Gwen Graham – Page 7 – Florida Politics

New Philip Levine TV ad focuses on off-shore drilling threat

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is launching a new television commercial throughout Florida today accusing Gov. Rick Scott of denying climate change and vowing that any threat of oil drilling off Florida’s coast  “is going to stop” if Levine is elected governor.

The 30-second ad “Denial” is backed by a $375,000 broadcast and cable TV ad buy for the next two weeks in all ten Florida media markets. It’s the third television commercial launched by the Levine campaign, the first to go statewide, and the first to be explicitly about a public policy issue. His first ads were introductory.

It’s also the first statewide television commercial by any 2018 candidate.

In Denial, Levine seeks to lump President Donald Trump, 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.

The ad implicitly builds on the announcement two weeks ago by the Trump administration that it intends to open up off-shore oil exploration throughout the country, including off Florida’s coast, when current federal moratoriums end. It does not explicitly address the announcement by Scott that he talked U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke into leaving out Florida, though the Levine campaign argues in a news release that assurance has very little practical value. The ad also does not address that Levine’s Democratic gubernatorial primary opponents, Chris King, Gwen Graham, and Andrew Gillum, all are as adamant as he about preventing any future drilling off Florida’s coast.

Nor does it explicitly claim that Scott, or leading Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam or Ron DeSantis, ever supported off-shore drilling along Florida. Yet it paints a picture bringing together environmental disaster with the denials of climate change by leading Republicans, starting with Trump and Scott.

In announcing the ad Wednesday morning, the Levine campaign cited a POLITICO story that reported that many members of Congress, including the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Utah Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, “acknowledge that there are no ‘long-term assurances’ [from Secretary Zinke] that plans to drill off the coast would not return.” Others have said the same thing.

“The BP oil spill was one of the worst environmental disasters in history,” the ad begins.

“Now we have a governor who denies climate change, a president who denies everything, and a Congress that may start allowing drilling,” Levine declares as he walks along a beach. “When I’m governor, the threat of drilling is gonna stop.”

Gwen Graham charges that receiving phone calls means Rick Scott should have acted on Hollywood Hills

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham alleged Friday that Gov. Rick Scott and his office could be partly to blame for the 14 heat deaths at a Hollywood Hills nursing home following Hurricane Irma after the Associated Press reported the facility called him three times seeking help.

The Governor’s Office quickly shot back, insisting that nursing home officials never advised that there were any dangerous conditions there, and that, nonetheless, state officials advised them that they should call 911 if any concern for the residents’ health did arise. And that never happened until later, when people started dying.

“Today’s report from the Associated Press makes it clear that 14 Floridians may have died and nursing home patients across the state were put at risk because of the Scott administration’s complete incompetence and neglect,” Graham stated in a written statement issued Friday afternoon by her campaign.

“There is no question the Hollywood Hills nursing home should have evacuated their residents as soon as the temperatures began to rise — but there is also no doubt the Governor’s Office or Rick Scott himself should have called 911 or ordered a wellness check as soon as concerns were raised,” she added. “He promised to take action and failed to follow through. The buck stops at the governor’s desk.”

Scott, the Republican whose final term ends this year and who is contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate, was in no way to blame for fatal neglect in the South Florida nursing home when not even the administrators in the home seemed all that concerned, his office replied.

“At no point in time did this facility report that lives were in jeopardy or that conditions had become dangerous,” Scott’s press secretary Lauren Schenone replied in a written statement later Friday. “State officials told this facility to dial 911 if they had any reason to believe their patients were in danger, something every healthcare professional knows to do. The governor looks forward to the findings of this homicide investigation and continues to demand answers as to why this facility didn’t take the necessary steps to keep their patients safe.”

Hollywood city police are investigating the deaths as homicides cases.

Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, faces former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King in the quest for the Democratic primary nomination to run seek to succeed Scott. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis are the leading Republican candidates.

The exchange between Graham’s campaign and Scott’s office was keyed by this week’s release of public records.

Prior to Irma’s Sept. 10-11 assault on Florida, Scott had given out his cell phone number to nursing home administrators and urged them to call him directly if they needed his help. In the days following the hurricane, The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, like much of Florida had lost power and air conditioning, and heat increased inside. Fourteen residents died, apparently the result of hyperthermia.

Did Scott and his administration have any cause to think something was going very wrong there? Graham’s campaign in particular pursued that question with records requests, and on Monday the governor’s office released records of Scott’s cell phone.

