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Chris King calls for ‘universal condemnation’ of Joel Greenberg remarks

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King called Thursday for his election rivals to join him in denouncing Islamaphobia and Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg for promoting it in social media.

King, the Winter Park businessman running, in most polls, fifth among five Democratic candidates heading toward Tuesday’s primary election, has turned his attention toward Greenberg this week while pushing his campaign theme of racial and ethnic equality.

Greenberg’s comments, King declared Thursday, “deserve our universal condemnation.”

Greenberg entered the sights of King’s themed campaign stretch-run message Saturday when he posted a comment on Facebook that many took as anti-Muslim, sarcastically contending that Muslims had contributed nothing to civilized societies. Greenberg then engaged in a Twitter storm Monday night defending it, while threatening and insulting others.

Greenberg, a Republican, has declined to comment about the matter to Florida Politics.

On Tuesday King and fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum denounced Greenberg. On Wednesday King joined a protest rally outside Greenberg’s Lake Mary office.

The other Democratic candidates, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene had not released any statements on Greenberg’s comments or Islamaphobia since the the matter broke.

Until now. Greene quickly joined King’s call Thursday.

“As we end one of the holiest weeks for Muslims across Florida, this moment demands more than just conventional politics – an apology isn’t enough. The Seminole County Tax Collector needs to resign and today I’m calling on my fellow #FLGov candidates to join my call,” King tweeted Thursday afternoon.

“I agree with @ChrisKingFL, and I’m joining him in calling for Joel Greenberg to resign,” Greene tweeted back a few minutes after King’s tweet.

King, who vowed Wednesday to complete his gubernatorial primary campaign by campaigning on racial justice issues, declared in a news release: “This moment demands more than just conventional politics from the political establishment, and I’m calling on my fellow candidates for governor to condemn these hateful comments and demand the Seminole County Tax Collector resign his office.”

Fading in polls, Jeff Greene pulls remaining TV ads

Where is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene these last few days before Tuesday’s primary election? Not on TV. Not out in public.

The Palm Beach businessman who barreled into the race in early June and became omnipresent on TV through much of the summer is stepping out of the spotlight for the final push, his campaign is saying. Greene’s campaign is essentially going dark with six days left before the end of primary voting, putting energy into “grassroots” efforts.

He is focusing on mobilizing his organization for get-out-the-vote efforts and to get paid staffers and volunteers to lead the way with more intimate messaging on his behalf, while pulling campaign ads and limiting public appearances, according to a campaign spokesman.

Greene is running fourth in most polls, well back of the Democratic gubernatorial campaign leaders Philip Levine and Gwen Graham. But there will be no desperate, last-minute mass appeal to Florida Democrats.

Greene has spent more than $29 million, most of it on TV commercials and mailers, in the two months ending with the latest campaign finance reports, Aug. 10. But those are gone for the last few days.

“We’ve gotten our message out big with TV ad buys at a time when audiences were paying attention — and we’ve stayed in touch with voters and supporters. The last week of the campaign, the airwaves are flooded with political ads and no one is paying active attention,” his campaign spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren told Florida Politics in a written response to an inquiry about what’s going on.

“Jeff Greene has shifted his focus to ground game and get out the vote efforts in communities across Florida. The Jeff Greene campaign has volunteers and community organizers statewide, 100 paid phone bankers, well over 400 paid canvassers, and field offices in Gainesville, Orlando, Sanford, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and several offices in Miami,” she continued. “Others may choose to go big on already over-saturated airwaves, but you don’t become a billionaire by being conventional.

“Jeff Greene is still campaigning to win and focusing on getting his voters to the polls,” she continued.

As she said, it’s not conventional. Levine, Graham, Andrew Gillum, and Chris King are continuing to campaign with multi-stop days set into bus tours, with rallies, meetings with outside groups, a Jimmy Buffett campaign concert [for Graham], workdays, and other public appearances scheduled well into the weekend.

They’re not saying much about Greene’s strategy, perhaps except for the campaign of King, who’s the only Democrat trailing Greene in most polls.

“Chris is leaving it all out on the field and working his tail off in these final days,” said his campaign spokesperson Caitlin Lang, “barnstorming across the state on his ‘Fearless for Florida’ bus tour and bringing his closing message of racial justice and fighting institutional racism to more than 25 counties over the last two weeks.”

Chris King still pushing ideas as campaign end appears to loom

Democrat Chris King started his run for Governor in his own back yard — literally — declaring he would run a race based on ideas and detailed plans for a progressive governorship.

On Wednesday, he came home where it started, back to the Hillcrest Hampton House Senior Center he owns in Orlando, still pushing those ideas.

“I promised that before this election was ended, I would come back around, and come back here,” King told a gathering of mostly senior citizen residents of the Hillcrest Hampton House. “We are just days away from a historic election, and I’m in a tough race. We’ve got, I’d say, billionaires and bazillionaires down south, we’ve got people with famous families.”

And they’ve got commanding leads over him.

All recent polls of the five-person Democratic primary race show that King’s campaign is the political equivalent of being at least two touchdowns behind with 20 seconds left on the clock. And though everyone knows it, there’s no acknowledgment that victory isn’t possible — because there’s always hope for a Hail Mary, an onside kick recovery, and another Hail Mary.

Still, there’s already talk of a game played right.

“But what I think has set us apart in this race and has made us special if you’ve followed it closely, is we are trying to bring the best ideas,” King told the seniors, ticking off a few, including his detailed plans for affordable housing, justice reform, free community college and trade schools, and environmental protection.

All recent polls have the Winter Park businessman, once seen as a viable candidate, running a distant fifth out of five Democrats, typically pulling only single-digit support, sometimes as high as 10, sometimes as low as 2. That, after 17 months of campaigning.

The race now appears to be either former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine‘s or former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham‘s to lose; with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum making a late charge from well back, and Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene is falling out of contention, but still staying ahead of King.

King said Wednesday he’s trying to close on ideas, specifically on his ideas for justice reform, civil rights and fairness, “and so I’m ending with taking on what I call institutional racism in the state of Florida, taking on laws and policies that are not fair for people based on the color of their skin or where they’re from.”

That has focused much of his activities over the past couple of weeks and into the next six days. Meeting with the family of slain “Stand Your Ground” victim Markeis McGlockton in Clearwater. Speaking before a Muslim conference in Orlando. Calling for removal of a Confederate monument in Walton County. Talking about the history of lynchings with the NAACP at “the hanging tree” in Hernando County. And joining a protest Wednesday outside the office of Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, after his anti-Muslim social media comments.

“And it’s been so gratifying,” King added.

King also laid out some of the things he said made him an unusual candidate, and one elderly woman in the group called out: “You’re better looking!”

There’s always that.

Philip Levine talks home stretch in Gwen Graham and Andrew Gillum territory

Philip Levine believes his primary bid for Governor will come down to the wire on Tuesday, and the winner will undoubtedly face Republican candidate Ron DeSantis.

Levine spoke briefly with reporters Wednesday in the capital city, where he’ll reside if he’s victorious in the Aug. 28 primary and the following general election. Tallahassee is home to Democratic opponent Gwen Graham, who’s slightly ahead and in some cases behind Levine in most public polls. It’s also the stomping grounds of the city’s Mayor, Andrew Gillum.

“I understand myself and Gwen are right at the top,” Levine said shortly before a new poll gave him a one-point lead over the former Congresswoman. He’s aware the race could be a photo finish but believes his enormous investment in ground efforts — including 14 satellite campaign offices peppered across the state — will help him prevail. He spoke to supporters at Florida State University earlier on Wednesday and plans to hit the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida before the day’s end.

While confident but ultimately uncertain in his own race, Levine offered no wiggle room in the Republican primary: DeSantis, the Donald Trump-backed Ponte Vedra Congressman, will be the nominee.

A matchup against DeSantis, Levine said, means a fight against the President.

“I believe I’m the right one to go toe-to-toe,” the former Mayor of Miami Beach said. “This is going to be a fight between the Democratic nominee and the White House.”

He was asked whether his anti-Trump messaging was influenced by Democratic opponent Jeff Greene’s self-depiction of being Trump’s adversary, especially through television ads.

Not so. He said he began to bring up Trump “when the Donald got more involved in Florida.”

The President intervened in late June when he formally backed DeSantis on Twitter. Trump followed that endorsement with a campaign rally alongside DeSantis in late July.

Levine, who has had recent beef with Greene via battling television ads, also took a shot at the Palm Beach billionaire’s latest dip in the polls.

“We don’t have to worry about him too much anymore,” Levine said. “Based on the recent polls, I don’t think he’s too relevant anymore.”

Greene on Monday pledged to spend $5 million to get Democrats elected down the ballot, including those in hotly contested races to take back the state Senate.

Levine dismissed that as a political strategy and questioned whether Greene would still spend big on the party if he doesn’t get past the primary. He also contrasted himself with Greene, saying that before the race he spent “millions” to get Democrats elected.

“People talk about all of the things they’re going to do in the future,” Levine said. “They never talk about the things they’ve actually done.”

We asked Levine what he thinks of the Gillum campaign’s claim that their candidate is surging. Most recent polls have Gillum at third, an indubious jump that followed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ recent endorsement of and two rallies alongside Gillum. And Gillum’s campaign released results of an internal survey on Tuesday showing the Tallahassee Mayor leading both Graham and Levine by 10 points.

“I can’t comment on someone’s internal poll,” Levine said. But noted the results are an outlier from his constant internal polling and public polls.

He added: “We’ll know Tuesday night how accurate they are.”  

Poll: Democratic primary for Florida Governor a two-person, one-point race

Another day, another poll of the Democratic primary for Florida governor. Only this one shows Philip Levine on top instead of Gwen Graham, with Andrew Gillum surging late but perhaps from too far back to catch up in a week, and the others fading.

A new tracking poll from SEA Polling and Strategic Design, taken Sunday through Tuesday, shows former Miami Beach Mayor Levine leading the former U.S. Rep. Graham 26 percent to 25 percent among all Democrats surveyed, 27 to 25 among those who’ve already voted, and 28 to 27 among those who are the surest to vote in the primary.

The Democratic gubernatorial primary is next Tuesday, and increasingly looking like a two-person race.

Gillum is running third for all three groups, but eight to 10 percentage points behind Levine in each. Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene is lagging in the low- to middle-teens for support, and Winter Park businessman Chris King has all but stalled in the single digits.

Fifteen percent of Florida Democrats say they are still undecided about their choice for Governor, hardly enough to make a difference for anyone but Levine or Graham.

SEA’s latest poll was of 669 Democrats, and the firm is citing a margin of error of 3.8 percent.

Levine has slipped just a bit from an identifical survey SEA Polling conducted and released last week, and so the contest between him and Graham has tightened from a Levine lead that had been in the outer edges of the margin of error to one that’s virtually a dead heat.

Gillum appears to have benefitted the most from Levine’s slip. As with other polls released this week, his position has risen, likely due at least in part to his campaigning late last week with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

However, as with most of the other recent polls, Gillum remains significantly behind the leaders.

SEA finds that voters have pretty favorable views of Levine, Graham and Gillum.  Levine got a favorable rating from 57 percent of those surveyed and unfavorable from 18. Graham’s split was 54 and 20. Gillum’s was 45 and 11.

Bernie Sanders effect? Andrew Gillum touts poll showing him now tops

Andrew Gillum‘s fortunes clearly are rising, as shown by a couple of recent polls showing him surging into a solid third-place standing.

Now his campaign is touting the kicker: a new internal poll that has him strongly leading the Democratic field heading into next week’s gubernatorial primaries.

The poll from Change Research of San Francisco, released late Tuesday by Gillum’s campaign, has campaign communication director Geoff Burgan predicting the Tallahassee mayor and his campaign are about to shock the political establishment and the world.

The poll, taken Saturday and Sunday right after Gillum rallied in Tampa and Orlando with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, shows Gillum with 33 percent; former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham tied with 23 percent, each; and Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene fourth with 10 percent.

The poll is consistent with others showing Gillum rising, but looks like a clear outlier; all other public surveys have him third.

A new poll from the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative released Tuesday showed Gillum as a distant third behind Graham and Levine. One from StPetePolls.org also released Tuesday showed Gillum a solid third, not far behind, again with Graham leading, and Levine in second.

The Change Research poll of 1,178 likely Democratic primary voters was taken Saturday and Sunday.

“The Andrew Gillum for governor campaign is one week away from shocking the political establishment and the world,” Burgan said in a news release.

For months Gillum’s campaign has maintained its low-budget grassroots effort would lead to a surprise surge, which sounded all along like wishful thinking against the tens of millions of dollars spent by the campaigns of Graham, Levine, and Greene.

“This poll validates our theory that once voters hear about Mayor Gillum’s progressive platform, strong track record, and inspiring personal story, they’ll be excited to vote for him,” he continued. “While our opponents have been slinging mud at each other for weeks, we’ve run a positive race and with our campaign up on TV, we’re one week away from making history.”

Change Research declared that Gillum’s rise is dramatic since the firm last polled for him in May. The firm cited Sanders’ endorsement, appearances last week, and overall popularity with Democrats in giving Gillum a jump.

“This represents a significant improvement for Gillum from Change Research’s previous poll in May, in which he was at 13 percent, trailing Graham and Levine,” Change Research reported in a summary sheet for the poll. “The May polling showed that those who knew of Andrew Gillum liked him (32 percent favorable to 14 percent unfavorable), and his standing has only improved as voters have learned more about him. He has certainly done well introducing himself to Florida Democrats these past three months, as 76 percent of Democratic primary voters now have an opinion of him, with 63 percent viewing him favorably.”

The poll also found that 80 percent of Florida Democrats view Sanders favorably.

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham

FAU poll: Gwen Graham far out front in Democratic race for governor

Gwen Graham’s lead is building, Jeff Greene’s surge has turned into a slump, and Philip Levine is stuck in second gear, according to a new poll released Wednesday out of Florida Atlantic University.

The FAU Business and Economics Polling Initiative contacted 280 Democratic voters and found that Graham, a former congresswoman, is pulling 29 percent support in the primary race, giving her a double-digit lead over Levine, the former Mayor of Miami Beach, who was the pick for 17 percent of Democrats.

“One factor driving Graham’s lead is her support among females,” said FAU-BEPI director Monica Escaleras. “As the only female candidate, she leads the field with 32 percent of the female vote. Males also support her, but to a lesser degree at 25 percent.”

The true No. 2 in the race was “undecided.” Those who hadn’t made up their mind after several debates and candidate forums, as well as millions in ad spending, accounted for 19 percent of responses recorded by FAU-BEPI.

Following the leaders were Greene and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who tied with 11 percent support apiece. Orlando area businessman Chris King rounded out the pack with an even 10 percent.

Compared to FAU-BEPI’s previous measure, released last month, Graham has rocketed to the top of the five-way race. The July poll gave her a 4-point lead over Levine, 20-16 percent, with Greene in a close third at 14 percent and Gillum and King in the high single digits.

Greene is the only candidate to backslide from his previous standing in the FAU poll, a trend that has been mirrored in other surveys in the weeks since his campaign started putting millions behind negative ads attacking Graham for a megamall her family’s business is involved with and hitting Levine over policies that allegedly polluted Biscayne Bay.

Both Graham and Levine have pushed back against those negative ads.

Overall, the ordering of the candidates in the FAU poll is mostly in line with other recent polls of the primary race, though the spread in other recent measures shows a much closer race.

A St. Pete Polls survey released Monday showed Graham with a 27-25 percent lead over Levine followed by a surging Gillum at 21 percent, Greene at 15 percent and King in the low single digits. Notably, Graham and Levine were tied down to the tenth of a percentage point among those who said they have already voted.

An SEA Polling and Strategic Design poll from last week showed Levine with a 27-24 percent lead over Graham and a 30-28 percent lead among those who already voted.

The winner of the Aug. 28 Democratic primary will face the winner of the GOP nominating contest between U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The FAU-BEPI poll, conducted Aug. 16-20, used an online sample supplied by Survey Sampling International and used online questionnaires and an automated telephone platform with registered voter lists supplied by Aristotle, Inc. The margin of error is plus or minus 6.3 percentage points.

Gwen Graham rolls out Alison Lundergan Grimes endorsement, Miami ad buy

On Tuesday, Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham rolled out her latest endorsement, via Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Grimes, the youngest Secretary of State in the United States, is one of just two elected statewide Democrats in Kentucky.

Her endorsement quote reflected the realities experienced by women in the electoral arena.

“I’ve been inspired by the enormous, and growing, group of women running for office this year. Women bring a different perspective and leadership style to state government. We need more negotiators, collaborators and champions for equality in office, which is why Florida needs Gwen Graham,” Grimes said.

Grimes lauded Graham’s progressive bona fides.

“During her time in Congress,” Grimes asserted, “Gwen fought for a woman’s right to choose, the Affordable Care Act, and banning drilling off of Florida’s beaches. She was Florida’s only Democrat serving on the House Armed Services Committee, where she fought for Florida’s state’s troops, veterans and their families.”

“Secretary Grimes represents the kind of courage we need more of in our politics,” Graham said. “She continues to challenge the status quo and uphold Democratic values. I am proud to have her endorsement today and I look forward to collaborating with her in the future.”

In addition to rolling out the Grimes endorsement, Graham has also rolled out a new ad for the Miami market.

The evocatively titled “Fresh – Miami” refers to the candidate as “Bob Graham‘s daughter, Miami’s own Gwen Graham,” before going on to tout Graham’s 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood, support for President Barack Obama‘s clean energy plan, and opposition to NRA “Blood Money.”

The Graham team clearly sees room to grow in the Miami market, where local opponents Philip Levine and Jeff Greene have dominated airwaves.

Per the most recent St Pete Poll of the race, Graham is a distant 4th in Miami, with just 11 percent of support, behind Levine (38 percent), Andrew Gillum (21 percent), and Greene (17 percent).

Statewide, Graham fares better, in first place with 27 percent of the vote, with Levine (25 percent) and Gillum (21 percent) within spitting distance.

Florida GOP poised to offer a slate of really-white white dudes; should Ron DeSantis be worried?

Based on the latest polling, after next Tuesday’s primary elections the Florida GOP will offer this slate of statewide candidates:

Rick Scott for U.S. Senator.

Ron DeSantis for Governor.

Frank White for Attorney General.

Jimmy Patronis for Chief Financial Officer.

Baxter Troutman for Agriculture Commissioner.

Of course, there’s still time for Ashley Moody to slip past White. Or Denise Grimsley to edge out Troutman.

But if they don’t, goodness, this really is your father’s Republican Party.

Five of the whitest white dudes who have ever run for office in Florida will be the face of the Florida GOP in 2018. This isn’t exactly a change from previous election cycles, but there is something especially patriarchal about this lineup.

If I were DeSantis, I’d be a tad worried about being tied to such a non-diverse slate of candidates. Mind you, Florida voters do not vote for statewide offices as a slate, but in this Summer Slam of political matchups, there’s Wonder Bread on one side and (probably) Gwen Graham, Sean Shaw, Jeremy Ring, and Nikki Fried on the other.

I don’t know for whom I am voting, but I sure know which bunch I’d rather have over for dinner (as long as Patronis gets to come over regardless).

A member of Team DeSantis privately expressed some concern with the optics of running with three other white guys, none of whom is from south of I-4.

Florida Democrats, meanwhile, are salivating at the prospect of tying Troutman to DeSantis.

As voters were reminded Monday, via a mass text message that offered no clues who sent it, in 2012 Troutman was charged with domestic violence. Rebecca Troutman told deputies at the time that he threw a bedspread at her and that hit her in the face; Baxter Troutman said it didn’t hit her.

Since that incident, the Troutmans quickly reconciled, and Rebecca Troutman has been her husband’s most visible supporter.

But that won’t keep Democrats from plastering the photo of Baxter Troutman in an orange jumpsuit across the Sunshine State.

It’s not on the same level as a domestic violence charge, but Frank White’s staunchly-Christian-conservative viewpoints on abortion issues will continue to endear him to conservative Republicans, but it may also turn off moderate female voters.

Democrats would be smart to draw a sharp distinction in a midterm election that’s shaping up to have a giant gender gap.

According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll: Almost 60 percent of women said they were leaning toward the Democratic candidate in their district, compared to 42 percent of men.

Meanwhile, just 33 percent of women favored the Republican candidate, versus 50 percent of men.

This skew reaffirms the trend captured by a Pew survey earlier this month, which found that women, especially young women, were overwhelmingly likely to go blue this fall, writes Li Zhou of Vox.

DeSantis’ supporters, as well as most Republicans, will argue that it’s unfair to view him, Scott, White, Patronis, and Troutman as some sort of ticket. Even if they are, the Democratic slate is no ‘dream team’ either, they will argue.

But in a state as diverse as Florida, couldn’t the GOP have put forward one statewide candidate who is not a White-Guy-From-North-Florida?

Jeff Greene pledges $5 million for down-ballot races

Jeff Greene announced late Monday that he’s putting $5 million into a committee to help Florida Democrats in other races.

The Palm Beach billionaire is following through with an earlier campaign promise. He announced publicly in a July gubernatorial debate that he’d help elect Democrats down the ballot.

The money will flow through the Florida Defense Fund PAC. The committee formed at the end of July, according to a state database.

While the $5 million has yet to show on weekly financial reports, they will soon reflect contributions to several state Senate races and at least two statewide races for Cabinet seats.

According to Greene, he’s already sent money to Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried, both Democrats who have lesser-funded opponents to beat on Aug. 28.

Among Democratic candidates for the state Senate who have received checks, according to Greene: Kayser Enneking, a candidate for SD 8; Amanda Murphy, SD 16; Janet Cruz, SD 18;  Bob Doyel, SD 22;  Lindsay Cross, SD 24;  Rob Levy, SD 25; and David Perez, SD 36.

Doyel, Enneking and Perez face primary battles against other Democrats. Each is a seat the party is attempting to take away from Republicans.

“I’m the only person in this race able to go toe-to-toe and dollar-for-dollar with the Republicans to win in November,” Greene said in a statement. “And I’m committed to taking the Senate with me.”

It’s unclear if Greene will help fund federal races, but in a statement accompanying news of the PAC, he said, “This is my vision for Florida: I will help Democrats take back the Senate, make a dent in the House, and defend Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat against Rick Scott.”

Nelson, a Democrat, is facing a tough challenge from Scott, the current Governor. We’ve reached out to Greene asking whether he’ll contribute to Nelson’s reelection bid.

Saying he’ll “make a dent in the House,” Greene also appears willing to contribute to close races in that chamber.

Greene, who joined late the other four Democratic candidates for Governor, has self-funded and spent around $29 million on his own race against Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Andrew Gillum and Chris King. A billionaire, Greene believes that he’s the only candidate who can post a formidable financial fight against the Republican candidate, either Ron DeSantis or Adam Putnam.

“My opponents and I all have great ideas – but Democrats have had great ideas for the past 20 years, and we’re all tired of losing,” said Greene.

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