Gwen Graham – Page 6 – Florida Politics

Democrats call for Adam Putnam to drop out, resign after report of missed background checks

A Tampa Bay Times investigation into an apparent yearlong lapse in national background checks for Florida concealed weapons permits has started a wave of Democrats calling for Republican Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam to drop out of the Governor’s race or resign.

They were responding to a new report from the Times “Buzz blog” Friday afternoon that said Putnam’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs failed for more than a year to run national background checks on people applying for Florida concealed weapons permits.

The lapse may have resulted in unknown numbers of permits issued to people not qualified to carry guns in public.

A response put out by Putnam’s office reads, “To be clear, a criminal background investigation was completed on every single application. Upon discovery of this former employee’s negligence in not conducting the further review required on 365 applications, we immediately completed full background checks on those 365 applications, which resulted in 291 revocations. The former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again.”

Leading the pack was Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum:

“Adam Putnam’s rhetoric on guns has been dangerous — but this is far worse. His department’s failure to conduct background checks is a dereliction of Putnam’s duties, and he should consider whether he is able to continue running for governor or serving as commissioner of agriculture,” Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, said in a written statement Friday.

Gillum also released a video on Facebook that went into greater detail, railing against dangers that he says Putnam may have unleashed in the forms of armed people who were not screened.

Former U.S. Rep. and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“Drop out now, Adam.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine:

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine stopped short of urging Putnam to drop out of the race, but did say he should consider resigning from the agriculture commissioner’s post, and Levine called for an investigation.

“Negligence that threatens and costs lives must never be tolerated — Adam Putnam’s lack of due diligence and disregard to follow protocols endangered communities and put people’s lives at unnecessary risk. Career politicians like Mr. Putnam think this is just another bad day at the office — but when you conceal a level of negligence that endangers every resident, and every child, in Florida, you forfeit any moral right to lead.”

“This failure by his office to review background checks coincided with the tragic Pulse shooting — a lack of responsibility like this cannot be tolerated. An investigation should be opened immediately. These developments require an immediate response from Commissioner Putnam, starting with if he deserves to continue to serve in his current role.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King:

“Adam Putnam should resign.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch:

His district includes the scene of the horrible Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School slaughter in February. He said in a tweet that Putnam “must” resign.

“My blood is boiling. This is an unimaginable failure for anyone who serves the public. He made FL less safe. He put lives at risk. He must resign.”

State Sen. Linda Stewart:

Her district includes the site of the horrible Pulse slaughter on June 12, 2016, said Putnam “needs to resign.”

“I’m extremely alarmed at the failure by Commissioner Putnam to disclose that his agency had failed to conduct these critical background checks — allowing possibly mentally disturbed individuals and others who shouldn’t be disqualified, to be legally armed in Florida.”

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz:

“After twenty-two years of holding public office, we can now add an additional major accomplishment to Adam Putnam’s lifetime government employee resume: helping to put guns into the hands of terrorists. Putnam’s gross negligence may have allowed someone on the FBI terror watch list to get a concealed carry permit.
“How can a politician who can’t even fulfill their basic duty to keep Floridians safe be our next governor? Lets just think what some Republicans would say if Obama did this, they would ask for his birth certificate……again!”

American Bridge:

“Adam Putnam should resign immediately,” American Bridge spokesperson Zach Hudson said in an issued statement. “Not being able to log into the FBI background checks system should have resulted in Adam Putnam’s office calling an IT professional, not approving concealed carry permits to potential criminals.”

The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence:

“Adam Putnam clearly has more allegiance to the NRA and gun culture than he has to ensuring the safety of Florida’s citizens,” stated Pride Fund executive director Jason Lindsay.

The Times article cites a report from the Office of the Inspector General that says that starting in February 2016 the department could not get into the FBI’s federal background check database to see if applicants had issues in other states that should prevent them from holding concealed weapons permits in Florida. The situation persisted until at least March 2017, according to the Times. The problem existed because the clerk with that role could not log into the FBI’s National Criminal Instant Background Check System, according to the OIG report.

In the 2015-16 fiscal year, Florida received a record 245,000 applications for concealed weapons permits. In the 2016-17 fiscal year the record was broken again with 275,000 applications, the Times reported.

Without federal background checks, it could be impossible to screen out anyone who might be disqualified from carrying guns in public in Florida, who might have such issues as mental illness, the Times notes.

Gillum’s reference to Putnam’s rhetoric may have been to Putnam’s statement, in a tweet last year, that he considers himself a “proud NRA sellout.”

State teachers’ union endorses Gwen Graham

The Florida Education Association is backing Democrat Gwen Graham, a former schools’ counsel in Leon County, for governor.

 “Supporting Gwen Graham is an easy choice for anyone concerned about Florida’s schools. She is the public education dream candidate,” FEA president Joanne McCall stated in a letter to members Thursday night. “She supports increasing salaries for educators and wants to ensure that lottery money actually goes toward educational enhancements.”

All four campaigning Democrats have made those pledges, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum going so far as to pledge a minimum $50,000 starting salary. Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine also have made detailed pledges. Jeff Greene continues to pursue the silent phase of his fledgling campaign.

The leading Republicans, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, had no shot at the FEA endorsement.

Graham has pushed public education investments and improvements as her top priority since entering the race 13 months ago, and has held a series of roundtable discussions with teachers around the state. She’s also a former PTA president, and she began the WorkDays portion of her campaign at Miami Carol City Senior High School.

The Florida Education Association, with its 140,000 Florida teachers and school support professionals members, has long been a potent force in Democratic Party politics.

“Since beginning my campaign with a workday at Miami Carol City Senior High School, I have heard from countless educators, students and parents ready for a change in Tallahassee,” Graham said. “Earning the support of Florida’s teachers and school support professionals means the world to me. When I am governor, they will finally have a voice in the Governor’s Office. Together, we will end high-stakes testing, increase educators’ salaries, and restore our promise to Florida’s public schools.”

Survey says Philip Levine building lead over Democratic field

A survey of 600 Democratic voters shows that Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine continues to build his lead over Democratic opponents in the race for governor.

The poll, conducted this week by SEA Polling & Strategic Design, shows Levine with 32 percent of those surveyed, doubling up on Gwen Graham at 16 percent.

Andrew Gillum, with 11 percent, was in third, ahead of Chris King and Jeff Greene at six and four percent respectively.

31 percent of those surveyed were undecided.

Levine’s dominance is rooted in strong performances in Miami/Fort Lauderdale (where he has 47 percent support, per the survey) and the Tampa market (37 percent). In both regions, he is well ahead of Graham (13 percent in South Florida, and 20 percent in the Tampa area).

More closely contested: the Orlando market.

Andrew Gillum leads in that region with 19 percent, one point above Levine, with Graham and King at 12 and 11 percent respectively.


The anti-gun effect: Simple ads, big returns

Thanks in part to retweets from high-profile Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Philip Levine and Gwen Graham went viral through quick digital shorts that were conceived and produced in less than a day. 

Levine was the first to strike, releasing an ad Wednesday in which he provides his answers to a candidate survey distributed by the NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

Graham shortly afterward tweeted a more succinct version of Levine’s idea.

Both ads were shared by Hogg’s Twitter account, transmitting the candidates’ messages instantly to his 829,000 followers. Levine’s ad is floating above 222,000 views and Graham’s ad (shared first by Hogg) is just below the 140,000 mark. Both ads do not appear as sponsored content, though it’s unclear whether the campaigns used any money to boost them.

Even so, in a race in which millions of dollars are spent to reach voters on television, a viral ad is priceless and rare; the return on investment can be enormous, but there’s no step-by-step method for creating something that hundreds of thousands of people will voluntarily watch.

In hindsight of its popularity, Levine’s ad demonstrates the campaign’s ability to create something casual, clever and entertaining within a timely manner — all of which seem like a few good steps in the right direction toward creating something viral. As news media across the state caught word of an NRA questionnaire on Tuesday that vetted candidates on their pro-gun ideologies, the former mayor from Miami Beach’s team saw an opportunity to create something that would mesh well with the day’s minutiae and resonate with potential voters.

The production isn’t spectacular, but it doesn’t need to be. In the ad, Levine approaches a whiteboard that very plainly lists the NRA’s stances on gun issues in the state and explains that he stands opposite each position. The creative direction of the ad is what draws viewers in.

The clip is also unlike any other ad that candidates have produced this cycle — even Levine. The typical pan shots, music, and supportive headlines are absent, and Levine appears on camera in one rolling shot, with the exception of a few cuts to his dog and zooms on the whiteboard.

Graham’s bit came well after Levine’s, and took the idea of being casual and ran with it. It likely took all of 10 minutes to throw together. The quality is similar to what’s produced by an iPhone camera, and Graham simply uses a red marker to write “NO NRA MONEY” across the questionnaire in one shot while talking.

Hogg retweeted the clip with a quote, “The young people will win.” And with minimal effort, Graham got her message out. 

On Facebook, the ads haven’t picked up the same traction, but the reach still is noteworthy for Levine. A new database recently made available to the public shows that the mayor’s grabbed around 25,000 views with the ad on Facebook and anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 impressions, or the number of instances an ad is on-screen for the first time for a user. It’s backed with anywhere between $500 to $999. The data is presented in ranges.

Graham hasn’t promoted her video with money on Facebook. It had around 3,100 views as of publishing.

The testament to the power of social media likely won’t be forgotten by either candidate. And It could lead to politicians across the board, in any race, producing more timely campaign ads, sacrificing overall production value for getting the message out quickly — especially when there are influencers online who’ve demonstrated they’re willing to boost ideas friendly to their causes.

Patrick Murphy: ‘I’m proud to support Gwen’

Patrick Murphy is out, and he’s supporting Gwen Graham.

The Democratic former congressman made it official Thursday afternoon when he announced he was dropping his ambition to run for governor and support his former congressional colleague instead.

Murphy joined Graham at a press conference in Pembroke Pines Thursday afternoon to essentially declare that she already is the kind of candidate he wanted to run as. For months Murphy had preached the need for a more moderate, anti-hyper-partisan gubernatorial candidate and was considering taking that lane himself,  in a run that would have had him include Republican former U.S. Rep. David Jolly as a running mate.

“I have decided not to enter the race for governor because there is one Democratic candidate already demonstrating the leadership Florida needs and fighting for the values we share — and that Democrat is Gwen Graham,” Murphy stated in a news release issued by Graham’s campaign. “I’m proud to support Gwen because she’s determined to expand access to affordable health care in Florida, will always stand up to protect Florida’s environment, and will finally give our public schools the attention and leadership our children, families and teachers deserve.”

Murphy served four years in Congress representing Palm Beach and Martin counties in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. He lost that seat when he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate against Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in 2016. Jolly also briefly had been in that race, but dropped out before the Republican primary.

Murphy’s support helps solidify Graham’s quest for the more moderate lane in an August Democratic primary race that also includes Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King, and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene.

“I’m proud to call Patrick Murphy a close friend and am honored to have his support. In Congress, we worked together to ban oil drilling off Florida’s beaches and to restore the Everglades,” Graham stated in the release. “I was proud to support him in his campaign against Marco Rubio and, as governor, I will work with Patrick to restore our promise to public schools, protect our environment and build an economy that works for every Floridian.”

Jeff Greene pulling votes from Gwen Graham in South Florida, pollster says

The first poll since Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene entered the Democratic primary for Governor may indicate trouble for Gwen Graham’s chances among South Florida Democrats.

The survey, conducted by respected pollster Tom Eldon, polled Broward County and Palm Beach County Democrats and found Greene pulling 6 percent support in his home county, and 3 percent support in Broward.

Overall, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine leads the two-county poll with 39 percent support, followed by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 9, Graham at 8, Winter Park businessman Chris King at 5 and Greene at 4. The remaining third said they were undecided.

Based on those numbers, it looks like Greene’s siphoning supporters from Graham, not Levine as some Democratic onlookers primary have theorized. Of course, the landscape could change substantially if Greene were to actually start campaigning — he’s still radio silent one week after filing his paperwork.

The last regional poll of South Florida Democrats, commissioned by Levine adviser Christian Ulvert in April, showed Levine leading Graham 42-15 on his home turf with Gillum and King in the single digits.

In the new poll, Levine leads No. 2 finisher Andrew Gillum on the Broward side 38-12, followed by Graham at 11 percent and Greene and King with 3 percent support apiece.

The effect is even more pronounced in Palm Beach, where Graham slips into last place in the poll — a rarity for the North Florida Democrat, who generally lands in the top two with Levine.

That half of the poll also showed Levine as the top pick, ahead of his distant second King 40-8. Gillum and Greene tied at 6 percent a piece, while Graham nabbed just 4 percent among Palm Beach Dems.

The new poll also noted a high number of “surge Democrats” — those who reported paying “much more attention” to political and national news since the election of Donald Trump. Among the 60 percent of respondents identified as such, 45 percent were voting for Levine with Graham in second at 10 percent.

The SEA Polling survey was conducted June 3-5 by bilingual accent neutral interviewers reading from a translated script in English and Spanish. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.24 percentage points.

Chris King invests another $400K in gubernatorial bid after raising $78K in May

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King announced Wednesday that he raised $78,661 last month and kicked in another $400,000 of his own money to bring his total fundraising past the $5 million mark.

Nearly $410,000 of the May money went to his official campaign account, while his committee, Rise and Lead Florida, took in the balance. All told, King has now brought in nearly $5.1 million since entering the race for Governor in March 2017.

“After 20 years of one-party Republican rule, Floridians are ready for new leadership,” campaign manager Zach Learner said in the fundraising announcement. “We’re excited to share our progressive message with even more Democrats across the state of Florida.”

Including his $400,000 infusion last month, King has put more than $2.7 million of his own money on the line. The Winter Park businessman didn’t specify whether his May investment was marked down as a loan or a contribution, though he’s marked them down as loans for the past two months.

Neither report is viewable through the Florida Division of Elections, so his on-hand tally is mystery for now — full reports for May are due to the state on Monday. As of April 30, King had just under $2.5 million in the bank.

That total could see a substantial decrease, as the “outsider” candidate put some cash into airing TV ads in a half-dozen Florida markets last month — Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, Panama City and West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce.

The first of those ads, “New Direction,” saw the candidate publicize his pledge to not take campaign cash from the sugar lobby. The second, “Stand Up,” serves as an indictment of Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled state Legislature for doing “nothing” in the wake of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre.

King is the third of the four major Democrats to announce his May financials.

Earlier this week, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said he raised $1.3 million and matched it with another $1.3 million from his personal fortune, putting his overall tally at around $15 million.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said Wednesday that his campaign and committee raised a combined $361,750 for a to-date total of $3.4 million. He had $1.4 million in the bank at the end of April.

The last of the four majors, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, hasn’t previewed her new reports. She had raised nearly $7.5 million as of April 30 and had $4.7 million banked.

Chris King tempers expectations on his big gun agenda

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King told a room full of gun-control activists Wednesday that he’s carrying a big agenda for them if he’s elected governor but that he’s got some doubts about how much of it could be enacted, short of a Constitutional Amendment.

King, the Winter Park entrepreneur, has embraced the full Democratic platform led by banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and tightening background checks, and has added a few items of his own, such as a bullet tax to help pay for gun-violence prevention programs.

In downtown Orlando Wednesday, a gathering of about 30 activists, which included members of Moms Demand Action, March For Our Lives, the Youth Coalition to End Gun Violence, and some unaffiliated individuals, welcomed much of King’s agenda, and cheered and applauded him more than once, allowing him to declare them and himself to be “soul mates.”

But in anticipation of working with a Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, King also tapped the brakes.

“All of those things that you’ve talked about are going to be, if I win and I have two houses against me, are going to be very hard to pass,” King said.

“We’ve been to Tallahassee. We know all about that,” agreed one of the members of Moms Demand Action, a group that emerged from the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Ct.

“I want to be very honest about that. I’m even feeling there is a flexing of muscle by the NRA. They feel they’ve survived the first blitz,” King picked up. “They’re courage is coming back. You see it in Republican nominees. They’re feeling like the students will dissipate. … And so the way this works in my view is we have to keep the heat on.

“But likely the way it would work is some combination of things would be on the ballot, led by citizens, championed by a Democratic governor, in 2020, a presidential year. I think that’s when could make the strike. That’s how it would happen,” King added. “It certainly would be nice to see it earlier, but that’s probably how it’s going to happen.”

King faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene for the August 28 Democratic primary. All of them except Greene, who still is in the dead-silence phase of his campaign since filing last Friday, has made gun control big parts of their campaigns, especially since the Feb. 14 massacre of students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

King has stepped up the agenda with his proposal last week to use sales taxes from guns and bullets, plus an additional “safety fee” tax on bullets, and a couple other sources, to finance statewide gun violence prevention and study programs.

Wednesday’s roundtable discussion also veered often into other areas such as criminal justice reform, mental health funding, and education, allowing King to tout his proposals in those areas, especially his criminal justice reform platform reducing the housing of nonviolent offenders in prisons.

Gwen Graham’s first TV spot: PTA mom, Bob Graham’s daughter, end Republican rule

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has launched her first television commercial in the Tampa and Orlando markets, a spot that introduces her as a mom, PTA president, daughter of Bob Graham, and someone who seeks to take back Tallahassee from Republicans.

The 30-second spot “Service” begins with collages of Graham’s life with her children and as a PTA president, and then turns to pictures of her with her father, as a narrator declares that while in Congress she applied the lessons she learned from him. It then turns to her only overt political message.

“Twenty years with one party, right?” she says. “Everything with all the wrong priorities. The Florida Legislature has not taken Medicaid expansion, they have hurt education, they have used the lottery to reduce funding, but we’re going to take it back.”

Her campaign announced Monday that the commercial would play in the Tampa and Orlando markets with more than $1 million in the initial buy. Her campaign has bided its time in turning to TV commercials, while some of her opponents have taken to the airwaves earlier.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has been blanketing television statewide since January. Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King began his TV advertising in mid- May. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum does not yet have any official TV commercials out, but he’s been supported by a TV campaign from the Collective Super PAC.

This week Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene has entered the field.

On the Republican side, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam also has had commercials out for a couple of months, while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis has had almost daily appearances on FOX News.

The introductory moments of Graham’s new ad subtly focus on her being the only woman in the field, and the following shots, many of them following her around various job sites in her “WorkDays” program, emphasize her empathy for individuals, with her trademark hugs.

“Everything I do is through the prism of being a mom,” Graham states.

Chris King releases new digital ad, ‘Being Bold’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is releasing a digital ad Wednesday that offers a broad, introductory look at his life, career, and positions on issues ranging from affordable housing to guns, and health care to criminal justice reform.

“I am the outsider with new ideas and fresh vision who is willing to display the political courage that this state needs to get things done,” King concludes in his remarks.

The two-minute, 23-second video, “Being Bold,” is being released on the internet and through social media backed by a six-figure buy, the campaign states.

The ad restates some of the positions King has cited in his first two statewide television commercials, including his pledges to take no money from the sugar industry and to “stand up to the NRA.”

The spot includes video from his campaign kickoff 15 months ago, to his April Democratic debate performance, to his criminal justice reform tour last month.

King is up against former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene in the August 28 Democratic primary to run for governor. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

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