The Associated Press, which received copies of those records, reported Scott’s cell phone got 120 calls from nursing homes and assisted living facilities, including three from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. The AP reported that Scott’s office said it responded to those calls. The AP also reported that Geoffrey D. Smith, an attorney for the center, suggested the the center’s administrators there may have been given false hope.

In a written statement, Smith told the Associated Press that the nursing home administrators who called Scott’s cell phone “felt assured that he would take decisive action to be sure that power was promptly restored for the AC when this was reported. It is difficult to know in hindsight what may have occurred differently if the governor had advised that he would not take any action. But the facility administrators would not have been instilled with the false hope that help was on the way.”

Schenone contended there was never any point when Hollywood Hills administrators suggested to state officials there was any danger. Nor did the home’s administrators show they felt anything was perilously by calling 911 themselves, or send anyone to the hospital right across the street, until the first deaths occurred on  Sept. 13. The others died after they were taken to the hospital.

Schenone told the AP that each Hollywood Hills call was returned and administrators said they had enough portable fans and coolers.

“No amount of finger pointing… will hide the fact that this health care facility failed to do their basic duty to protect life,” Schenone wrote in an email to the AP. “This facility is failing to take responsibility for the fact that they delayed calling 911 and made the decision to not evacuate their patients.”

The AP reported that most of the phone calls to Scott’s cell phone went to voice mail, and that Scott’s office responded later. There were no cell phone voice mails released. Graham’s campaign said they were told the voice mails had been deleted, though the campaign is seeking to see if they can be recovered.

Graham’s campaign contended that Scott’s office appeared to be hiding something, because it fought to keep the cell phone records secret, and that the campaign “had to fight tooth and nail” to obtain them, an effort that ended Monday with Graham signing a $1,200 check to pay for public record research expenses by the governor’s office.

“They have exposed how the governor’s office botched the response — but we still do not have the actual voicemails that were left and I will continue fighting for them until they are made public,” Graham stated in the news release.

Ricardo Rosselló accuses Washington of turning its back on Puerto Rico

A sometimes angry, defiant and determined Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló accused Washington D.C. Friday of “turning its back on” Americans on the island since Hurricane Maria

Rosselló called on Puerto Ricans in Florida and others to respond in elections.

Speaking to a packed room of about 500 people at the Kissimmee Civic Center, Rosselló unleashed a torrent of frustration over a nation that made promises to help the island (and its residents) and has failed to do so since.

The Puerto Rican Governor was in Florida for the first time since Hurricane Maria devastated the island on Sept. 20-21, and since hundreds of thousands of his constituents fled to Florida because so much of the island remains without power, potable water, and much of a functioning economy.

Rosselló was joined at the podium by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, and Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez, who all also spoke to a crowd that was so much larger than expected that the room had to be expanded twice before the program started.

The gathering also included more than a dozen other elected officials and candidates, including Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, state Sen. Victor Torres, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham.

While Rosselló’s New Progressive Party is generally aligned with the stateside Republican Party of Scott, Jacobs, and President Donald Trump, and while in the early weeks after the storm he and Trump appeared to be united, he struck a strongly different tone Friday.

Rosselló said the island government and Congress and Washington struck a deal through the PROMESA act passed in 2016 to address Puerto Rico’s economy and debt, and that the island government lived up to its end with massive cuts and changes in labor laws. But after Hurricane Maria, many of those in Washington who had made promises “turned their back on Puerto Rico, and not only forgot about us, but made things increasingly worse.”

“This is where we have to draw the line in the sand,” he said. “This is where we need to be outraged, outraged, by the inadequate response for U.S. citizens who live in Puerto Rico.”

“A storm that, as evaluated by third parties, was a thousand-year storm … Maria is the most devastating natural event in the modern history of the United States of America, make no mistake about it. This is why there are challenges of unprecedented nature, and this is why we needed a response of unprecedented nature,” Rossello said.

He spoke of Puerto Ricans’ love for American citizenship, but said Puerto Ricans have been treated as second-class citizens for a century, and he accused Congress and leadership in Washington of breaking promises just in the past few months.

“We fight the same wars, we have the same citizenship and we deserve that equal and fair treatment. After the storm, when the world was watching Puerto Rico, people started to say, ‘Hey? How come the response is so fast in some places in the United States yet so slow and so filled with obstacles in Puerto Rico?'”

Rosselló drew a standing ovation when he finished the 26-minute speech.

In his speech, Scott pointed out all of the things Florida has done to help both the island and the evacuees, from sending utilities experts and crews to the island to widespread waivers of state rules so that Puerto Ricans could more easily settle in to live in Florida. Rosselló also announced $1 million is being added to CareerSource to help Puerto Rico evacuees find work in Florida.

Rosselló thanked him for that and acknowledged that all the work he and his staff have done for the island, and said the channels of communication with the island’s government, “means a lot to us and the people of Puerto Rico.”

But he heaped more praise on Nelson, who likely will face Scott for the 2018 U.S. Senate race in Florida, declaring, “It’s hard to find a better friend than Sen. Nelson has been for the people of Puerto Rico.”

Rosselló then said similar things about Soto and Alvarez, and called on Puerto Ricans in Florida and across the country to remember who has been their friend, and who has not, and to send a message by registering to vote, and then voting.

He called on the six million Puerto Ricans in the United States, including more than a million in Florida, to exercise their power to “make things right, not only on the island, but to make things right for yourself as well. We have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity right now.”

Rosselló said America has “no moral standing” to preach democracy for Cuba, Venezuela, Iraq and Afghanistan until it addresses full citizenship for Puerto Ricans.

“How do we make this happen? We make this happen not just by talking, but by acting. And I am committing myself here to coming to Florida and to other states as well to organize our communities, so that we can make them know what the issues are, and make the distinctions between those have been friends to Puerto Rico, and those that have turned their back, and we can be influential in the up and coming midterm elections.”

Alvarez, Soto and Nelson all set the tone in criticism of the federal government and Congress in its Puerto Rico response.

The Democrats decried everything from slow recovery efforts — 40 percent of islanders are still without power more than 100 days after the storm — to the passage last month of a tax reform package that penalizes Puerto Rico with a new excise tax.

With immediacy, Soto said FEMA is telling evacuees in Florida that their housing vouchers are being canceled Saturday because the agency determined their homes back on the island are habitable, even though some still have no electricity, and some do not even have water.

Sparks fly as Philip Levine spars with Gwen Graham campaign

Campaigns for two major candidates competing for Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination traded verbal jabs Thursday.

Former Tallahassee Congresswoman Gwen Graham has been the early leader in the four-person field, but Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine declared it’s now becoming a two-person race.

That left the Graham camp feeling “threatened” by the challenge, Levine claimed in a radio interview.

The war of words began the day before when Levine appeared in Tallahassee Wednesday as part of his statewide “Live! from Florida’s Living Room”  bus tour.

Levine boasted his background in the private sector, where he became a multimillionaire in the cruise-ship media industry.

“The fact that I’ve had that weird thing in my background called a job, the fact that I’ve actually done something with my life outside the public sector is probably a big differentiator,” he said, as first reported by the Tallahassee Democrat. “I’m a person who started with $500 and a pocketful of dreams, built some companies, employed hundreds of people if not thousands, and then I gave back and became a successful, two-term mayor of Miami Beach.”

Graham worked in the private sector as an attorney before focusing on starting a family and raising three children. She later volunteered to serve on her children’s school advisory board and as PTA president, then working for the local school district.

Graham, daughter of former Gov. Bob Graham, ran for political office for the first time in 2014, capturing the Republican-leaning congressional district seat. After redistricting, she stepped down from the position in 2016.

Her campaign did not take kindly to Levine’s remarks; former USF President and state legislator Betty Castor — a Graham supporter — fired back.

“Philip Levine can lecture women on what it means to have a job and ‘do something’ with your life after he raises three children while volunteering at their schools and working 50 hours a week,” Castor said in a statement Thursday from Graham’s campaign.

“Not only does Levine not have the facts straight, his view that motherhood is anything less than a full-time job is exactly the kind of tone-deaf attitude we already see out of too many politicians in DC and Tallahassee.”

“Real Floridians know you don’t have to be a CEO or sell a company to contribute to your community. Working mothers, PTA presidents, teachers and public school officials perform some of the most important jobs in our state.”

If Graham’s campaign thought that would chill out Levine Thursday, they were mistaken.

“I think Gwen … thought this crown was going to be passed to her because of her brand name and she somehow was going to inherit the governorship of Florida,” he said on WMNF 88.5- FM.

Levine didn’t stop there: “My background is one of an entrepreneur and not a politician. I’m someone who ran for mayor and became a mayor twice. And in my background, I’ve created a lot of jobs, and I think that’s very important to the American people. I’m sorry that Betty Castor wants to play politics with such an important issue, and I’m sorry that Gwen Graham feels so threatened.”

About a new poll published Thursday by the Florida Chamber Political Institute — which shows him trailing Graham by seven points — the mayor said the comment from Castor showed Graham was “not happy with the polling numbers.”

(An overwhelming majority of those surveyed did not have an opinion about the Governor’s race.)

The Miami Beach Democrat openly flirted with the idea of running for governor as a political independent at one point last year, calling himself a “radical centrist.” Add to that the fact he gave a political contribution to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio at one point might have some Democrats questioning his Party loyalty.

Levine is having none of it, saying that he’s given “well over” a million dollars to the Democratic Party over the years, and “raised billions.”

“A tiny $2,000, $3,000 donation to somebody on the other side I think is kind of irrelevant at this point,” he said.

Then, Levine attacked Graham for standing by idly during the 2016 presidential campaign while he was regularly making media and campaign appearances on behalf of Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign.

“She was thinking about herself during Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” Levine charged. “She was thinking about how she wanted to become governor.  She was nowhere to be found. You know where I was? I was on television every single channel including Fox, making sure doing everything I could as Hillary’s surrogate so the Democratic Party would win the presidency. So, I think when it comes to being a Democrat, it’s not just saying it; it’s actually doing it.”

Graham spokesman Matt Harringer disputed that allegation, saying, “Gwen Graham worked very hard for Hillary Clinton, speaking at local Democratic Executive Committees across the state.”

Orlando area businessman Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum round out the Democratic field for governor. In the Florida Chamber poll, Gillum was a close third at 6 percent.

Later in the afternoon, Graham added to the crossfire.

“Having just finished my 49th Workday, working alongside personnel in the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, I just have so much respect for the working women and men of Florida — in both the private and public sectors,” she said. “Their work isn’t measured merely by the size of their wallets or the zeros in their bank accounts, but by the skills and dedication, they contribute to Florida every day.

“There’s no ‘inheritance’ in any campaign and there are no ‘titles’ that matter. The only thing that matters are the millions of hard-working Floridians and the pure inspiration found in the example they set.”

Later in the afternoon, Graham tweeted out photos of her most recent Workday with the Volusia Sheriffs, writing: “‘Real jobs,’ folks.” #Respect

Florida Chamber poll puts Adam Putnam, Gwen Graham out front, with lots undecided

A new statewide poll conducted by the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Florida Chamber Political Institute finds Floridians comfortable that the state is headed in the right direction and give Gov. Rick Scott some of his highest approval ratings, with usual splits on those opinions between Republicans and Democrats.

The poll finds Republican Adam Putnam and Democrat Gwen Graham are leading their parties’ gubernatorial races, though half or more of the likely voters surveyed in each party have not made up their minds.

The Florida Chamber Political Institute also found voters are most concerned about education, followed by the economy and health care, but really aren’t all that concerned about issues involving guns, terrorism, or marijuana.

The poll sets the table for 2018 elections, which also will likely include numerous proposed constitutional amendments. The first two teed up, involving homestead exemptions and property taxes, already are over or close to the 60 percent approval thresholds needed to be approved, the poll found.

“Voters will elect a new governor, all new members of the Florida Cabinet and 140 members to the Florida House and Senate. It’s still very early in what will be a busy 2018 election cycle. In the coming months, voters will begin to take a much closer look at the candidates for office,” Marian Johnson, senior vice president for political operations for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, stated in a news release.

In the institute’s first statewide poll of the new year:

– 56 percent of likely voters believe Florida is headed in the right direction. Republicans are especially optimistic at 76 percent, while more than half of voters with no party affiliations [56 percent] believe Florida is moving in the right direction. Less than half of Democrats [34 percent] believe Florida is headed in the right direction.

– 57 percent of all registered voters approve of Scott’s job performance. Republicans approve by 82 percent, while 30 percent of Democrats, and 56 percent of NPA voters approve.

– Among Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Graham leads with 14 percent, however 64 percent of voters remain undecided. Philip Levine garners 7 percent; Andrew Gillum, 6 percent; and Chris King, just 1 percent.

– On the Republican side, Putnam gets 23 percent and Ron DeSantis 18 percent, with 50 percent undecided.

Among issues that matter most to voters, education ahead with 17 percent; jobs and economy drew 13 percent; health care, 12 percent; immigration, 5 percent; and global warming, 5 percent. Guns, terrorism and marijuana barely registered, the institute reported.

Amendment 1, calling for increasing the homestead exemption, got 61 percent overall, with the spread from Democrats, NPA voters and Republicans fairly tight, from 52 to 69 percent. Amendment 2, making permanent a cap annual non-homeastead property tax increases, has 54 percent overall support, with the party spread ranging from 60 to 58 percent.

The poll also found trends showing the greater potency of independent voters: 42 percent of all new voters in the past year registered without a party affiliation, while Democrats and Republicans each captured 27 percent of new voters. Among new Hispanic voters, 54 percent signed up without a party, 32 percent registered as Democrats, and 14 percent as Republicans.

Philip Levine: Check to Marco Rubio ‘tiny’ compared with long, deep Democratic support

There’s that Sept. 30, 2009, check to the U.S. Senate campaign of former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio:

It’s the $2,400 contribution to a Republican who then was seen as the darling of Florida’s Tea Party movement, an upstart whose explosive popularity on the right chased Charlie Crist from the Grand Old Party and made Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek a third-place finisher in 2010.

It’s the bank draft from Miami Beach businessman Philip Levine, who then was the future mayor of that city and who now is one of the leading Democratic candidates for governor in the 2018 election.

Privately, some Democrats have been whispering wonder about whether Levine’s erstwhile support of Rubio in 2009 reflected at all on his commitment to the Florida Democratic Party.

“Nope. Not at all. Zero,” Levine insisted in Orlando Tuesday when asked about whether that contribution meant he harbored an interest in Rubio or for what he stands.

“I have written millions of dollars to the Democratic Party, and that was just one small, tiny donation,” Levine said. “Friends of mine called me up and asked me for it, and I said ‘yes.’

“But he’s been a disappointment, and I’m not a supporter or a believer in any way, shape or imagination,” Levine continued. “Thank God my Democratic donations outnumber it about 5,000 to one.”

Levine is in a crowded race seeking the Florida Democratic primary nomination to run for governor, with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum; and terms such as “real Democrat,” “true Democrat,” and “lifelong Democrat” already have been tossed about in that contest, as if someone in the race is not. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach.

“Mayor Levine has raised millions of dollars for fellow Democrats, up and down the ballot,” spokesman Christian Ulvert stated. “Most importantly, his record of getting progressive policies done is crystal clear — and it’s exactly the leadership he will take to the Governor’s mansion.”

Levine tells his story often about how he left college to work as a Royal Caribbean cruise ship deckhand, later following his instinct to become an entrepreneur serving cruise ships, to starting up and then selling companies, to becoming very rich.

By the late-1990s he became an active political campaign contributor, and by early this century he was a prominent one, making him an extraordinarily unusual candidate for governor. Other wealthy candidates have run statewide in Florida before, notably Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Jeff Greene of West Palm Beach, who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010; yet neither previously had been as financially generous to others’ political causes as Levine had.

Though they do not quite show the multiple millions he asserted, U.S. Federal Election Commission and the Florida Division of Elections records do show that Philip Levine — from addresses in Miami, Miami Beach and Tallahassee — has contributed more than $1 million to others over the past couple of decades. He also has donated nearly $3 million to his own campaign’s funds in the past year.

Levine donated at least $189,900 to various state campaigns and political committees in Florida, and another $893,385 to various federal campaigns and political committees in Florida and across the country.

Campaign finance activity reviewed by Florida Politics does not include any political contributions Levine may have made in local elections in Florida [he was a two-term mayor of Miami Beach,] nor any he may have made in local or state elections in other states. Those would have been recorded outside the FEC and the Florida Division of Elections.

Levine, in fact, has a clear record of donating to Democrats for many years. His donations for Democrats compared with those for Republicans do not entirely create a 5,000-1 ratio, but it is higher than a 200-1 ratio, at least in dollars.

Since 2000, he has donated $161,800 to the Florida Democratic Party [including $61,800 in 2016] and at least another $12,500 to specific Democratic candidates and committees. Another $16,600 of his state political contributions went to committees that at least on paper may be considered nonpartisan. No state-level Levine money went to Republicans, the Republican Party of Florida, or Republican committees.

On the federal side, since 1999, Levine made at least 270 donations totaling $876,791 to Democrats, Democratic parties, and committees associated with Democrats. He has made six contributions totaling about $12,000 to committees that have some claim to being nonpartisan, or have unclear partisan standing.

He’s made just four donations, adding up to $4,650, to Republicans, including the Rubio check.

Levine was a big backer of Hillary Clinton, donating $300,000 to her Hillary Victory Fund committee in 2016. He also was a significant backer of Barack Obama, donating $30,000 to his Obama Victory Fund committee in 2008.

In contrast with the $2,400 he gave to U.S. Senate Republican candidate Rubio, over the past two decades Levine contributed $31,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $25,000 to the Florida Senate Victory 2004 committee, and $15,000 to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s campaigns.

Levine also has made direct donations to campaigns of Florida Democrats Dan Gelber, Bill McBride, Janet Reno, Alex Sink, Joe Garcia, Raul Martinez, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Crist [when he ran for Congress as a Democrat,] Peter Deutsch, Betty Castor, Alex Penelas, Andrew Korge, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Elaine Bloom, Ken Gottlieb, David Richardson, Richard Steinberg, and Wilbert Holloway.

Besides Rubio, other non-Democrats who received support from Levine include Miami Republican Lincoln Díaz-Balart, who got $250 for his 1998 Congressional re-election campaign; Montana Republican Conrad Burns, who got $1,000 for his 1998 U.S. Senate re-election campaign; and New Jersey Republican Dick Zimmer, who got $1,000 for his 2008 U.S. Senate campaign. Levine also donated to the nonpartisan campaigns of Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit judges Maxine Cohen Lando and Milton Hirsch.

Gwen Graham: ‘We are going to win this race’ sat down with Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham Wednesday.

Graham, the frontrunner for the nomination, exuded confidence as we talked in a Jacksonville bookstore/cafe.

“We are going to win this race,” Graham said.

Graham, despite this reporter’s best efforts, wouldn’t veer too far off message. We asked her to address the rumor that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum will end up as the Lt. Gov. candidate.

“It’s too early,” Graham said of her “dear friend.”

Graham added that she is “looking for someone who can help [her] govern” in the LG slot.

We also asked Graham to address Republican candidate Ron DeSantis.

If he’s the nominee, Graham “can’t wait to debate him.”

DeSantis’ endorsement by Pres. Trump “nationalizes the race” for Governor, Graham said.

But such nationalization would have happened anyway.

“Florida’s such an important state. The Governor’s race,” Graham added, “is the most significant race in the country,” one with “national implications.”

The Governor would be in a position to veto a map that doesn’t abide by the principles of “fair redistricting,” and Graham is conscious of Florida’s “movement toward being a blue state” with an “energy and engagement” that she hasn’t seen before.

“Post-Trump,” Graham said, “people are connecting the dots” — which could be pivotal during the 2018 midterms.

Discussion covered some of the key issues facing Florida.

One such issue: medical cannabis, an issue that Andrew Gillum addressed last week when the “dangerous and deluded” Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved to rescind the Cole Memo, a guideline that protected state-level decisions on cannabis from federal prosecution.

Graham didn’t go as far as Gillum, who flat out said that the Sessions move was intended to stuff the jails.

“I line up with the people of Florida,” Graham said. “It’s a real shame that in instance after instance the voice of the people hasn’t been listened to.”

Beyond cannabis — which Graham believes could be a counter to the opioid overdose crisis filling morgues and taxing city budgets in Florida and beyond — Graham points to Florida Forever and the Florida Lottery as examples of the popular will being subverted by “20 years of one-party rule.”

Florida Forever money was “diverted to general revenue,” Graham said, and lottery money was supposed to boost the education budget, but that has declined in real dollars.

“The housing crisis … the opioid addiction crisis … so many people barely making it,” Graham said. “We must do better. We will do better.”

Graham extols the virtues of workforce training — a talking point, ironically enough, of Republican frontrunner Adam Putnam.

When informed of the thematic overlap, Graham mused: “Did he steal it from me?”

The aforementioned one-party dominance, Graham said, has also corrupted Tallahassee culture — where sex scandals of all types are dominating the headlines.

The culture has “gotten off-track [from] what elected officials are elected to do,” Graham said, which is not “party time or socializing on Adams St.”

As well, the culture needs an infusion of women, to redress an institutional “imbalance of power.”

That imbalance of power, Graham said, was a reason it took Gov. Rick Scott seven years to articulate a sexual harassment policy.

Graham looks to be well-positioned for the nomination. From there, it’s a race that she feels confident about winning.

She is quick to draw contrasts between herself and candidates in the other party.

“I’d be happy to live my life on the record,” Graham said.

Until November, she — and the other candidates — essentially will inhabit the space of the media crucible, one where everything ends up on the record sooner or later.

Chris King launching ‘affordable living tour’

Running on his primary economic theme, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King announced he’ll be campaigning in South Florida on an “affordable living tour.”

King, of Winter Park, is an entrepreneur of affordable housing developments and has made economic issues from living wages to free college tuition to housing a central theme of his campaign.

His campaign announced he’ll kick off a week-long South Florida “Affordable Living Tour” Thursday, running through Jan. 17. The tour will span Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties; exact times and locations of stops have not yet been announced.

“Too many Floridians have been left out and left behind –– we need new leaders in Tallahassee who will champion new ideas to make life easier for Florida’s working families,” King stated in a news release issued by his campaign.

King faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee for the Democratic nomination. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

“I built affordable housing for seniors as an entrepreneur and I’ll use the same innovative ideas to build a fair economy that supports affordable living,” he continued. “We’ve got to abandon the old way of doing things –– we can’t focus on fixing problems in silos. Wages, health care, housing and infrastructure are all interrelated so we need to address affordable living as a whole.”

Gwen Graham: ‘After 20 years, we don’t have any more time’

“After 20 years, we don’t have any more time.”

This is the stark message in a video prebuttal to Gov. Rick Scott‘s State of the State address from Democratic gubernatorial front-runner Gwen Graham.

Graham rolled out the video in a news release Tuesday morning, noting that the Legislative Session beginning today is the twentieth straight iteration in which the GOP has “complete control” of the state government.

The 80-second spot charges Republicans with having “rigged our economy, polluted our environment, and attacked our public schools.”

The video, said Graham, kicks off her campaign’s focus on the Legislative Session.

The candidate vows to highlight the top 20 ways that “one-party rule has hurt Florida.”

“In November,” Graham said, “we are going to hold them accountable.”

The goal: “to restore our promise to public schools, protect our environment, and create an economy that works for every Floridian.”

That public school hook drives the first of 20 ways that one-party rule has hurt Florida.

“For 20 years Republicans have promoted and expanded high-stakes testing to benefit the education industry at the expense of our students,” Graham said.

“Last year, the education industry forced our kids to take more than 3 million standardized tests and forced our teachers to teach to those tests. The current system of testing in our schools is supposed to be about grading, but it is actually degrading. As governor, I won’t just criticize the current system of high-stakes testing. I will end it,” Graham added.

Gwen Graham pays $1,200 to get Hollywood Hills records request

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham on Monday wrote a $1,200 personal check to the governor’s Office of Open Government, saying it is a “small price to pay” for information on the 12 Hurricane Irma-related deaths at a Hollywood nursing home.

“It’s disappointing that there are financial hurdles for the information that the people of Florida deserve to have,” Graham said.

Graham, a Democrat hoping to replace Republican Gov. Rick Scott in November, was billed the amount after she accused his administration of hiding the documents she requested. But Scott’s administration said the amount charged was a result of staffers working 100 hours to review and redact her the information at a $12 per hour rate.

McKinley Lewis, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said Graham’s request was “unique” and while other media outlets have made similar requests for information, Graham got the bill because she asked for the information first, which launched the “extensive work.”

Now that the governor’s office has received the check, Graham’s request is being finalized and will be made available online “very soon,” Lewis said.

Graham’s campaign spokesperson, Matt Harringer, said she plans to make the information available to the public as soon as she gets it.

Her request revolves around the call logs, text messages and voicemails that went to the governor’s private phone before the hurricane hit the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills and knocked the facility’s power out. His phone line was made available to nursing homes and assisted-living facilities for emergency purposes.

Graham wants to know what role the governor played in these deaths and why some voicemails were deleted, which she deems to be a violation of state public records laws.

“What I want are the voicemails,” she said, “that’s what I want and I hope the voicemails will be included in the request.”

If they are not included, she said she will “take the appropriate legal action.”

Following the evacuation of the Hollywood nursing home, fourteen elderly residents died. Twelve of those deaths have been ruled homicides and legal fights have ensued.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons