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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeff Greene pledges $5 million for down-ballot races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philip Levine plows another $5.21 million into gubernatorial campaign

Preparing for a final push in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is putting another $5.21 million of his own cash into the campaign, according to a newly filed finance report.

Levine, a wealthy businessman, loaned the money to his campaign between Aug. 4 and Aug. 10, bringing to $18.8 million the total amount he has funneled to the campaign.

Levine last year also contributed $2.8 million to his political committee, known as All About Florida, according to finance records.

Levine is battling four other candidates in the Aug. 28 gubernatorial primary — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and businessmen Jeff Greene and Chris King.

As of Aug. 10, meanwhile, Greene had put $29.45 million of his money into the campaign.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Statewide candidates will converge at South Florida rallies today

South Florida’s the place to be for candidates running for statewide office today. As politicians rally voters to early voting locations, where can you meet with candidates for Governor or Senate? And where will candidates’ paths converge?

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene will campaign heavily today in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties. After attending a service at Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church with Bishop W. Oshea Granger in the morning, he will speak to the Kings Point Democratic Club at Flanders Club House in Delray Beach at 10 a.m.

Democratic candidate Philip Levine will also be at the Kings Point meeting. Levine also plans to ride with hip-hop legend Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell to early voting at the North Dade Regional Library at 9 a.m., where Greene will campaign at noon.

A Red For Education Teacher Rally hosted by state Reps. Shevrin Jones and Nicholas Duran at the Betty T. Ferguson Community Center in Miami Gardens will also draw candidates. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will speak at the rally at noon, and all five major Democratic candidates for governor are expected to attend as well, including Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, Chris King, Greene and Levine.

Levine then heads to an early voting rally at the Sunrise Civic Center at 2 p.m. before heading to Wilton Manors for early voting at Hagen Park, where he will appear with Mayor Gary Resnick.

At the same time, Nelson and all the Democrats running for governor will attend the 2 p.m. Stronger Together Early Vote GOTV Rally at the Sunrise Civic Center Theater.

But it’s not just Democrats campaigning down south today. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis will head to a North Miami-Dade Meet-and-Greet at 4:30 p.m. at Shuckers Waterfront Grille Rooftop in North Bay Village.

Meanwhile, the New Florida Vision PAC will work events for Gillum, including a Brunch and Vote event at Zest Miami from noon to 5 p.m. and a “Tamales and Gillum! Hollywood” event from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

This post will be updated as candidates and campaigns announce plans.

Gwen Graham, FEA ride school bus toward primary finish line

As her opponent travel the state in campaign buses, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham spent most of her weekend in a yellow dog.

Graham campaigned in South Florida Saturday via a school bus with an “Educators for Graham” banner on the side as she visited early voting locations in advance of the Aug. 28 Democratic primary. Graham rode with Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall and a host of other education and political leaders.

The FEA in June endorsed Graham as its choice for Governor, and spent the weekend educating voters as to why. Graham for her part lists the support of educators as a critical constituency.

“As students head back to school this month, I’m asking voters to join us at the polls in support of our campaign and public education,” Graham said. “I’m honored to have the support of educators and school staff across the state, and, as governor, my top priority will be to support our public schools.”

Graham took her bus tour to early voting locations in Democratic bastions of the state. She started Saturday at the Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections office in West Palm Beach, then stopped to pick up more votes at the Miami Lakes Community Center then finally ended the route at the Miramar Branch Library.

A famous parent also rode the bus, as former Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham rode with the campaign aiming to elect his daughter Florida’s first female governor.

McCall wasn’t the only top teacher in the state vouching for Graham on the trail. FEA Secretary-Treasurer Luke Flynt and a group of educators also campaigned with Graham.

Of course, educators aren’t backing Graham at the expense of other Democrats. The Red for Education Teacher Rally, taking place from 2 to 4 p.m. today in Miami Gardens, has announced all five major Democratic candidates for governor — Graham, Andrew Gillum, Jeff Greene, Philip Levine and Chris King — will be in attendance.

Gubernatorial candidates blitz Florida. Where can you find them today?

With less than two weeks before a critical primary, candidates for governor travel Florida reaching out to as many voters as possible. Where might you bump into a gubernatorial hopeful?

Democratic candidate Philip Levine, former Miami Beach mayor, today will hit early voting stations campaigning. He starts at the Joseph Caleb Center in Liberty City at 9 a.m., where he will appear alingside activist and 2 Live Crew founder “Uncle Luke” Campbell, then head to the Hollywood library at 10 a.m., the Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill Mall at 11 a.m., the Miramar library at noon, the Sarasota Supervisor of Elections Terrace Building office at 2:30 p.m., and finally the Supervisor of Elections office at the County Building in St. Petersburg at 4 p.m.

Republican candidate Ron DeSantis, a Ponte Vedra Congressman, will travel the Panhandle today as part of a “Freedom Tour” alongside Freedom Caucus founder Rep. Jim Jordan and Pensacola Rep. Matt Gaetz. The team stops at The Fish House in Pensacola at 10 a.m., Hampton Inn and Suites in Navarre at 1 p.m., and the Cuvée Kitchen in Destin at 3 p.m.

Republican candidate Adam Putnam, Florida’s Agriculture commissioner, meanwhile will be in Jacksonville, where his Florida First Bus Tour will swing by the Mambos Cuban Café around noon. He will campaign with Rep. John Rutherford, former Rep. Ander Crenshaw and Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman.

Democratic candidate Gwen Graham, a former Panhandle Congresswoman, will be in South Florida leading a Get Out The Vote tour with the Florida Education Association. Among those campaigning with her today will be FEA President Joanne McCall and her father, retired Sen. Bob Graham. She will be at the Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections at 10 a.m., the Miami Lakes Community Center at 1 p.m. and the Miramar Library at 3 p.m.

Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum, fresh off a rally with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, will be in St. Petersburg this afternoon with Gold Star father Khzir Khan. Team Gillum with host the national figure at the African American History Museum at a 2:30 p.m. event.

This story will be updated as campaigns release more information on public appearances.

Philip Levine launches new ad that looks beyond primary

Gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, bouyed to the top of the Democratic heap in the latest poll, is launching a new TV commercial that appears aimed at showdowns with Republicans and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, rather than his Aug. 28 primary opponents.

The new 30-second spot “The Challenge,” launched Friday, appears more focused on Aug. 29 and beyond, pairing DeSantis and President Donald Trump as status quo for problems ranging from the environmental threats of offshore drilling to the rise of hate groups.

“If Trump and DeSantis win, nothing will change,” Levine says in the ad. “If we do, we take back our state.”

Nonetheless, Levine’s Campaign Senior Adviser Christian Ulvert characterized the commercial as a primary election appeal to Democratic voters. The latest poll put Levine up slightly on former U.S Rep. Gwen Graham, and up considerably on the others, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum running third, businessman Jeff Greene fourth, and businessman Chris King fifth.

“2018 is a fight for the future of our state and as Florida Democrats come together to rise to the challenge, we need a candidate who has what it takes to win when so much is on the line,” Ulvert stated in a news release.

DeSantis is paired with Trump even though he, too, must win a primary, against Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, long the Republican frontrunner until Trump endorsed DeSantis. DeSantis has been leading almost all recent polls.

The ad does go through the roll of many of the basic Democratic issues in this primary season: “We cannot have drilling,” Levine insists. “Our schools need help. And so do our teachers,” he follows up. “If we don’t expand Medicaid, women and children will suffer,” he continues. “Florida needs stronger gun laws, and we have to stop the hatred that’s tearing us apart.

Then the montage of frightening images of such things as oil spills and hate groups gives way to video of DeSantis and Trump.

Alan Grayson, Darren Soto, Wayne Liebnitzky spread on ICE in ‘Political Salsa’ CD 9 debate

When asked Thursday night about what they want to do with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the three candidates for Florida’s 9th Congressional District had a wide range of opinions.

Either keep it as is, reform it, or throw it out.

Speaking at one of four debates at the packed Political Salsa hobnob in Orlando, Republican Wayne Liebnitzky defended the embattled federal immigration enforcement agency, its work and officers as necessary and law enforcement doing the best they could with what they have.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto talked about law changes necessary to rein in excesses while protecting important work ICE does. And Democratic former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson blasted ICE as a federal agency that “has lost its way.”

“ICE deserves to abolished,” Grayson said. “ICE has become what amounts to an agency of viciousness. I never expected any time in my life to see a federal agency caging children, anywhere in the world. And therefore, ICE has lost its way. We should not have federal agents on the federal payroll, paid by the taxpayers, abusing and brutalizing people because they don’t happen to be Americans. That has to change.”

“I believe the solution is to reform ICE,” said Soto. “The reason that ICE is the way it is is that there aren’t laws that are preventing them from doing the things that they do. That’s why we need a Democratic majority in back in Congress, to make family separation illegal, to make zero-tolerance illegal.

“Keep in mind, they also regulate and protect people who are involved in human sex trafficking and other aspects that are important, that we do support. We do need a culture change there, from the top down,” Soto said. “We also need to make sure they are not going into churches, and they are not going after people who are low priorities.”

“No, I will not vote to abolish ICE,” Liebnitzky said. Later he defended ICE agents as law enforcement officers just following the laws, and getting a bad rap, saying, “They’re doing what they’re told to do, by Congress,” adding that President Donald Trump has asked Congress “over and over to do something, and yet they do nothing.”

Their sparring over ICE was one of the few moments of genuine disagreement in debates between Orange County congressional, mayoral, and sheriff’s candidates. The discussions took place during an event where scores of candidates — including Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic gubernatorial candidates Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine — worked the floors at Acacia, a gathering point for the area’s Puerto Rican community.

The debates did not bring any of the go-for-the-throat moments seen at earlier debates, particularly between Soto and Grayson, and between Orange County mayoral candidates Sheriff Jerry Demings, Commissioner Pete Clarke, and businessman Rob Panepinto.

Nor were there many moments of new revelation, 11 days before the Aug. 28 elections.

Panepinto had one of the few notable moments to shine when the mayoral candidates answered questions on specifics about what they would do to address Orange County’s affordable housing crisis.

Panepinto declared the county no longer can wait for (or count on) state help, then laid out details of his $20 million-a-year, seven-point plan for the county to promote affordable housing. Demings and Clarke mostly called on the state to do its job, giving generalized answers about looking for possible zoning and permit-processing reforms.

“We’ve been looking to Tallahassee for a long time to solve this problem,” Panepinto said. “Yes, they should fund the Sadowski [Affordable Housing Trust] Fund. Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t. I’ll continue to go up there and fight for it. But I think we owe it to our people to solve the problem here locally.”

Orlando Police Chief John Mina and retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Joe Lopez, both running for Orange County Sheriff, mostly agreed on many items ranging from their opposition to the sheriff’s office ever actively enforcing federal immigration law, to their commitments to reduce violence against and by law enforcement officers. But they split squarely on their views of red-light cameras.

“I would be in favor of it, as long as the system is run properly and there are many, many checks and balances, and the person has the opportunity to go before a hearing officer and in front of traffic court to fight a red light traffic ticket, which we do in the city of Orlando,” Mina said.

“Very simple: no! I do not support them,” Lopez offered. “I don’t think it works. I think it creates problems,” he said citing studies indicating they increase rear-end traffic accidents.

“It’s a cash cow, that’s all it is,” he added.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Miller shared the debate dais with progressive Democratic challenger Chardo Richardson, as incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy and Republican candidates Scott Sturgill and Vennia Francois skipped the event, even though it was held in their district.

Miller and Richardson stood on far opposite sides of the political spectrum. Miller argued for capitalism, low taxes, and freeing up businesses; Richardson, mounting a left-wing (albeit long-shot) Aug. 28 Democratic primary challenge to Murphy, pressed his Democratic socialist platform, including universal Medicare and raising the minimum wage “to a living wage.”

The pair were far enough apart that they offered grace and respect to one another, Richardson expressing appreciation for Miller’s service in Tallahassee, and Miller for Richardson’s service in the U.S. Marines, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Scott made a late, brief appearance, mostly meeting with a few people in crowded hallways.

The Governor left shortly after being confronted in a corridor by Central Florida progressive political activist and former congressional candidate Susannah Randolph. He was ushered toward the stairwell while she tried to demand an answer on one of her questions.

On the other hand, Scott’s opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. (and Orlando resident) Bill Nelson, was a no-show.

Levine and Gillum worked the floor of the main room, filled with hundreds of people and scores of candidates for county, state, and federal races packed the auditorium.

Political Salsa was sponsored primarily by the Suarez Group of Cos. and the Puerto Rico Bar Association of Florida, drawing a sizable Hispanic attendance.

The Soto-Grayson-Liebnitzky debate stayed civil, a dramatic departure from previous CD 9 debates where Soto and Grayson trashed each other’s records and called each other names, all but drawing actual blood. The closest to personal attacks came when Liebnitzky chided the two Democrats for talking so much about their records.

They were coming off sounding like their only concerns were themselves, not the district and its residents, he said.

Neither Soto nor Grayson took his bait.

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