefining Refuge fights for women and children who have been victims of sexual abuse and works to end the domestic sex trafficking of minors,” Young said. “Redefining Refuge ensures those they serve receive the specialized care they need and deserve, providing fundamental needs, such as safety, shelter, clothing and food, as well as educational, psychological or emotional support.”

Redefining Refuge founder and director Natasha Nascimento thanked Young and the Legislature for the funds, which will help the nonprofit expand its suite of services for victims.

“This appropriation will truly have a significant impact on the women and children we serve, by allowing us to further our positive contribution to the lives of human trafficking victims by equipping and empowering them to build strong foundations for their futures,” she said.

Rene Garcia wants DACA fix ASAP

Hialeah Republican Sen. Rene Garcia used his platform at the Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairmen to call on Congress to pass permanent fixes for DACA, an Obama-era policy that protects from deportation young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Rene Garcia wants a DACA fix … now!

Garcia and the BHCC said they were in support of a proposal being pitched in Congress that would provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers,” alongside stricter border security laws. Garcia commended CD 26 U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo for helping push that permanent fix.

“DACA has been great for the U.S. economy and recipients are estimated to contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to economic growth over the next decade. Congress must take a pragmatic approach in ensuring a path for Dreamers, while also strengthening our safety and enhancing border security,” Garcia said. “Through bipartisan compromise, Congress has an opportunity to find middle ground, push politics aside, and protect not just the Dreamers, but also all people who call the United States home.”

The alternative to that proposal, preferred by hard-line House conservatives, would give Dreamers temporary protection in exchange for ending rules that allow legal immigrants to sponsor their family members entry into the U.S., a practice derogatorily referred to as “chain migration.”

FSU Medicine among most selective schools

When prospective medical students apply to Florida State University’s College of Medicine, the odds are stacked against them.

Of the 7,200 FSU med-school applicants in 2018, just 120 were admitted. That’s a 2.6 percent acceptance rate, giving FSU the third spot in U.S. News and World Report’s list of medical schools with the lowest acceptance rates. The Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and Stanford University took the top two spots, respectively.

FSU College of Medicine Dean John P. Fogarty.

“We’re obviously pleased to see so much interest in this medical school and our unique, community-based and patient-centered approach, but we are even more excited about what a quality pool of applicants means in terms of helping us achieve our mission,” College of Medicine Dean John P. Fogarty said.

Moreover, while the med school may be selective, it boasts a diverse student population. The Class of 2022 includes 69 women and 51 men, as well as 15 black students and 15 Spanish, Hispanic or Latino students.

Those numbers make it among the top 10 for enrollment of both black and Hispanic students — the only school to do so within the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Career fairs for evacuees

Nineteen local workforce boards will host a statewide, construction industry-focused job fair beginning June 12 in cities and towns across Florida. The events bring together construction and related companies seeking to hire Floridians and individuals displaced by Hurricane Maria for a variety of high-paying jobs.

“Puerto Rico evacuees, veterans, Hispanics and other job-seeking Floridians are encouraged to attend,” said Julio Fuentes, President and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Julio Fuentes with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello.

Whether an entry-level laborer or a skilled engineer, hiring companies offer paid, on-the-job training, so applicants of all experience levels are welcome to apply. Additionally, Uber is providing discounted rates to all individuals traveling to and from the career fairs using discount code CAREERSOURCEFL.

Locations holding a one-day career fair between June 12 and July 11 include Bradenton, Clearwater, Crestview, Fort Myers, Fort Pierce, Jacksonville, Kissimmee, Lake City, Lauderdale Lakes, Madison, Milton, New Port Richey, Ocala, Rockledge, Stuart, Vero Beach and West Palm Beach. For dates and locations, click here.

FSU sports get props from Scott, Cabinet

At a Cabinet meeting this week, Gov. Scott and the Cabinet celebrated the long-term success of Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin and the newly cemented legacy of the Florida State softball squad with a pair of resolutions.

The one lauding the 2018 Seminoles softball team, fresh off winning their NCAA tournament, listed off accomplishments including their “do-or-die heroics” against Louisiana State in the Super Regional and their six-game run from the elimination bracket to their sweep of the University of Washington in the championship series.

Gov. Scott and the Cabinet honors Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin and legacy of the FSU softball squad with a pair of resolutions.

Individuals getting enshrined in the doc include WCWS Most Outstanding Player Jessie Warren, ACC Pitcher of the Year Kylee Hanson and the ACC Freshman of the Year Sydney Sherrill.

The resolution celebrating Martin recounted his first win for the ‘Noles, which came against rival Miami in 1980, before rattling off some of the most impressive stats among active NCAA baseball coaches — in his 39 seasons at the helm, FSU baseball has “won 1,987 games; scored 21,606 runs; recorded 21,623 strikeouts; hit 2,956 home runs and placed 49 former players in Major League Baseball,” the resolution said.

He also got a clap on the back for being the all-time winningest coach in NCAA baseball and having the second-best winning percentage in the record books.

Correction

Ed. Note — We misspelled the name of Collier County School Board and Constitution Revision Commission member Erika Donalds in last week’s Capitol Directions. We regret the error.

Capitol Directions

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