Ron DeSantis Archives - Florida Politics

Philip Levine launches Spanish commercial on DACA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannitized: Ron DeSantis scores Fox News host’s backing for gubernatorial bid

Slowly, but surely, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis‘ path to the Governor’s Mansion is becoming clearer.

The way will be spotlighted, every few days or so, with a key national endorsement.

Wednesday saw Fox News host Sean Hannity back the Marineland Republican.

“I’ve known you all these years,” said Hannity. “I cannot more enthusiastically endorse and completely support your run, and I really think the people of Florida will be blessed because I know what a strong leader you are.”

“You’re going to be my future governor, I hope,” Hannity, who owns a condo in Naples, added.

“That means a lot to me,” replied DeSantis. “We’ve got a good opportunity to build on the success that Governor [RickScott has had. I think this tax bill is going to give us a tremendous, competitive advantage in Florida to create a lot of jobs. We have an opportunity to fix our activist courts and live under the rule of law.”

The news release from the DeSantis campaign notes that Hannity’s endorsement follows the endorsement of President Donald Trump and conservative talk show host Mark Levin.

In addition to Trump, billionaires have also lined up behind DeSantis,  joining his “Finance Leadership Team,” a long list of backers obtained by POLITICO Florida which includes Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, hedge fund heiress Rebekah Mercer, Home Depot founder and Boca Raton resident Bernie Marcus,  investment banker Foster Friess of Wyoming and others both in and outside Florida.

Adelson, Freiss and Mercer rarely get involved in state-level races. The Mercers, who hold a part of Breitbart media and Cambridge Analyitica, also played a role in the Trump transition team.

Many of the names on the list are familiar as helping fund of the Koch brothers’ extensive national conservative network, as well as Trump’s successful presidential run, seemingly able to give DeSantis access to the big money needed to mount an effective statewide run.

That’ll be useful in the Republican Primary, where he faces Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and his sizable campaign war chest.

Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran is also considering a run for governor.

DeSantis announced his campaign on Fox and Friends. And it is clear that he will continue to use Fox News assets to message — key in a race where the prime directive seems to be to get to the rhetorical right and tap into Trump enthusiasts to win the primary.

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.”

Elections complaint against Fred Costello amended; campaign says it’s ‘fraudulent’

On Wednesday, the congressional campaign of state Rep. Fred Costello was dinged with an amended Federal Elections Commission complaint.

Costello maintains the complaint is “without merit” and should be thrown out.

Costello, an Ormond Beach Republican, is vying to replace U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the district that runs from St. Johns to Volusia Counties.

The original complaint was reported just after the new year by POLITICO.

The charge: Costello had campaigned before becoming a candidate, telling potential voters and media in Florida’s 6th Congressional District that he was the “best candidate” and outlining his policy platform.

The second FEC complaint, filed like the first by Orange City’s Thomas Homan, is now 13 pages.

Much of the message is still the same: Costello was functionally campaigning since August (“beyond the deliberative process … and into the process of planning and scheduling public activities).”

The complaint asserts that Costello needs to retroactively report such activities and be subject to fines.

Moreover, Homan contends that Costello’s Dec. 28 campaign launch email lacked appropriate disclaimers.

Costello’s campaign responded to inquiries Thursday afternoon.

“I want to thank our adversaries for calling Fred’s campaign to your attention.  We got more coverage than we normally would at the kickoff of our Congressional campaign, which you missed,” said Costello spox Vic Baker.

Baker also provided a statement, which he said contradicted the complaint.

For example, Costello told a group of Republicans “that he would be a candidate for Congress IF and only if Ron DeSantis chose to run for some other elective office.”

“Further, Mr. Homan cites Fred Costello’s distribution of a palm card including a logo and verbiage. The palm card is permissible for prospective candidates under FEC rules. A closer examination of the verbiage further disproves the complainants claim. Dr. Costello clearly asserts that he would NOT be a candidate unless Ron DeSantis chose not to run,” Baker asserted.

Baker also addressed presenting a business card on Dec. 12, which presented him as Costello’s campaign manager.

“Because I did not want them to think that Fred would run against (the very popular) Ron DeSantis, I made it clear that IF Congressman DeSantis runs for Governor, Fred will run for Congress and I will be his Campaign Manager. I told each person to whom I gave the card that we believed Congressman DeSantis would soon announce for Governor and thus Fred would become a candidate for Congress,” Baker asserted, adding that the complaint is “fraudulent and should be rejected out of hand.”

Costello added his own take, via an email chain with the FEC.

He contends that, contra Homan, he did not declare that he was an active candidate, but a conditional, prospective one — only “if” DeSantis did not run.

He also addressed the building of a team pre-candidacy, saying that was legal given he had not spent $5,000.

“I was building my team to be ready for if/when Congressman DeSantis announced his bid for Governor. All of my team were fully aware that I would not run for Congress unless Congressman DeSantis ran for Governor,” Costello asserted.

“If it matters, and I believe it does not because we had not yet spent $5,000, we can provide the names of multiple attendees at the referenced December 12 Volusia County Republican Executive Committee Christmas Party who will state that when Vic Baker handed out his card to them, he specifically related to them that if Congressman DeSantis runs for Governor, Fred (Costello) would be running for Congress and he (Vic Baker) would be my Campaign Manager.”

“I had not yet gone over the $5,000 threshold (which would have forced me to announce within 15 days of going over that threshold) and because Congressman DeSantis had not yet made his plans public, at that time I had not yet chosen to file as a candidate.”

Costello continued: “I am fully confident I always said I would be a candidate “IF” Congressman DeSantis runs for Governor instead of re-election to Congress. And it was not out of concern for the FEC. I always said “IF” to assure friends that I would not run against Congressman DeSantis because we all like him. If necessary I can provide names of attendees at various meetings who will state that when candidates were invited to come up and speak, I did not go up and speak until the presider added a comment such as ‘and those thinking of running are also invited to speak’ at which time I would go forward and relate that I would run IF Congressman DeSantis did not run.”

Costello ran against DeSantis less than two years ago, of course. He was one of two candidates who didn’t withdraw after DeSantis decided to run again after abandoning his Senate run.

Costello finished second to incumbent Ron DeSantis in the 2016 primary, with 24 percent of the vote.

With DeSantis running for Governor, Costello is currently in against businessman John Ward.

Other candidates – including former Green Beret Michael Waltz, St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns, and Brandon Patty – are taking hard looks at the race.

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.

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.”

Chris King attracts $100K in campaign donations in December

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King raised just over $100,000 combined in December for his official election campaign and his independent political committee Rise and Lead, Florida, his campaign announced Friday.

With the December draw, King’s two committees reported raising $2.97 million total in 2017, and ended the year with $1.62 million cash on hand, his campaign reported.

King’s official campaign committee began December with $1.17 million left in the bank, and Rise and Lead with about $500,000. The latest numbers have not yet been posted.

“I’m encouraged by the response we’ve received in 2017, from across Florida, to a governor who has a fresh approach to politics and who can grow our economy so it works for everyone,” King stated in a news release from his campaign. “Now I’m excited to see all we’re able to accomplish in 2018.”

King, a Winter Park businessman, faces U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. The leading Republican contenders are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow.

Philip Levine planning another bus tour of Florida

Philip Levine is gassing up a bus again for another tour of Florida, this time as an official candidate for governor.

Levine, the Democratic former mayor of Miami Beach, announced Friday that he plans to take a bus campaign tour that will start in Orlando next Tuesday morning and end in Key Largo on the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 12.

His campaign is calling the tour “Live! from Florida’s Living Rooms” and promises he’ll be presenting his vision for Florida’s future  from inside host families’ living rooms, throughout Florida.

Levine plans to kick off the tour in Orlando Tuesday morning by watching Gov. Rick Scott’s “State of the State” address from a host family’s living room, and then providing a direct response, via Facebook Live.

“Tallahassee always tells us what they want us to hear. I’m going around this state to make sure they hear from us. From the living rooms of Florida, we will let Tallahassee know that climate change is real, the minimum wage is unlivable, that drilling off our shores is off-limits, and that taking away our right to home rule is out of the question,” Levine stated in a news release.

“This tour begins a conversation we’ve never had, about things we’ve never done, for people who’ve never been given a chance. We’ve heard from Tallahassee. Now, I’m going to make sure they hear from us,” he added.

Levine faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, and Winter Park businessman Chris King in seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, who just declared his candidacy Friday.

Last summer Levine took a bus tour of Florida as host of a SiriusXM satellite radio talk show. That was before he officially entered the governor’s race, though the tour had all the trappings of a campaign trip.

The exact locations of host families for each living room stop on the next b us tour still are being confirmed. His campaign plans his first stop, in Orlando, at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday morning, at a location to be announced.

Tuesday afternoon he’ll be in Gainesville. Wednesday morning he’ll be in Jacksonville; Wednesday afternoon, Tallahassee; and Wednesday evening, Pensacola. Thursday morning he’ll be in Tampa; and Thursday afternoon, Fort Myers. Friday morning, Jan. 12, he’ll start in West Palm Beach; Friday afternoon he’ll appear in Fort Lauderdale, and then in Key Largo.

Ron DeSantis declares run for Governor, sets up two-man GOP race

True to his word, Rep. Ron DeSantis made news on Fox and Friends.

On Friday, he announced his decision to run for Florida Governor — a decision that seemed made months ago, with the groundwork for a campaign being laid slowly and surely.

“As you remember a few weeks ago, the president tweeted support for me as a candidate for Governor of Florida. So, today we’re going to be filing the paperwork to begin that effort,” DeSantis said.

“As a military officer, an Iraq veteran, and a proven conservative, with the support of the president, I’m in a position to exercise the leadership that can build on the great work that Governor Rick Scott has done to advance economic opportunity, reform education, and drain the swamp in Tallahassee that needs to be drained just like Washington,” DeSantis added.

“While this is an important step towards running for Governor, an official campaign kick-off will take place later this month,” DeSantis continued.

DeSantis rolled out an impressive financial team earlier this week, with more than 50 Floridians stretching from Miami through the Panhandle and featuring Palm Beach billionaire Thomas Peterffy; and more than two dozen national names, topped by Las Vegas casino mogul and conservative political rainmaker Sheldon Adelson.

DeSantis’ state financial leadership team includes Republican donors and timeshare moguls Jackie and David Siegel of Windermere; Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus; Palm Beach fundraisers Gay and Stanley Gaines; and Art Hudson of Orlando.

In addition to Adelson, the national committee includes David Bossie of Dallas, who is chairman of the Citizens United political activism organization and was a deputy campaign director for Trump; Republican financier Rebekah Mercer of New York; Dick Uihlein of Chicago, a big backer of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Club for Growth; and Christian-conservative cause financier Foster Friess of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The GOP race for Governor is shaking out to be Tallahassee interests backing Putnam versus DC interests backing DeSantis. This raises interesting questions for Richard Corcoran, the House Speaker and undeclared candidate. Can he compete with these machines?

Putnam has on-hand roughly $15 million; he began December with more than $2.5 million in his campaign account. Putnam also added just over $1.1 million in December to his political committee Florida Grown, which started December with more than $12.8 million on hand. DeSantis, no doubt, will be able to catch up. Billionaire-stacked finance team aside, he has nearly $1.7 million in his U.S. House account that can be transferred into the gubernatorial run, and a political committee, Fund for Florida’s Future, which has about $2 million on hand.

Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC had nearly $4.69 million on hand when December began.

DeSantis also touted this week a robopoll showing him leading Adam Putnam in what will be — at least until the end of the Legislative Session — a two-man race for the GOP nomination for Governor.

POLITICO popped the survey this week.

“The automated ‘robopoll,’ which had a sample of 1,423 likely GOP voters, had DeSantis with 28 percent, ahead of state Agriculture Commissioner Putnam (25 percent), and Corcoran (3 percent),” the POLITICO write-up asserts.

President Donald Trump on Dec. 22 tweeted: “Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”’

That endorsement of DeSantis matters bigly also. 84 percent of Republicans polled view Trump favorably. And 36 percent see themselves as “Trump Republicans.”

Notable: this is the only survey that shows DeSantis even within the margin of error of Putnam — but that could change soon.

Florida Politics asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott about the Putnam/DeSantis race this week.

The Governor was less than voluble, saying only that he had not endorsed.

A sharp response came from the Putnam campaign Friday morning, in a press release that called DeSantis a “Washington insider” running for another office after a “failed U.S. Senate campaign” in 2016.

“Floridians need a Florida First conservative like Adam Putnam to serve them as their next Governor, not a Washington D.C. insider,” said Putnam spox Amanda BevisB.

“In true Washington insider fashion,” Bevis added, “Congressman Ron DeSantis announced his latest campaign from an empty TV studio to broadcasters in New York. DeSantis is a typical Washington politician who is focused on nothing more than his next promotion. Last election he wanted to be a Senator – now he wants to be Governor…Floridians deserve better.”

Democratic candidates were eager to welcome DeSantis to the fray.

Democratic frontrunner Gwen Graham asserted that “Ron DeSantis running as Trump’s hand-picked candidate with the backing of out-of-state billionaires may endear him to the most partisan primary voters, but he is too extreme for Florida.”

“While DeSantis has dedicated his time in Congress to protecting Trump from Mueller and becoming a Fox News star,” Graham added, “we look forward to a vigorous debate on the real issues that affect Florida families most. Ron DeSantis’s support for privatizing public schools, his denial of climate change and his votes to cut Medicare are just out of touch with Florida families.”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, in a Tweet, called DeSantis Trump’s “handpicked candidate.”

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine went further, calling DeSantis an “alt-right extremist” in a fundraising email.

Material from Florida Politics’ Scott Powers and the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

10 big questions facing Florida politics heading into 2018

The holidays are over. Welcome to 2018. That means campaign season pretty much starts now. Fasten your seat belts because we guarantee a bumpy ride.

Let’s start with the Top 10 (for now) Florida Politics Big Campaign Questions™:

#1: When does Rick Scott take the plunge?

Or does he? As the USA Today Network-Florida’s James Call writes, “The pundits … say 2018 may not be a Republican year — even in a red state like Florida.” (See Democrat Doug Jones’ squeaker of a win over the GOP’s Roy Moore in Alabama.)

#2: What kind of fight does Bill Nelson have in him?

Don’t count out the old astronaut just yet. The state’s senior U.S. senator this past summer told reporters, when asked about a possible Scott challenge, “I know how to campaign … I’ll leave it at that.”

#3: How does Adam Putnam avoid becoming Jeb 2.0?

By running further to the right. (See his social media for clues.) Then again, that could backfire. (See Jones vs. Moore.)

#4: What tricks does Richard Corcoran have up his sleeve?

Money aside, the House Speaker needs to up his name ID. He’s already staking out a position as a populist, “protecting your tax dollars” candidate—should he run, of course.

#5: So … is Ron DeSantis for real?

He got a thumbs up from President Trump and announced a finance team. But is it enough these days to have a Trump endorsement? Or is that a liability? (Have we mentioned Jones vs. Moore?)

#6: Can Gwen Graham raise real money?

It ain’t enough to just be Bob Graham’s daughter. We wonder if her anti-establishment, people-person stance will get in the way of her ability to make major bank.

#7: Does Andrew Gillum stay in until the end?

Such youth, such promise. Then came the annoying FBI, with its investigating of possible local Tallahassee corruption. He’s been told he’s not a target, the mayor says. But the who’ll-get-indicted distraction is still a problem.

#8: Can Phil Levine connect with Democratic primary voters?

He’s rich and he’s white. And that could be his boon—or his bust.

#9: Can Chris King gain traction?

Seems like a nice guy, smart. Too bad for him nobody seems to know or care.

#10: Can Jose Oliva keep up the Republican Party’s winning streak in the state House?

Mary Ellen Klas has said Oliva himself has “made clear he will not moderate the small-government, no-tax, anti-corporate welfare policies Corcoran has pursued.” Now he must figure out how to translate that to continued electoral success.

What about the unknown unknowns? Email or tweet us your ideas to keep the conversation going. We’ll see you on the campaign trail(s), starting … NOW.

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