Gwen Graham – Page 7 – Florida Politics

Gwen Graham would seek Constitutional amendment if needed to expand Medicaid

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham pledged Tuesday to do whatever is possible to expand Medicaid in Florida including getting behind a Constitutional amendment drive if she, as governor, cannot convince the Florida Legislature to accept the federal program.

Graham met Tuesday with a roundtable of health care leaders at the Florida Hospital Association offices in Florida, hearing tales of woe and frustration about the lack of coverage available to too many Floridians and how stretched services are to serve uninsured patients.

Most in the room appeared to support the Democrats’ desire to accept the Medicaid expansion program offered by the federal government under the Affordable Care Act, and Graham laid out several strategies she said she would pursue as governor, including, as a last resort, putting it on the statewide ballot.

“My commitment is to take Medicaid expansion. We’re going to get it done, even if we have to have a Constitutional amendment, I will spearhead a Constitutional amendment,” Graham told the gathering, which included former House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford and state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando.

Graham spoke of seeing first-hand, when she volunteered as a worker at a Shepherd’s Hope clinic in Longwood last year as part of her WorkDays program, how difficult it is for many Floridians to obtain health care. Shepherd’s Hope was represented at the table, along with representatives of Orlando’s major hospital systems, leaders of other clinics, and representatives of various health care and mental health associations.

They spoke to Graham of a situation that not only is difficult for the 800,000 uninsured Floridians and many others with too-limited coverage, but also difficult for the hospitals. On top of that is the new population of Puerto Ricans who came to Florida after Hurricane Maria destroyed their homes and livelihoods. Many are having to go back to the island for health care, because they can afford it in Puerto Rico, but not in Florida, said Milton Vazquez civic engagement program director for the Hispanic Federation of Orlando.

“It’s not letting up,” Jean Zambrano, vice president of clinical operations at Shepherd’s Hope, said of the needs.

Candice Crawford, president of the Mental Health Alliance of Central Florida, spoke of a “man-made disaster that we are not prepared for,” while talking about the mental health and addiction treatment services that have been cut this year in the Florida Department of Corrections budget. “They’re going to be sending people back out in the community that have had no treatment. They are sick, and they need help.

“We’ve got a problem. We have over 66,000 people in this state that have serious mental illness, and have zero mental health services,” Crawford added.

Others spoke of struggles with Florida’s opioid crisis; hospitals’ emergency rooms dealing with patients seeking primary care; under-reimbursements to hospitals; frustrations with getting coverage for telemedicine programs; the lack of available medical specialists, particularly psychiatrists; and expanding the scopes of practice for nurse practitioners and physician assistants, for which Martha DeCastro, the Florida Hospital Association‘s vice president for nursing and clinical care policy, declared, “Florida really is at the bottom of the heap.”

“This is just the beginning of this conversation. I look around this table and I know we’re going to have a lot of time together, because we have a lot of serious issues on how we get Florida to where the state needs to be,” Graham said.

Joe Henderson: Gwen Graham makes stand against conversion therapy quackery

So-called “conversion therapy” is only a thing because a segment of wingnut nation considers it a sacred duty to force its values on everyone. The practice goes on because too many lawmakers look the other way.

But it’s not therapy at all, at least as reasonably educated people understand the practice. It is, instead, medieval quackery on par with bloodletting and lobotomies.

What it does have is a high chance of inflicting real harm on someone who dares to be who they are.

It is outlawed in 12 states, and while Florida doesn’t have a blanket ban it is prohibited in 19 municipalities — including Tampa, Miami, and Palm Beach County. As Florida Politics reported, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham said Legislature should extend that ban to the entire state.

She is correct.  

Conversion therapy seeks to force, er, “convert” gay and transgender people into becoming straight people. What possibly could go wrong?

It usually is linked to conservative religious zealots, not to be confused with many mainline evangelicals who simply believe homosexuals may be born that way but can fight the “temptation.”

Because homosexuality it is not considered a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, treatment to “correct” that not only lacks scientific backup, it can actually be harmful to the person being “corrected.”

The so-called therapy can include electroshock treatments to induce seizures and memory loss, maybe so the one being “treated” will forget what vile people did that to him or her. It relies on basically brainwashing the treated person into hating themselves enough to “change.”

As Saul Levin, the APA’s Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director, American Psychiatric Association, noted, “(the treatment) does come bundled with a real group of potential risks, including depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.”

This “therapy” is not a new thing, but it gained increased attention when the Republican Party platform in 2016 tiptoed up to the edge of what many believed was an endorsement of the practice, declaring “right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children.”

The key word — “therapy” — was seized upon by LGBTQ groups, but party officials denied there was any connection.

But it is a fact that many conservative Christians have a tough time separating the biblical declaration that homosexuality is a sin from the rights of people under the secular law. That may help explain why two attempts by Democrats to push through a law banning conversion therapy through the Legislature got nowhere.

Alas, even if Graham wins and becomes Governor, Democrats will be pressed to have enough legislative muscle to get this past Tallahassee Republicans. She could always try an executive order, as she hinted in a tweet, but opponents could challenge that in court.

Some conversions are a bridge too far, you know?

After all, can’t upset the base by endorsing science.

Fort Lauderdale mayor endorses Gwen Graham for governor

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham has announced another endorsement, earning support from Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis.

“As we mark the beginning of Pride Month, I’m excited to announce my endorsement of Gwen Graham, a champion for LGBTQ rights and equality,” he said.

Trantalis became the first openly gay mayor ever elected in Fort Lauderdale after he won the seat back in March. He praised Graham’s history on LGBTQ issues in his statement announcing his endorsement.

“Running for Congress in a conservative district, Gwen wasn’t afraid to stand up for marriage equality and our rights. In Congress, she followed through on her promise and fought for LGBTQ Floridians, co-sponsored the Equality Act and earned a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign.”

Trantalis’ endorsement may help Graham win over members of the LGBTQ community, a group she has voiced support for in the past. Graham recently came out in favor of a statewide ban on gay conversion therapy, a practice deemed harmful by many in the medical community.

Graham has also said she will push for passage of for the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which she says would help prevent discrimination of LGBTQ citizens.

Graham reiterated her promise to focus on LGBT issues in a statement thanking Trantalis for his endorsement.

“I was honored to support Dean Trantalis in his race for mayor and proud to see him become Fort Lauderdale’s first LGBTQ leader,” Graham said. “As governor, I will work with Dean and LGBTQ leaders across the state to protect their civil rights, and ban conversion therapy.”

Graham is competing in a crowded field for the Democratic nomination for governor. Her primary opponents include Andrew GillumChris King and Philip Levine, among others. That field grew even larger earlier today, when Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene entered the race.

Voters will choose the Democratic nominee for governor Aug. 28. The qualifying period is noon, June 18 through noon, June 22, although qualifying papers will be accepted beginning today (Monday, June 4).

Andrew Gillum touts endorsement from California Congressman Ro Khanna

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum announced Monday he has received the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat with a reputation as a strong progressive from the Silicon Valley area of California.

Khanna came out with the endorsement in a tweet posted Monday morning on Twitter.

“Proud to endorse @AndrewGillum for Governor of Florida. He’s an unapologetic progressive! He wants to give every teacher a pay raise, legalize marijuana, have corporations pay tax on overseas earning, and pass common sense gun laws. He represents the next gen of Dem leaders,” Khanna stated.

Gillum is in a Democratic primary battle that just got more complicated Monday with the entry of Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene. Already in the race are former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King.

“I am exceedingly proud to have the endorsement of Congressman Ro Khanna,” Gillum responded in a news release issued by his campaign. He’s a progressive champion across a whole range of issues, and he’s leading the fight for an internet Bill of Rights. Congressman Khanna knows we can’t win in November by running away from our values, and we’re ready to bring it home this fall.”

Jeff Greene enters Governor’s race

Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene has made it official, filing to enter the Florida governor’s race as a Democrat.

As first reported in Sunburn, Greene, 63, filed his paperwork to open a campaign account late Friday, and the Florida Division of Elections posted it Monday morning.

He has not yet made a formal announcement of his candidacy.

A one-time Republican who once ran for Congress in California as a Republican, Greene also is a former 2010 Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.

In 2010 his campaign took some flack aimed at his Palm Beach partier image, with reports then of drunken and drug-fueled parties of celebrities and prostitutes aboard his yacht. In the 2010 Democratic primary Greene took 31 percent to Kendrick Meek’s 58 percent.

He also has taken heat lately for his vocal support of his Palm Beach neighbor, President Donald Trump.

In an interview with Forbes, Greene said he supported Hillary Clinton in the election but urged Democrats to get behind Trump “and not think about voting him out of office,” noting his non-political background may give him an opportunity “to look at everything with fresh eyes.”

But Greene criticized Trump for allowing “previously intolerable rhetoric to become tolerable,” pointing to campaign statements about keeping Muslims out of the country and identifying Mexicans as “rapists.”

“He opened the door to bigoted and racist behavior,” Greene told Forbes. “I hope he is going to pivot away from that rhetoric.”

Greene enters a field that so far has not sorted itself out, with former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine leading, in most polls, a pack that includes former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King.

Forbes Magazine lists Greene as the 186th richest American, estimating his net worth at $3.8 billion.

In April he told the Palm Beach Post that he was ready to spend his own money, “whatever it would take,” to win.

He attempted that in 2010, when his campaign spent $23.8 million, and he provided $23.5 million of that in direct donations, and another $250,000 in loans from himself to his campaign. The campaign raised just $4,000 from outside his bank accounts.

Greene also has founded a private school, The Greene School, in West Palm Beach.

Gillum was the first to welcome Greene to the contest.

“I welcome Jeff Greene to this race to become Florida’s next governor,” Gillum said in a written statement. “As the son of a construction worker and bus driver, and still the only non-millionaire Democrat in our primary, I believe Florida Democrats need a true champion for working people as their nominee. I look forward to continuing this contest of ideas with Jeff in the field.”

Greene may not be the only late-arriving candidate in the Democratic primary for governor, with former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who represented a congressional seat in Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties, also contemplating a bid.

Murphy said he is exploring a campaign that would include former U.S. Rep. David Jolly, a Pinellas County Republican, as his running mate.

Candidates for governor, Cabinet seats and legislative offices will formally qualify for the 2018 ballot from June 18 to June 22.


The News Service of Florida contributed to this post. 

Gwen Graham set to hit TV in Orlando, Tampa Wednesday

Gwen Graham plans to go up with her first TV commercials Wednesday in the Orlando and Tampa markets.

Her campaign announced Monday morning it is spending more than $1 million on its initial TV buy in the two I-4 corridor markets.

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.

And now 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 Graham campaign did not give explicit details about the first ad, saying it would be revealed later this week.

“After 20 years of one-party Republican rule, Floridians are ready for new leadership,” Graham Campaign Manager Julia Woodward stated in a news release. “We’re excited to share our positive message with even more Democrats across the I-4 corridor.”

Graham raised more than any of her primary opponents in April and is beginning her paid communications strategy with more cash on hand than any other Democrat in the race, the campaign noted in the news release.

Philip Levine raises $1.3 million in May, matches it with his own money

Philip Levine continues to set the fundraising pace for Democrats running for governor, raising $1.3 million in May and matching that with another $1.3 million of his own money, his campaign announced Monday.

With that $2.6 million haul, Levine’s official campaign and his independent political committee All About Florida combined now have brought in more than $15 million so far, far ahead of his rivals for the August 28 Democratic primary, his campaign stated.

The others, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King have not yet announced any May fundraising numbers, and their reports will not post until next week. And word early Monday indicated Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene, perhaps the only prospective candidate who can spend more of his own money than Levine, is entering the field.

Levine, the former Miami Beach mayor, also has been burning through money far faster than any of his rivals, having spent more than $10 million through the end of April, mostly on television commercials. The spending has boosted Levine to the top of the polls, and the campaign still is expressing excitement about a survey last week that showed him with a 10-point lead over Graham, who has not yet begun any television advertising.

On the Republican side, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has raised far more money to date. He too has been spending heavily on television in the past two months, while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis has been relying on almost daily appearances on FOX News.

“With primary ballots being mailed in 50 days, Philip Levine is bringing together supporters and donors from all parts of Florida who are ready to break the cycle of Republican control in Tallahassee. Our campaign is building a formidable lead in support, fundraising, and grassroots energy, ” Levine senior adviser Christian Ulvert stated in a news release. “This strong showing of support confirms yet again that our campaign has the backing, momentum, and message to win in August and November, and elect a Democratic candidate to the Governor’s Office for the first time in twenty years.”

Pot legalization could be key issue for Democrats

Three of the state’s top Democratic candidates for governor support legalization of recreational marijuana, and the fourth backs decriminalizing pot for personal use, showing near-consensus on an issue political rainmaker John Morgan said could determine the outcome of the August primary.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine back an across-the-board legalization of pot in Florida, where voters two years ago overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, meanwhile, has endorsed a plan to decriminalize marijuana for personal use, saying she doesn’t believe people should be locked up for possessing small amounts of pot.

Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer who largely bankrolled the medical marijuana amendment, called recreational weed a make-or-break issue for Democratic candidates seeking to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

“A Democrat who doesn’t call for the full legalization of marijuana I do not believe can win the Democratic primary,” Morgan told The News Service of Florida this week.

In a Medium post on May 21, Gillum pledged to “inject new revenue into the state budget by legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana” if elected governor, predicting legalization could generate up to $1 billion in new revenue.

And legalizing pot will help undo the “over-criminalization of young people,” Gillum said during a debate between the candidates in April.

“We’ve got to end this prison-industrial complex that is being built all around a plant and a seed that, quite frankly, provides much more redemptive use than it does harmful,” he said.

Levine campaign consultant Christian Ulvert told the News Service the former Miami Beach mayor would back legislative efforts to legalize marijuana.

If the Legislature doesn’t take up the issue, Levine “wants to put the weight of the governor’s office behind a constitutional amendment and let the people decide,” Ulvert said.

As mayor, Levine supported decriminalization in 2015 when Miami Beach commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance that allowed police to issue $100 fines for people caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana. The city ordinance mirrored one passed by Miami-Dade County.

King has made legalization of pot a key element of his criminal-justice package and, like Gillum, wants to use the tax revenue to boost state coffers.

“Florida should legalize and regulate marijuana to end the practice of overcriminalization predominantly affecting communities of color and tax it to invest in programs that reverse the school-to-prison pipeline,” King said in an email.

King used the issue to jab his opponents: “Florida needs bold, progressive leadership and half-measures from conventional politicians such as ‘decriminalization’ or ‘following the will of voters’ are answers straight from the political establishment playbook.”

Graham, who has been criticized by some Democrats for being too conservative during her two-year stint in Congress, is the only candidate to stop short of endorsing flat-out legalization. Some states, counties and cities have used decriminalization as a way to allow people to get citations for possessing small amounts of pot, removing the possibility that they will be arrested on criminal charges.

Graham included decriminalization of personal possession of marijuana in a criminal-justice reform package released Thursday. She also wants to reduce sentences for nonviolent drug possession and called for a review of all mandatory- minimum sentencing laws.

“Florida should embrace the principle that no young person should go to jail or have their lives ruined over an incident of marijuana use — we can and should decriminalize,” she said in a statement last year.

But Morgan said the only way “people won’t be arrested, detained, ticketed or stopped” is the full legalization of marijuana.

“Gwen is playing a general election game assuming that she’s going to be the nominee, and that is the most dangerous game a politician can play, because it reeks of arrogance and it assumes that the Democratic Party is going to give her a pass on an issue they’re passionate about,” he said. “I would never vote for her in a million years with that position. And I think I speak for almost 100 percent of the Democratic Party. It’s an outrage.”

For Democratic primary voters, opposing flat-out legalization of marijuana is on the same scale as being against same-sex marriage, according to Morgan.

“You’re dead. You’re DOA,” said Morgan, who toyed with running for governor but has abandoned the idea in favor of pursuing a constitutional amendment that would raise the minimum wage.

Morgan is embroiled in a bitter legal fight with the Scott administration over a state law prohibiting the smoking of medical marijuana. Siding with Morgan and other plaintiffs, a Tallahassee judge last week found the smoking ban — included in a state law passed last year to implement the 2016 constitutional amendment — ran afoul of the Constitution.

The state Department of Health immediately appealed Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers’ May 25 ruling.

Morgan this week called on Scott to drop the appeal, warning it could hurt the Republican governor in his effort to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

All four Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls said they support allowing patients to smoke medical marijuana, if their doctors order it.

Where the candidates stand on recreational pot will affect the outcome of the Democratic gubernatorial primary and the Senate race, Morgan predicted, pointing out that more than 71 percent of voters supported the amendment legalizing medical marijuana.

But unlike the nearly $7 million of his own money he spent to legalize medical marijuana, Morgan said he’s not going to underwrite any attempts to make pot an issue in this year’s campaigns.

“I’m not going to unfold my wallet. I’m unfolding my wallet to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” he said, referring to a citizens’ initiative he hopes to put on the 2020 ballot. “But I am going to unfold my megaphone, and I don’t need money to do that. People listen to what I say.”

Gwen Graham: Florida should ban ‘conversion therapy’

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham is now asking the Florida legislature to ban the controversial practice known as “conversion therapy.” Graham’s call comes on the first day of LGBT Pride Month.

Conversion therapy is a process that attempts to “treat” gay people by promoting a transition to a heterosexual lifestyle.

As summarized by the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for LGBT rights, numerous medical organizations have denounced conversion therapy, saying it promotes risks among patients and lacks scientific credibility.

Graham echoed those concerns in her statement announcing her push for a statewide ban. “Conversion therapy is junk science. It’s hurtful and cruel, and there is no place for it in Florida.”

She added, “We need to welcome and love our young people for who they are. Period. Nine states and in 15 municipalities in Florida have banned this horrible practice, and it’s time for it to be outlawed by the whole state.”

That would be an uphill climb in Florida, where previous legislative attempts have failed, including bills by openly gay Democratic state Rep. David Richardson in 2016 and 2017. But 12 states and the District of Columbia have outlawed the therapy, citing potential harm to patients.

Those patients are often children and adolescents. Experts worry efforts to alter their behavior at that age can lead to depression, anxiety, and suicide.

Graham also called on the legislature to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which according to her statement, “would extend non-discrimination protections to LGBTQ Floridians.” She also promised to sign an executive order which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to a list of protected classes in the state.

“Every major city in our state has now passed a human rights ordinance, but almost half of all Floridians are still subject to legal discrimination across the state.” She added, “As governor, I will prioritize passing legislation that protects all Floridians.”

Graham is currently competing for the Democratic nomination for governor along with several others including Andrew Gillum, Chris King, and Philip Levine. Graham says she will make LGBT issues part of her campaign and tenure as governor, if elected.

“I am proud to live in a state with vibrant LGBTQ communities from Key West to Pensacola. LGBTQ Floridians have never given up in their fight to make Florida a more equal and welcoming home for everyone, and I am proud to stand with them.”

Chris King proposes bullet tax for school violence prevention program

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is proposing a tax on  bullets to help fund new anti-gun violence and safety programs in Florida schools.

The plan, rolled out Friday at a town hall meeting in St. Petersburg, calls for dedicating existing sales tax revenue on firearms and ammunition sales to a special fund, and then adding an additional tax of 6 percent on the sale of ammunition, which he calls a “safety fee.”

The revenue from those plus some of the money he expects to free up or generate through some other parts of the criminal justice reform plan he unveiled in May would fund gun violence prevention and intervention programs, school safety measures, and other related measures.

King’s calling the plan his “Every Kid Fund” for gun violence prevention.

Some of the money also would be reserved for gun violence safety studies and to reimburse trauma centers for medical costs of treating victims of mass shootings.

Law enforcement and other key groups would be exempted from the bullets tax.

“I’m proposing the ‘Every Kid Fund’ for Gun Violence Prevention because every child deserves to grow up in a state free from the scourge of gun violence, whether it’s everyday gun violence or mass shootings,” King stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “We should be investing in new and innovative ways to keep Floridians safe and that’s why I’ll bring my bold, progressive policy to Tallahassee and send ‘proud NRA sellouts’ like Adam Putnam packing.”

King hopes to face Putnam, or U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the two leading Republican gubernatorial candidates, in November. First he must win the August 28 Democratic primary against former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. He trails them all in most polls.

He’s counting on this and other his proposals, such as his criminal justice reform package, which included legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana, and ending the death penalty, to begin to set him apart, and on his newly-begun TV commercials, to raise his name recognition from single-digits in polls.

Earlier this week he rolled out his second TV commercial, focusing on the mass shootings at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub and Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, attacking Republican Gov. Rick Scott, and stating his case to ban assault weapons

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