Gwen Graham – Page 6 – Florida Politics

Front-runners Gwen Graham, Adam Putnam challenged according to new poll

In the Florida gubernatorial race so far, neither party has emerged with a clear frontrunner, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll released Tuesday.

For Republicans, Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam has a slight lead ahead of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, 27 percent to 23 percent. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is in third place at just seven percent, while forty-three percent remain undecided.

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham holds a narrow lead over Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, 20 to 17 percent. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is third with 10 percent, with Orlando businessman Chris King in fourth with 4 percent; 49 percent are undecided.


Both races for the lead are within the poll’s 4.5 percent margin of error.

Mason-Dixon polled 500 registered Democrats and 500 registered Republicans Jan. 29-Feb. 1.

Regarding GOP name recognition, Corcoran appears to have his work cut out for him. Only 7 percent of those polled recognized the name of Florida’s House Speaker, with 70 percent unfamiliar with him.

Only King gets lower marks, with 78 percent unfamiliar with him.

Geographically, Graham leads all Democrats in three significant parts of the state, except for the Tampa Bay region — Florida’s most prominent media market — where Levine enjoys a slight one-point lead.

As for the GOP, Putnam leads in Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area (which makes sense, considering he is from Polk County), while DeSantis leads by 11 points in North Florida (28-17 percent) and by a single point in Southeast Florida.

Republicans aged 65 and older, who make up 39 percent of GOP voters in the poll, are Putnam’s most reliable demographic group, favoring him by a 32-to-25 percent margin over DeSantis.

Among women voters, Putnam leads Republican with 26 percent. DeSantis is next with 21 percent; Corcoran is at six percent.

Both Graham and Gillum ‘s candidacy, if successful, would be historic, as Florida has never had either a female or black governor.

With female voters, Graham leads in the Democratic race, getting 25 percent support. Levine is next at 13 percent; Gillum is at 12 percent.

Gillum leads among black voters with 22 percent, to 17 percent for Graham and 13 percent for Levine.

Among Hispanics, Graham leads with 21 percent, followed by Levine with 12 percent and Gilliam at 11 percent.


At East Tampa workday, Gwen Graham ignores opponents’ attacks

Gwen Graham held her latest “Workday” in East Tampa, spending Friday afternoon learning about technical education at a nonprofit dedicated to teaching computer skills in Hillsborough County middle schools.

As a former U.S. Rep. and current Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Graham is the early front-runner in the race for her party’s nomination — attempting to take a seat Republicans have had locked for nearly two decades.

Besides the verbal shots from Democratic competitors, Graham has also been subjected this week to some harsh invectives from the Republican Governors Association.

It’s criticism she ignores.

An RGA statement chastised Graham for hypocrisy on the issue of transparency, noting that her office didn’t respond to a 2016 Freedom of Information request for documents and correspondence out of her congressional office that involved Graham Cos. (a private family business), the American Dream Miami mall project, as well as any real estate or land deals.

“Graham talks a big game on transparency, claiming that she goes ‘above and beyond’ while attacking others on the issue,” the RGA statement said.

“But, before leaving Congress, she refused to release records that would have provided voters valuable insight into how she used her influence as a Washington politician to benefit her political ambitions.”

“I’m not going to comment on what the RGA does for political purposes,” Graham told Florida Politics Friday afternoon. “I think anybody who knows me knows that I’m an extremely transparent person. “

Graham spokesman Matt Harringer added on Monday that the RGA attack began immediately after Graham started asking for public records regarding a massive sinkhole beneath a Mosaic gypsum stack that was kept secret in 2016.

He also said that FOIA does not apply to Congress.

“Even though FOIA does not apply to Congress, when the press inquired about the RGA’s request for information, we went above and beyond what was required, performed the search they asked for and answered the question to the press,” Harringer wrote in an email, adding that there were no records to even give “because the subject was never discussed in our office.”

“It’s just politics,” Graham said Friday about the RGA attack. “I don’t play politics.”

In fact, running for governor is about as political as it gets, but the daughter of former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham made it clear she will not engage with the RGA.

Instead, she stayed on message — saying she’s committed to talking to the people of Florida about what she’ll do for them if elected this fall.

The field of candidates vying to succeed Rick Scott grew by one last week with the entry of Ponte Vedra Beach GOP U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Democrats noted that DeSantis’ declaration that he’ll “drain the swamp” in Tallahassee (controlled by Republicans for decades) and his admission that he didn’t have an opinion on a proposed ballot initiative to allow people who’ve paid their debt to society to earn back their voting rights supports the idea that he seems a candidate best suited to run for federal office, not state government.

“If you’re going to run for governor,” Graham allowed, “you better be able to talk about Florida issues and what you’re committed to doing.”

Another potential GOP gubernatorial candidate, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, also ignited a firestorm of criticism this week when his political action committee aired a television ad depicting a man (presumed to be an undocumented immigrant) shooting a frightened young white woman.

When asked, Graham concluded: “There’s no place for ads like that. We all need to hold each other to a higher standard, and we all know what that ad was intended to invoke.”

On the complex issue of illegal immigration, Graham said there’s a need for Congress to address the issue with a comprehensive reform bill, something currently not on the table at the moment.

However, as for some 690,000 people in the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) program, their fate rests with a Donald Trump-imposed March 5 deadline to deal with their status before deportation.

Graham said that “we’ve gotta take care of the DREAMers” now, ideally through a “clean” DACA bill.

“We’re better than this,” she said. “Border security is something that we can talk about, but let’s talk about in a productive way.”

She says it will require members of both parties to have a conversation to reach an agreement, but believes that Trump’s recently unveiled “four pillars” proposal on immigration that includes a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers will never get out of the conservative GOP-led House of Representatives.

State Rep. Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat vying for attorney general, facilitated Friday’s workday event at Computer Mentors in East Tampa.

The organization was created to bridge the digital divide, with its primary mission directed toward getting technology into inner-city homes. Its primary goal currently is to make sure that computer skills get into the inner city, said Ralph Smith, the founder and executive director of Computer Mentors.

Graham will continue to make frequent visits to the Tampa Bay area, she said, facilitated in part by her campaign’s recent decision to move her headquarters to Orlando on the east side of the I-4 corridor.

Five most bullsh*t parts of Ron DeSantis’ campaign kickoff

On Monday, Congressman Ron DeSantis made it official — launching his long-expected bid for Florida governor.

Taking to a Boca Raton stage as the late Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” played, the North Florida Republican claimed he was the only “principled conservative” and an outsider in the race — a direct knock on both his current competitor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, as well as potential Republican rival, House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

And DeSantis’ no-surprise announcement came with a generous helping of what can only be called … bullshit.

That said, here are the top five bullshit parts of DeSantis’ kickoff:

— Boca Raton?

DeSantis grew up in Pinellas County. He currently represents Florida’s 6th Congressional District, which includes all or parts of Flagler and Volusia St. Johns and Lake counties.

So why Boca Raton, next to his pal Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago luxury resort?

To put it bluntly: Conservative Republican Jewish voters.

“DeSantis said after his speech that he chose Boca Raton, in part, because of his support in the Jewish community,” the Miami Herald wrote. “The congressman was among the advisers who pushed Trump to announce the U.S. would move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.”

That is a significant part of his appeal, as a conservative and staunch supporter of Isreal, which is an issue that could play nationally, but not as well for Florida’s statewide race.

Boca is also home to one of DeSantis biggest contributors — Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, who also gave $250,000 to the Fund for Florida’s Future, DeSantis’ committee.

So, the choice had little to do with Florida, its people’s problems and concerns for the future. Just pandering to his base, several of whom are billionaires.

Which leads to No. 2 …

— Florida, Florida, Florida.

As our Jacksonville reporter A.G. Gancarski noted on his Twitter feed: “Not sure if DeSantis is ready to be Governor, but he’s definitely on track to host a show on Fox News after the first part of this speech. Still no Florida issue discussion.”

How does one launch a campaign for Florida’s governor, and not talk about the state he hopes to lead — until the end?

And when he did get around to talk about Florida matters, DeSantis quickly hit all the marks, although many talking points were uninspired and generic: improved education; preparing students for “college and citizenship,” the opioid epidemic, etc.

About Enterprise Florida, money for charter schools or any other Florida-centric hot-button issues — nada.

Inexplicably, he also touched on a “renewed focus on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.” Not exactly appealing to the average Floridian, especially after eight years of Rick Scott‘s mantra: “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

— Outside, looking in.

DeSantis is a three-term congressman from the Palm Coast — claiming to be a political “outsider.”

That could be a problem.

As if Tallahassee — or any other statehouse, for that matter — was a completely different animal than Capitol Hill.

As the Geico commercial says: “That’s not how it works; that’s not how any of this works.”

Paging Ron DeSantis.

Prior to taking office, term-limited Gov. Scott had pretty much zero political experience. Before 2010, he was a health care executive few voters knew. But that lack of Tallahassee experience became a big part of Scott’s appeal, particularly (at the time) to Tea Party Republicans.

Combined with a healthy fundraising prowess, that narrative propelled Scott to the Governor’s Mansion, twice.

In 2018, a sitting Congressman (educated at Yale and Harvard) claiming to be a political outsider is offering simple, blatant bullshit.

Democrat Gwen Graham, who only served a single term in Congress, doesn’t even attempt to fly the outsider banner.

DeSantis has three terms under his belt. Stop calling yourself “outsider.”

— It’s all about Trump.

If one person is behind DeSantis’ gubernatorial aspirations, it’s Trump.

During the announcement, the audience did learn something new — that DeSantis had a better batting average during his time at Yale than former President George H.W. Bush.

But everyone was already aware of the most important aspect of the DeSantis campaign: Trump believes he’s the best choice for Florida Governor.

We all saw the tweet: “Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”

And, as if ringing a dinner bell, Trump’s tweet had billionaires come running. Voilà, we now have DeSantis for Governor.

However, in 2018, a Trump endorsement might turn out to be something of a double-edged sword — especially if the dreaded “blue wave” of Democratic backlash materializes. Just ask Alabama U.S. Senator, err, Roy Moore.

November just may prove what Republican operative Rick Wilson famously quipped: “Everything Trump touches dies.”

What’s more, introducing DeSantis’ speech was Jeniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s only member of Congress, who suggested he might have the support of Florida’s Puerto Rican community, which has now grown past 1 million after migration from Hurricane Maria.


With simmering anger about Trump’s Puerto Rico response, and a general animus against the president from women and minorities, touting both the president’s backing and the Puerto Rican vote simultaneously is wishful thinking, at best.

— Baby shaking?

And to finish, this gem, although we admit its a stretch.

As the Miami Herald noted: “’We Republicans, we can’t have the insiders pick the candidate in 2018,’ said DeSantis, who came to the stage holding his 14-month-old daughter, Madison. ‘We need someone who’s going to follow Rick Scott’s legacy and shake things up [emphasis mine].”

Was it really wise for DeSantis to talk about “shaking things up” while holding a toddler?

Most will agree that babies and shaking don’t mix. By now, that should be obvious to almost everyone, even in Florida.

So, holding a baby one minute and saying you’ll shake things up the next is pure, unadulterated bullshit.

Philip Levine pushing ‘Denial’ ad during State of the Union

Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is seeing Tuesday’s State of the Union speech as an opportunity to push his climate change and off-shore drilling messages.

The former Miami Beach mayor’s gubernatorial campaign announced it will be spending $70,000 to air his “Denial” TV commercial during President Donald Trump‘s speech Tuesday night. That’s in addition to the $375,000 All About Florida already has spent airing the commercial statewide this month.

In the 30-second spot, Levine seeks to lump Trump, Gov. Rick Scott, the oil industry, climate change denial, and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/BP Oil disaster all into one issue. It begins with scenes of the Deepwater Horizon/BP Oil spill off the coast of Louisiana which brought oil onto Florida Panhandle beaches, and dragged down Florida’s entire tourism economy for a year. It ends with Levine walking on a beach declaring, “Now we have a governor who denies climate change, a president who denies everything, and a Congress who may start drilling.”

The commercial began airing shortly after Scott met with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and returned with the now-disputed promise that the Trump administration would not seek off-shore oil drilling exploration off the Florida coast.

Levine, who faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King in the battle for the Democratic primary nomination, is the only gubernatorial candidate to air TV commercials so far, totaling four. However, he won’t be the only Democratic candidate for office advertising during the State of the Union Address: Florida’s 27th Congressional District Democrat candidate Mary Barzee Flores has purchased time for her commercial “Impeach,” during the address, in the Miami market.

Christian Ulvert, senior advisor with Philip Levine for Governor said in a press release,  “With President Trump’s administration signaling that they still have Florida in their sights for oil drilling off our coast, the campaign today placed an additional buy to air our latest TV ad where Mayor Philip Levine promises to take on anyone who threatens our coastlines with drilling. The ad will air during prime time around the President’s State of the Union address to ensure Floridians know that our environment and coastline is not for sale.”

The leading Republican candidates are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach.

Attorney General candidate Ryan Torrens, recognizing his underdog status, makes staff changes

Democrat Ryan Torrens knows he’s the underdog in the race for Florida Attorney General.

The 32-year-old Hillsborough County lawyer undeniably has the least amount of name recognition of any of the six major-party candidates running in the race to succeed term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi. And that challenge has only been heightened with the entry of Tampa Democrat Sean Shaw into the race.

“It’s a different playing field,” Torrens acknowledges while meeting with Florida Politics at Pane Rustica in South Tampa last Friday afternoon.

“Florida Democrats need to choose an Attorney General who is not going to take big special interests’ corporate contributions, like money from Big Pharma, money from Big Tobacco companies, because Florida deserves an Attorney General who’s finally going to fight for them,” he says, adding he did not want to “talk trash” about Shaw.

“I don’t think that’s an appropriate way to move forward, but Floridians throughout this campaign will have a very clear choice,” Torrens promises. Shaw declined to comment on this article.

Fundraising has been slack for Torrens. He’s raised only $65,637 through the end of December, and has less than $4,000 cash-on-hand. Meanwhile, Jay Fant, Frank White and Ashley Moody have already raised at least $1 million (though in the case of White and Fant, much of those numbers come from personal loans to their campaign).

“There have been struggles in terms of fundraising,” Torrens allows, but says it will improve with the addition of Makeda McLune as his new finance director. McLune previously worked on Senate District 40 Democrat Annette Taddeo‘s special election victory in Miami-Dade last year.

“Our financial report this month should be better than it’s been the last several months,” he says. “I think you should see an improvement there and we’re confident that it will continue to improve.”

He’s also hired Alex Quintana as his new campaign manager. Quintana worked on Gwen Graham‘s one and only congressional campaign in 2014 and served as her field representative for her congressional office in the Panama City area.

With the exception of Moody, who served as a Hillsborough County Circuit Judge for the past decade, the other AG candidates all serve in the Florida House. Torrens says that’s to his advantage.

“I’ve been traveling around the state for the last seven months and what I hear over and over again is that Floridians of all political stripes is they want something different, they want something new, what we’ve been trying has not been working and that’s what we offer in this campaign is something fresh,” Torrens says.

“I am not tied down by big donors, I have not been in our political system. I don’t owe any of those folks any favors. I have the freedom to go in there and do what’s right.”

It’s almost unprecedented for a lawyer in private practice to become Attorney General. Torrens cites the case of Alabama’s Bill Baxley, who at the age of 28 served as attorney general from 1970-78. However, Baxley did serve as district attorney in one county before making the broad run.

A better role model might be Larry Krasner, a longtime defense lawyer lacking political or prosecutorial experience who rode the backing of a progressive billionaire and a scattered field of opponents to win an upset victory as Philadelphia’s District Attorney last year. That was a local election, however, not a statewide race.

5 thoughts on Ron DeSantis: The X factor in the Florida governor’s race

Monday morning sees U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis launching his campaign for Florida governor in Boca Raton.

DeSantis’ entry into the race was teased practically from the time he left the 2016 race for U.S. Senate when Marco Rubio opted to run for re-election in June.

DeSantis did settle for another two years in Congress, representing a swath of the Atlantic Seaboard from the Daytona area up through southern St. Johns County, but it was the openest of open secrets that he wanted to be in a statewide spot.

A Jacksonville native, DeSantis is a Harvard Law graduate who did his undergrad work at Yale. He served as a Navy lawyer and a federal prosecutor; in short, he checks all the boxes that the national Republican donor class wants in candidates they back (which reflects in DeSantis’ finance team and will reflect in his donors going forward).

That’s a thumbnail biography, of course. Though he’s never had a statewide position yet, he enters the race with a few unique advantages, and several questions worth pondering.

He’s Donald Trump’s candidate — will that matter?

President Donald Trump endorsed DeSantis on Twitter, of course.

“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”

In terms of an endorsement for a Republican primary candidate, could there be anything better? Sure, Trump played the Alabama U.S. Senate race about as badly as it could be played. He endorsed Luther Strange, who lost the primary, then deleted those “Big Luther” tweets and endorsed Roy Moore — a catastrophic move, but one all in a day’s work for this White House.

DeSantis said “when he tweets, and he has 100 million people that are seeing that, it’s a really, really big deal, and I really appreciate the kind words from the President.”

Kind words, yes. But will they matter in the end? For many people in the state, Trump’s tweet was their first introduction to DeSantis — because he’s been a Congressman for four years. Fox News viewers, of course, see DeSantis and Rep. Matt Gaetz in heavy rotation. But for those who have seen the Adam Putnam campaign evolve over months, with that sense of inevitability building over years, DeSantis will seem prefab to them.

He’s Trump’s guy … but he’ll have to be more than Trump’s guy.

Will the Governor’s race become nationalized?

Putnam spent much of 2017 slowwalking toward Presumptive Nominee status, and much of his energy attempting to shore up his right flank.

One of his more memorable news cycles was when he declared himself, apropos of nothing, an “NRA sellout.” His backing for campus carry was probably the best indicator of how far he’d go.

That dog-whistle was intended to reassure the right that they wouldn’t have to worry about Putnam going squishy on Second Amendment issues. In a field where it was Putnam, former Sen. Jack Latvala, and potentially Richard Corcoran, that was a reasonably smart play.

Now comes DeSantis, who is instinctively able to work that Fox News style of polemic. This puts Putnam in a unique position; though his NRA bona fides aren’t really in doubt (he consistently has gotten A+ ratings, with DeSantis getting an A last time he ran), it’s going to be impossible for Putnam to paint DeSantis as soft on 2nd Amendment rights — and other red meat issues.

The paradox: Putnam has built his support from Florida interests. DeSantis’ backing will come largely from outside the state.

Will state policy matter?

The contrast between Putnam and DeSantis is pretty stark. Putnam has taken pride in campaigning and appearing throughout the state the last eight years; DeSantis announced his campaign on Fox and Friends for a good reason — he’s at least as comfortable in a TV studio as he is on the stump.

The open question is going to be how quickly DeSantis moves into talking state issues, and how knowledgeable he will be when he does so. Those Fox News hits tend to be at the intersection of hawkish foreign policy and apologias for President Trump. Though Gov. Rick Scott has been known to dabble in that space, the vast majority of state business will proceed apace whether or not the Mueller investigation is spiked or not.

DeSantis has had one elected position, and he spent most of that time looking for his next move. There are those who question how committed he is to his positions. And there are those who question how interested DeSantis will be in dealing with issues like Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida, the charter school debate, Florida Forever, and so on.

Brian Kilmeade interviews are good preparation for a lot of things. But Putnam (and Richard Corcoran, should he get in) will need to devote a lot of energy to exposing DeSantis’ inexperience on state policy issues.

What does Corcoran do now?

The House Speaker isn’t supposed to announce his next move until March. Those close to DeSantis contend that Corcoran already lost the Koch network support, citing the sanctuary cities bill and insurance reform as distraction from the fact Corcoran is a trial lawyer. However, sources inside the Koch network dispute that narrative, saying that both are A+ rated candidates and champions for issues of importance in their respective chambers; they say that having two such candidates in the race is a “good problem to have.”

Corcoran will be in a unique position. DeSantis will be able to co-opt many of his policy positions in the weeks before Sine Die. Between that and the really big “will he or won’t he story” of March, the Rick Scott announcement, it will be worth watching to see if Corcoran’s path gets too narrow for him to even run in the end.

How will the Dems botch this golden opportunity?

Wave election: check.

Trump endorsee: check.

Grassroots and donor enthusiasm: check back later.

The two leading Democrats in the gubernatorial race, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, would love the contrast with DeSantis.

Graham told me earlier this month that she doesn’t think much of DeSantis’ debating skills, and relishes the opportunity. And Gillum, whether he gets the nomination or ends up Graham’s Lt. Gov. pick, would love to be able to tee off on the DeSantis/Trump axis for months on end.

It’s easy to do that in theory. But if DeSantis gets the nomination, the billionaires and a national cable news network will be at his disposal.

And yeah, though it’s a wave election, it’s an open question whether the Democrats can counter the waves of outside money and support that will flood in for DeSantis.

Eight years ago, a Tallahassee outsider took the Republican nomination, then won the whole thing. He won re-election four years later. Neither of them were blow out wins. They didn’t have to be.

DeSantis may be the proverbial answer to a question that nobody asked. But for Republicans and Democrats alike, he has become the #1 problem to solve in 2018.

Phil Levine says his business background ‘scares’ GOP

Democratic gubernatorial nominees Philip Levine and Chris King spoke before their largest audiences to date in the Tampa Bay region on Sunday at the Women’s March in downtown St. Petersburg.

Several thousand people crammed into Williams Park for the rally, which, in an unusual twist, Levine co-sponsored.

“The opportunity came up and we believe in women’s rights and human rights and any way we can bring our message forward in the right venue, and this was one of them, so we were honored to be given that opportunity,” the former Miami Beach mayor said shortly after he addressed the audience.

The appearance before a mostly Democratic, friendly crowd was a boost for both candidates in getting attention from voters in the state’s biggest media market. Although it’s still relatively early going in the race, both trail former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham in the polls of the race to become the Democratic nominee for Florida Governor.

Levine got into a verbal back and forth with the Graham campaign during his last visit to the Bay area. That exchange prompted a statement from the Republican Governors Association in which it mocked the two candidates as being “desperate to turn things around amid embarrassingly low name recognition and lackluster fundraising.”

The statement “flattered me greatly,” Levine said Sunday. “I guess they think that I’m a very viable potential nominee for the party. I don’t see them picking on anyone else, so I’m going to wear that like a bad of honor.”

(Actually, that isn’t accurate. The RGA has previously sent out statements attacking Graham, Levine and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.)

A multimillionaire who made his fortune running media companies in the cruise industry, Levine says his focus on being both “pro-people and pro-business is something that I think scares the heck out of them,” referring to the GOP.

Levine has called himself a “radical centrist” and, somewhat unusual in a Democratic primary campaign, says he welcomes Republican support for his candidacy.

“I can’t tell you how many Republicans have come up to me and said the same thing,” he recounted Sunday. “They go, ‘Mayor, I have been a lifelong Republican, I have never voted for a Democrat, you’re the first Democrat I’m going to vote for.’ In a purple state like Florida, we need Republicans to believe in our message. We need independents, and we need Democrats, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

With Florida being a closed primary state, those registered Republicans and independents wouldn’t get a chance to vote for any Democrat until the general election.

Graham and Gillum participated in the Women’s March in Miami Sunday.

(Photo credit: Kim DeFalco).

Gwen Graham at women’s march: ‘We need a woman’ in governor’s mansion

Against the backdrop of a sea of people marching for women’s rights in Miami, the lone female gubernatorial candidate said Sunday the state needs “a woman to clean up the mess in Tallahassee” after 173 years of men being at the helm.

“Today we march for the same causes that women have marched for 100 years to vote, and we are all going to get out and vote,” former Congresswoman Gwen Graham told the crowd.

Graham is the front-runner in the 2018 Democratic primary. In public polling, she leads the four-way race with 14 percent of the vote. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is in second with 7 percent of the vote, according to a new poll by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. But that could change soon as Levine spends big early in the race.

Along with Levine Graham faces Orlando businessman Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Congressman Ron DeSantis will face each other in the Republican primary. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is expected to also vie for the Republican nod.

In the state’s history, no woman has made a successful bid for the governor’s mansion, but women have attempted before, including Alex Sink in 2010 and Nan Rich in 2014.

Graham remained hopeful about her chances over the weekend.

“In January 2019, we are all going to continue marching, and we are going to march in inaugural parades all over the state of Florida when we, together, elect the first woman governor of Florida,” she said.

“I look forward to being that governor.”

Women’s marches were held across the country last weekend, including in many locations in Florida.

Thousands gather in St. Petersburg for Women’s March

Kay Akins is still “pissed off” about Donald Trump‘s election more than a year ago. “It gets worse every day.”

The Naperville, Illinois resident joined thousands of protesters Sunday in what felt like a seismic level of antipathy for the President of the United States, felt in both St. Petersburg and many parts of the country.

A year ago, Akins participated in the massive Women’s March in Washington D.C.  She never felt more solidarity with so many like-minded people in her life, she said.

This time around, Akins found herself in the Tampa Bay area; she drove by herself Sunday to the Women’s March in St. Petersburg’s Williams Park, joined by thousands of similarly like-minded people. Organizers called on them to make their voices heard by voting in this year’s midterm elections.

Unlike last year, when the marches were all held on the day after the president’s inauguration, protestors held rallies over both weekend days this year, with gatherings Sunday in Las Vegas, Miami, Seattle, Phoenix and many other cities around the country.

On Saturday, a reported 120,000 crowded streets in Manhattan for a women’s march, with massive rallies in Chicago, D.C., the San Francisco area and many other locations.

Among organizers, the theme was “Power to the Polls,” featuring a call to have more women participate in elections this November.

But among those in the crowd, the focus was squarely on Trump.

“He awakened the sleeping giant,” said Patti Michaud, who served as co-captain of the Central Gulf Coast Women’s March.

Thousands of women protested Sunday in St. Pete and across the country, most still angry over Donald Trump’s election more than a year ago.

An activist in the 1960s, Michaud said that while things may have become better for women, following Trump’s election, they were now “fighting for the rights we fought for fifty years ago.”

As a result, record numbers of women are running for office this year. At least 79 female candidates are exploring runs for governor, according to the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics.

Emily’s List, which recruits and trains pro-choice Democratic women, announced last month that over 25,000 women had contacted the organization about running for office since the 2016 election. Additionally, over 8,000 people have signed up to help women run for office.

Among those locally who are pursuing a run for office for the first time is Tampa resident Kimberly Overman, a Democrat running for the Hillsborough County Commission\. Overman attended last year’s march in Washington, which she called “inspirational” and said it demonstrated the power of women working together to get something done.

“I think that’s one of the values of having women in the process,” she said, “whether it be on the corporate side and corporate boards, whether it be on the government side in terms of serving for office, whether it be in the lobbying world, where women actually can help people find a consensus and find some good solutions.”

Other female candidates in attendance included Democrat Jennifer Webb, who is taking a second shot at the House District 69 seat this year.

Trump’s election was a shock, one that took awhile to get over, said Palm Harbor resident Kim Nymeyer. Like others at the event Sunday, she called her participation in last year’s march a cathartic experience.

It’s different this time around, Nymeyer added. “People are asking: What is the action now?”

Joining Nymeyer was her friend Marlene Witherspoon, who made the trek from Fort Myers to St. Pete. The two sat with beach chairs directly in front of the stage at Williams Park.

Reflecting on the 2016 election, Witherspoon admitted she was restrained in her support for Hillary Clinton, the reason she didn’t campaign for her in the conservative hometown, as she had for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

“I wasn’t on board with her,” she recounts. “She was too polarizing for me to risk knocking on doors to people [who] I know are Republicans.”

While Trump’s candidacy brought out conservative voters disaffected from the political process for years, his subsequent election has energized progressives who had been indifferent in the past, such as Lakeland resident Michelle Ploughman.

Wearing an “Elizabeth Warren in 2020″ T-shirt, Ploughman said the opportunity to empower female voices is part of the movement in which she’s taking part. She cited the power of black women in particular for Democrat Doug Jones’ victory over Republican Roy Moore in the Alabama U.S. Senate special election last month.

“That’s what this is all about for me. It’s really just promoting the idea that we all have the chance to make change in whatever area we choose and the best choice at this point is to vote.”

There were dozens (if not hundreds) of signs held up by those in the crowd: “The future is female,” “Vote like a Girl,” “Stop tweeting and read a book,” to name a few.

Scheduled to appear was U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, but events with the government shutdown in Washington precluded his appearance.

As was the case last year, Mayor Rick Kriseman made an appearance, as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine. 

“Are you all ready to get expelled from Trump University?” Levine asked to a roar of approval.

Levine then awkwardly posited that it was time to enroll in a new university: “The university of doing the right thing.”

That’s a mantra heard in his often-aired television commercials touting his candidacy. In a creative bit of outreach, Levine also paid to co-sponsor the event.

In a four-and-a-half minute speech, Levine touted campaign pledges: raising the minimum wage, investing in public education and keeping a strong environment. And he excitedly told the crowd that November’s election in Florida was the most important “in the world.”

“Because so goes this governorship this year, so goes the presidency in 2020,” he said. “Women of Florida, you must vote. We must change our state. We will change our country. We will change the world. It begins right here in St Petersburg. It begins right here in Florida.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King spoke later in the afternoon as well.

In the audience, St. Petersburg resident Joan Thurmond was wearing a T-shirt touting the candidacy of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, yet another one of Levine’s opponents in the Democratic race (Gillum and Gwen Graham, the other major Democratic candidate for governor, spoke in Miami on Sunday).

“I think he’s a racist,” Thurmond said of Trump. “A bigot. And I really think that he does not know what running the most powerful country in the world is all about. ”

Thurmond added that she didn’t appreciate his recent comment reportedly disparaging African nations.

“Being African-American, I know what it’s like to be discriminated against.”

Although overwhelmingly female in number, the crowd was diverse regarding race and especially in age, where toddlers to seniors were well represented.

Whether 2018 will be “The Year of the Women” at the ballot box won’t be known until after the November 6 midterms. But to women like Akins, their outlook on politics has been forever changed, no matter what happens this fall.

“My husband always says, ‘you can’t do anything,'” she recounted. “I said, ‘I can be there and give my voice.'”

(Photo credits: Kim DeFalco).

Philip Levine launches Spanish commercial on DACA

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine has launched another television commercial – his fourth overall and second this week – with a Spanish-language ad decrying the administration of President Donald Trump‘s policies toward so-called DREAMers, the young, undocumented immigrants who essentially grew up in the United States.

The 30-second spot “Injusticia” shows images of DREAMers and their families while a narrator attacks Trump for rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by former President Barack Obama, and for his rhetoric threatening to send them back to their native countries even though their parents brought them to the United States when they were small children.

It’s the second-consecutive commercial in which Levine, a state candidate, targets Trump on what is essentially a federal issue. Earlier this week he launched an English-language commercial, running statewide, going after Trump for his policy position to open up oil-drilling off the Florida coast, thought that commercial also mentions Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

“President Trump is turning his back on these young people who, filled with dreams, became doctors, lawyers and teachers. And who today are ready to work for America,” the narrator states. “Philip Levine will work to end this injustice!”

Levine then uses his own Spanish, declaring, “We are talking about kids, and what it means to be an American.”

Levine is the only gubernatorial candidate to place commercials on television so far. He faces Chris King, Gwen Graham, and Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary contest, while Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam are the leading Republicans.

Levine’s independent political committee All About Florida is putting up $100,000 to run the ad for 10 days on Spanish-language television channels across Florida.

“We want DREAMers to know that they are not alone, and that there are many who are fighting for them and believe in doing the right thing,” Christian Ulvert, senior advisor, stated in a news release from All About Florida.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons