Adam Putnam – Florida Politics

After a year, families hear nothing on calls for justice for the Groveland Four

A year ago, the families of the “Groveland Four” fought back tears, joined with Florida Legislature leaders, and watching as lawmakers sought to do what they could to right a 68-year-old injustice from the Jim Crow era in Florida.

On April 18, 2017, the Florida House of Representatives approved CS/HCR 631 by 117-0. On April 27, 2017, a year ago Friday, the Florida Senate followed up with a 36-0 vote, apologizing for the “grave injustices perpetrated against Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas.” The injustices had emerged from the 1949 wrongful accusation of four young, black men, of raping a white woman in a rural area outside of Groveland, in Lake County, triggering events that led to the deaths of Shepherd and Thomas, and imprisonments of Greenlee and Irvin.

The Florida Legislature’s resolution urged the governor and the Florida Cabinet to “expedite review” of clemency, granting full pardons.

Following the House vote, the bill’s backers, state Rep. Bobby DuBose, state Sen. Gary Farmer, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other lawmakers joined the families to praise the day.

It is now a year later, and the families still are waiting, and have heard nothing about any expedited clemency review, let alone the granting of full pardons. That moment of praise seems so long ago to them now.

“We want closure. We want them to come out and pardon, or whatever it may be,” said Walter Irvin’s nephew, Eddie Lee Irvin Jr. “They got the proof now, the stuff from the FBI, that they were innocent the whole time.”

“I’m very disappointed at this point. I would like to know: What’s the holdup? What’s going on? Is there something else we have to do? Or just, why hasn’t there been any movement, any activity toward the pardons?” expressed Charles Greenlee’s daughter Carol Greenlee.

“We haven’t heard anything from anyone,” said Vivian Shepherd, Samuel Shepherd’s niece. And without any information, she fears the pardons are not being expedited, but are at the bottom of very tall stack, “so it’s like saying, ‘It’ll never happen.'”

[FloridaPolitics has not been able to track down any family of Ernest Thomas.]

There is much that is secretive about Florida’s clemency review process. Cases are confidential until they actually reach the point of appearing on the docket for public consideration by the Commission on Offender Review. As of late last fall, the commission had more than 22,000 requests pending for pardons and other forms of clemency. The commission takes them up for review in chronological order based on the filing dates, unless a member of the Florida cabinet intervenes and requests that any particular case is expedited.

Formal applications for pardons have been filed for Charles Greenlee and Walter Irvin, the two who survived long enough to be fully convicted and sent to prison. Their families filed for those pardons last summer, as did a young activist who took an interest in the case, Josh Venkataraman.

Normally, without requests to expedite cases, Commission on Offender Review cases are, as Vivian Shepherd feared, backlogged for many years.

Has anyone in the cabinet sought to expedite the Groveland Four cases?

Florida Politics asked all the cabinet members early last week: Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Only Scott’s office responded, and the response did not answer that question, or whether the governor even supports the requested pardons. The response was essentially the same statement his office offered the last time he was publicly asked about the matter, in November, noting that the cases were going through “standard procedure” and the governor was keeping options open.

DuBose and Farmer also did not respond to inquiries to their offices about progress in the cases.

“Governor Scott is aware of the Groveland Four case and is strongly against any form of racial injustice or discrimination. Currently, the families of Walter Irvin and Charles Greenlee have applications pending with the Commission on Offender Review which conducts clemency investigations per standard procedure and the Florida Constitution. After the Commission concludes clemency investigation, their findings are presented to the four-member Board of Executive Clemency,” Scott’s spokesman McKinley Lewis said in a written statement. “We continue to review all of our options.”

Charles Greenlee was a young father, only 17 in July 1949, when he came from Alachua to Groveland looking for work. That was his path into what now is the infamous, nightmare episode of false accusations, arrests, beatings, shootings, railroaded justice, killings, and imprisonments of four men since demonstrated to be innocent. The narrative was spelled out in the 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King.

Some of it also was spelled out in the resolution approved last year by the Florida Legislature. The resolution declared, “We hereby acknowledge that Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas, who came to be known as ‘the Groveland Four,’ were the victims of gross injustices and that their abhorrent treatment by the criminal justice system is a shameful chapter in this state’s history.”

Greenlee and Irvin were paroled in the 1960s. Irvin died in 1969, Greenlee in 2012. His daughter Carol Greenlee finally got to know him when she went off to college and stayed with him in Nashville. At that time, he was working in maintenance at a funeral home and a department store.

“My father was, in my eyes, a great man, a very compassionate person, considerate, a family man who loved his children, and he was just a calm, gentle person, in spite of all that he had gone through,” she said. “He embraced life, and was very considerate of others.

A pardon, she said, “would, number one, lift the clouds over our heads in terms of his being sent to prison for something he did not do. It would give my nieces and nephews a sense of dignity, of respect, some confidence in themselves. When you’re associated with someone in prison, it leaves a cloud there.”

“For me, it hurts, to have lost the time that I’d never get back with my father. [There also is] a sense, a recognition that we are not descendant of a criminal. It will restore my father’s dignity and honor, even after his death,” she said.

Vivian Shepherd’s uncle, her father’s younger brother, Sam, was shot and killed while being transported to a pre-trial hearing, long before she was born. She’s 56 now, living in Clermont.

Like the others, she was thrilled with the resolution. Frustration is mounting now, though. The resolution was an apology. The pardons, she said, offer a concrete legal statement, and that’s what they want.

She has turned her frustration specifically toward Gov. Scott.

“From what we’re told, he can do it. He doesn’t have to go through the committee, but he calls himself ‘following protocol’ here, but we know he can do it,” she said. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe he just choses not to do it. What reason? I don’t know.

“If not him, we’ll look to the next governor,” she added.

Walter Irvin’s nephew, Eddie Lee Irvin Jr., 56, of Clermont, said he also believes politics is holding up the pardons process. And he fears there may not be the luxury of time for delays. Walter Irvin has a surviving sister, and two surviving brothers, including Eddie Lee Irvin’s father.

“I’d just like to see something done, we’ve got three siblings left, before they leave this Earth,” Eddie Lee Irvin Jr. said. “My Dad’s sister, Henrietta, she’s very sick right now, and she’s been battling for this [justice] a long time. Before she leaves this Earth, I would like to see something done, so she can go and be at peace.”

First look: Adam Putnam’s first campaign ad

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, arguably the leading GOP candidate for Florida governor in 2018, will have ads on the air for the first time, according to Medium Buying.

“I’m Adam Putnam. For me, it’s always been Florida first,” the 60-second version of the ad begins.

In the ad, Putnam talks of growing up in Bartow, raising cattle and growing citrus. The ad features him praying with his family, working on his ranch and at a rally of thousands of grassroots supporters where he announced his run for Governor.

Various versions of the ads will be up until the 30th of this month.

Smart Media Group reported a $627,000 buy from Putnam for “broadcast, cable and satellite,” including Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Mobile (covering far N.W. Florida), Orlando, Panama City, Tallahassee, Tampa and West Palm Beach markets.

As Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida notes, conspicuously absent for now: Miami.

A spokesman for The Florida Democratic Party says the early buy is a sign that Putnam thinks his campaign is in trouble.

“With Ron DeSantis nipping at his heels and Breitbart attacking him daily, Putnam is hitting the panic button and being forced to spend big on TV ads to stabilize his beleaguered gubernatorial bid,” said Kevin Donohoe of the FDP. “This is just the latest sign that the Republican gubernatorial primary is becoming a divisive, expensive, and ugly race to the right that will badly damage the eventual GOP nominee.”

Here is a first look at the ad:

 

Adam Putnam’s latest Jacksonville visit shows difference with Ron DeSantis

The Republican campaign for Florida Governor, as it stands now, is a two-man race between Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Each candidate is betting on different paths to the nomination.

While DeSantis’ press shop sends out regular media advisories spotlighting DeSantis hits on Fox News and Fox Business, Putnam is running a more traditional campaign.

He’s not given equal time on Fox News; his opinions aren’t sought on the Robert Mueller investigation.

So Putnam does what candidates have typically done, schlepping from town to town and market to market in an effort to pitch his message — one that rarely changes — to audiences.

Jacksonville has seen Putnam many times and will see him again Wednesday morning, for an “Up and Adam” breakfast event at the Beach Diner in Mandarin.

Local reporters have gotten to hear Putnam’s stump speech enough to be able to recite it on cue. Florida, Putnam has said and will say, needs to be a “launchpad for the American dream.” And there needs to be more attention given to trade education in schools, as we learn every time the state recovers from hurricanes.

To his credit, Putnam typically takes press questions at the end of his events. For example, after an opioid roundtable in Jacksonville weeks ago, Putnam had to address a hot topic at the time: the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act.

While Putnam took issue with gun restrictions in the legislation, such as barring gun sales for those under the age of 21, he stopped short of saying he would push for a legislative repeal of the bill.

Those press encounters are spirited back-and-forths, and they help Putnam clarify his positions in local markets, even if some of them are more pleasant for the candidate than others.

DeSantis, meanwhile, teased his candidacy for months before getting into the race at the beginning of the year.

Aside from a late January rally in Boca Raton where the candidate pledged to drain the swamp in Tallahassee, DeSantis has not been a fixture in local markets.

While the Fox News perch is a unique value-add suggesting a future as a host for an “Ingraham Angle” style program if DeSantis doesn’t become Governor, weeks of inactivity on the trail have become months.

There has been little evidence of a ground operation for the candidate, who nonetheless is holding his own in polls against Putnam — no small feat, given that Putnam has been a statewide officeholder for the last eight years.

The contrast between Putnam and DeSantis, in their approaches to chasing the state’s top job, has been stark. One candidate has run a textbook campaign, boots on the ground in every county.

The other candidate has run a campaign in which the satellite dish and the cable connection have largely been substitutes.

The DeSantis approach challenges the paradigm of retail politics; while he has promised that President Donald Trump will campaign with him “very soon,” the question is what will that involvement look like.

If a Trump endorsement and cable news hits carry DeSantis to the nomination over Putnam, then it is clear that the game of politics in the Sunshine State has shifted seismically.

Adam Putnam to keynote Osceola Lincoln Day Dinner

Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam will be in Kissimmee Friday evening to speak to Osceola County Republicans.

The keynote is part of the Republican Party of Osceola County’s Lincoln Day Dinner at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, 6000 W Osceola Parkway.

It’ll take a ticket to hear Putnam’s keynote – Lincoln Day Dinners are one of the top fundraising days of the year for local Republican parties, and Osceola’s is no different.

A seat at the event will run $125. The event begins at 6:00 pm with a cocktail hour, and the doors to the main ballroom open at 7 pm.

Entertainment includes music from the Cornerstone Family Baptist Church band. State Rep. Mike La Rosa will give the invocation and County Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr. will lead the pledge before Putnam’s keynote begins.

The full agenda and registration information is available on the Republican Party of Osceola County website.

The second-term Agriculture Commissioner was the first-in gubernatorial candidate on the Republican side, and he’s far in front of the crowded field when it comes to fundraising.

He currently faces Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Republican Primary, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran expected to join in the coming weeks.

Takeaways from the Fox 13 Democratic gubernatorial debate

Four Democratic gubernatorial candidates squared off Wednesday during a televised debate hosted by Tampa Bay’s Fox 13 news station.

Here are some instant takeaways on the winners and losers emerging from the debate.

Winners

Adam Putnam, Ron DeSantis and the Florida GOP — If you are on #TeamPutnam or with DeSantis, you have to believe your political future will be decided in the primary because whichever Republican comes out of it should be able to dispatch any of the four candidates we saw today. Blue wave or not, Putnam’s encyclopedic knowledge of the state and its policies and DeSantis’ “training” on Fox News have both men better positioned than these candidates.

John Morgan — Is there any doubt that the Orlando trial lawyer would have mowed through this field? Hey John, qualifying is still two months away.

Andrew Gillum — I’m re-watching the debate as we speak and it’s hard to find a moment when Gillum was tripped up. I don’t want to sound like Joe Biden and extol how articulate the African-American candidate is, but damnit, he is — extraordinarily so. Gillum’s also passionate about (and perfectly attuned) to the issues of Democratic voters. He even came close to correctly answering the moderator’s question about the size of the education budget. He also went straight at Graham (like in this clip) in a way that was not condescending a la “Hillary, you’re likable enough.” He’s gonna have to do more of that to catch up in the polls.

Gwen GrahamWe set the bar high for Graham going into today’s debate, and she cleared it. She was the disproportionate target of attacks from the other candidates, but she handled it all in a way that should enamor her with her base of female voters. Graham also displayed a comprehensive understanding of state policy — from environmental issues to tangential concerns, like the size of the Department of the Lottery. Her answer on health care policy, in which she referenced her husband’s battle with cancer, was the high point of the debate. Her biggest sin of omission was not correctly answering the question about the size of the education budget. She was a school administrator, for goodness’ sake.

Craig Patrick — The Tampa Bay media market is blessed with so much on-air TV talent that a journalist like Fox 13’s political director is almost taken for granted. Patrick did an excellent job of moving the debate along, while also making time for follow-up questions.

TV stations throughout Florida — If this debate is any indication, Philip Levine is not going to be able to ad buy his way to the nomination a la what Rick Scott did in 2010. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try. Levine’s mixed-bag performance in the debate will have him breaking out his checkbook soon enough.

Mixed bag

Democratic voters — Yes, there was a gubernatorial debate. And it will be aired in the state’s largest media market. But will anyone really tune into a debate in April airing right before the local hockey team’s playoff game starts?

Philip Levine — None of these candidates is homespun the way Putnam is, but the knock on Levine is he’s too South Florida to win the middle and north parts of the state. So any time Levine can knock down this ridiculous criticism, it’s a win for him. And on this stage, Levine seemed like he was the most easygoing. He even looked like he was having fun. But maybe he’s having too much fun because he whiffed on a couple of questions he’s probably kicking himself about right now. He needs to do a little more homework before the next debate.

Losers

Geoff Burgan — In response to the Gillum communication director’s rapid responses on Twitter, one very prominent member of Florida’s media noted that he was “once again doing an amazing job of antagonizing the media.”

Janet Cruz — The Tampa Democrat is still the leader of the House Democrats and the party’s top candidate in the most important state Senate race in 2018. Her daughter is a former executive director of the party. But Levine whiffed when asked about her.

Bill Nelson — I’m sure he would have liked the four Democrats looking to replace Rick Scott to, you know, criticize Rick Scott more often. I’ll have to check the transcript but Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran came away from the debate relatively unscathed.

Tampa Bay Times — Not one of the four candidates, when asked what was the first thing they read in the morning, mentioned the state’s largest newspaper. Can you imagine Bob Graham, Jeb Bush, or Charlie Crist not mentioning the Times?

Dead to me

Chris King — The Orlando entrepreneur said the first thing he reads each day is this website’s archrival, The Sayfie Review, which typically isn’t updated until 6 a.m. or later. So we presume he’s not reading our Sunburn — the morning email of what’s hot in Florida politics — which comes out on most mornings at 4 a.m. and has included blurb after blurb about King, who, up until today, we had a soft spot for. Not anymore. You name-check our rivals during a debate and you can count on me name-checking your rivals as often as possible.

Neil Combee makes it official; announces run for Dennis Ross’ seat

Former State Rep. Neil Combee, a Polk City Republican, announced Tuesday that he will seek Florida’s 15th Congressional District seat left open by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

Ross, a Republican from Lakeland, announced last week he will not seek re-election to the post he has held since January 2011.

Combee, 58, made his announcement at noon following his resignation as state executive officer for the Gainesville-based Farm Service Agency, a USDA agency serving Florida and the Virgin Islands and notifying his staff.

He resigned as representative for House District 39 in November when he was appointed to the federal post by President Donald Trump.

“I am a loyal supporter of President Trump and the great strides he has made for this country. While I had to think carefully about resigning my post, I can better help him and his programs by being in Congress,” Combee said.

The Combee family name is well-known in Polk County, which makes up 40 percent of the congressional district, with such names as the historic Combee Settlement neighborhood and Combee Road.

Combee is a farmer, rancher and real estate executive and served 16 years as a Polk County Commissioner. Upon leaving in 2004, his fellow commissioners named the new county administration building for him.

He served on the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District from 2005 until 2012 when he was elected to the Florida House.

Combee said CD 15 is a perfect fit since a large portion is rural and suburban and has a great deal of agriculture.

The district includes Polk County which makes up 40 percent while Hillsborough contains about 50 percent with Lake County making up roughly 10 percent of the district.

Pundits had for a long time before Ross’ announcement had said after him, the district likely would be controlled by Hillsborough voters.

“With Polk and Lake counties this is a 50-50 split, but I also have great history with the eastern part of Hillsborough with friends and associates for a long time,” he said.

Six Democrats have already opened campaigns for the seat before Ross’ announcement of his retirement. Democratic officials say that the district is winnable this year for a Democrat because of the controversies surrounding the very president to whom Combee has pledged his strong support.

But the district in some form has been represented by a Republican since then Rep. Andy Ireland of Winter Haven switched to the Republican Party in 1984.

Polk County Republican Party Chair JC Martin said he has no doubt a Polk County Republican will win the primary and the general election.

“Polk County’s favorite son (Commissioner of Agriculture) Adam Putnam will be on the ballot, and that is worth extra turnout from the Polk County side,” Martin said of Putnam’s run for governor.

Among those prominent Republicans also interested in Ross’ seat includes state Rep. Ross Spano of Dover, who is expected to announce he is switching from campaigning for Florida Attorney General to mount a run for CD 15.

Tuesday afternoon, WMNF radio reported Spano is pulling out of the AG race, and intents to enter the race for Congress. He has not yet officially filed.

Spano was behind the resolution in the last Legislative Session that declared pornography a “public health risk.” The measure recognized the health risk caused by explicit material, and recognized a need for “education, prevention, research and policy change to protect citizens of this state.”

Speculation is that state Sen. Tom Lee of Brandon is studying a run.

Also officially in the race: Loretta Leah Lax Miller of Clermont and Curtis Ralph Rogers of Dover.

Another official in the Polk County Republican Party, family counselor Ed Shoemaker of Lakeland, announced last week that he will run for the seat.

Danny Kushmer, Executive Director of International Responsible Farming Council, headquartered in Hillsborough County, also announced Tuesday that he will run for the seat as a Republican. The council is a not-for-profit corporation to tell the American farmer’s story through certification and participation in best management practices to ensure use of the latest food safety protocols.

Former state Rep. Seth McKeel and state Sen. Kelli Stargel, both Lakeland Republicans, are highly rumored as potential candidates but have said they will not run for the post.

Gwen Graham ‘the mom’ addresses Parkland, guns in new digital ad

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has launched a new digital advertisement in which she says she thinks about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre as a mother, and about gun laws as someone who wants to be Governor

The minute, 41-second video, “It’s Time,” released Monday shows Graham getting emotional talking about how the Parkland shooting affected her. It then shows her appearing at post-Parkland memorials and rallies, and concludes with her talking about how she defeated an NRA-backed congressman.

Graham faces Winter Park businessman Chris King, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the battle for the August 28 Democratic primary to run for governor. The leading Republican candidates are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“What happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas is every parent’s worst nightmare. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose a child. My heart breaks as a mom. That’s how this issue resonates with me,” she says, her voice cracking, in the video’s first section.

Then, as the visuals turn to the rallies that occurred statewide in the weeks after the Feb. 14 massacre, Graham’s says, “Time after time after time we have done nothing in the face of these horrific tragedies. This time will be different. This time must be different.”

And as the commercial fades, she declares that the gun lobby, “will lose again when I’m governor.”

Following Parkland, kid-backed climate lawsuit carries weight

On the tails of unprecedented youth activism in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, eight young Floridians are suing Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for not taking steps to address climate change.

According to those who brought forth legal action, however, the suit would’ve been filed regardless of the Valentine’s Day tragedy.

“I believe that the tragedy at Parkland has put youth activists in the fore, but this youth movement — climate movement — has been going on now for several years,” Guy Burns, the lead counsel for the youths, told media in Tallahassee on Monday.  

But Burns conceded that for kids concerned with effects of climate change, the anti-gun violence grassroots activism centered in South Florida has put “wind in their sails.”

Though he added: “It was an unfortunate twist of fate that caused that to happen. We would be here anyway with a group of youths who are interested in environmental change.”

Oscar Psychas, a 20-year-old plaintiff and Gainesville native, said gun control and climate change overlap.

“In both of these issues, it really is one where our political leaders are not taking action even though our lives are at stake — that kids can’t go to school feeling safe, or that kids [in Florida] are worried that their home will be lost and are seeing these devastating impacts from climate change,” Psychas said.

“I think [lawmakers] have made the political calculation that … [youth voices] really aren’t in the discussion,” Psychas said. “But that’s about to change, and I think it’s already started.”

The suit filed Monday namechecks defendants Scott, Putnam and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein. It also calls out the Florida Board of Trustees of Internal Improvement Trust Fund and the Public Service Commission, the regulatory board for utilities in the Sunshine State.

The plaintiffs contend that named defendants know Floridians are “living under climatic conditions that create an unreasonable risk of harm but have not responded reasonably to this urgent crisis, and instead have affirmatively acted to exacerbate the climate crisis,” according to the complaint.

It cites Florida common law and constitutional provisions that plaintiffs claim requires government leaders to take action against climate change. Among them: Article 2, Section 7 (a) of the Constitution, which reads, “It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources.”

Sandy D’Alemberte, a former state lawmaker and former President of The American Bar Association, said that part of the constitution is unique to Florida. He is a professor of constitutional law at Florida State University College of Law and said there is “a good chance” of a favorable ruling for the plaintiffs, because “Florida courts have been receptive to innovation.”

The suit “gives us the opportunity to take these provisions of the Florida Constitution and make something of them,” D’Alemberte said.

News of the suit broke last week. At first glance, it seems overtly political, naming Scott, who announced his U.S. Senate bid last week, and Putnam, who’s a Republican candidate in the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Putnam is included because he oversees the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Forest Service. Scott is essentially named because he’s led the state since 2011.

Burns dismissed the idea that the suit is a well-timed political attack. He cited an appellate victory in a similar case in March as one of the reasons for the suit’s filing.

Scott’s office thinks otherwise, though.

“The Governor is focused on real solutions to protect our environment — not political theater or a lawsuit orchestrated by a group based in Eugene, Oregon,” Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis said in a prepared statement referencing Our Children’s Trust, the group that’s backing the Florida and Oregon suits. Lewis also said the Governor provided record funding for the environment passed by the Legislature this year, totaling $4 billion.

Andrew Gillum pledges to up corporate taxes to provide $1B more for public school

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Monday pledged he would spend an additional $1 billion on public education with a plan that would increase Florida’s corporate tax to pay for it.

“When I’m governor, we’ll invest $1 billion in our public schools, students, and teachers and put the president’s disastrous tax giveaway to work. Under my ‘Fair Share for Florida’s Future’ Plan, we’ll ask our richest corporations to invest a fraction of their windfall under this new law into our state’s education and workforce,” Gillum stated in a news release issued Monday by his campaign.

“For too long, Florida Republicans have forced working people to pay too heavy a tax burden instead of the richest corporations — meanwhile, my Democratic opponents have stood by silently. I will put an end to that as governor in 2019.”

Gillum’s plan calls for an increase in the corporate income tax rate on large corporations to 7.75 percent, contending that few of them are paying taxes now, and those that do pay only pay 5.5 percent. Given the $6.2 billion he said Florida corporations are saving through the federal tax cuts, he is calling the increase “Fair Share for Florida’s Future,” echoing the “Fair Share Tax Program” plan put forth in 1970 when then-U. S. Sen. Reubin Askew ran for governor.

Gillum’s plan would call for adding at least $100 million into the Public Education Capital Outlay Fund for public schools construction; at least $400 million to pay raises for public school teachers; at least $250 million in early childhood education programs; and at least $100 million for vocational training.

Gillum faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Winter Park businessman Chris King seeking the August 28 Democratic nomination to run for governor. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

In a white paper posted on Medium, Gillum, contended “our richest corporations will still pay billions less in taxes next year. We just ask that less than a fifth of that money go to work for Florida families.

“By adjusting our state corporate tax level to a modest 7.75 percent, which still allows corporations in Florida a massive tax cut and keeps our rate more than 1 percent lower than California, we will be able to recoup at least $1 billion back from the richest corporations and put it where we need it most — investing in our future,” he added. “My plan calls for rebuilding our public schools, paying teachers a minimum starting salary of $50,000, investing in early childhood education programs, and investing in SHOP 2.0 and vocational training to help get workers the training they need for higher paying jobs.”

Philip Levine calls for DCF changes to offer support to young adults without

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine promised closer relationships between state government and nonprofits like Orlando’s Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, saying the state needs to re-evaluate how such programs are run through the Department of Children and Families.

After touring the Second Harvest Food Bank Friday — the second Democratic gubernatorial candidate to do so, after Gwen Graham did in December, Levine offered few details about his vision to address hunger, homelessness and other chronic social needs but spoke of making them priorities.

“We need to do all these things to lift the state up,” Levine said. “It requires us to have better education, better health care, a better environmental policy, non-discrimination policies.

“And when you come to an organization like this, and you see the opportunity they present if they could just get cooperation and partnership with the state of Florida, to me it’s a golden opportunity. I look at this and say, this to me is an asset of our state, and how do we utilize this asset?”

Levine faces Graham, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the battle for the August 28 Democratic primary. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Partly through partnerships with big local corporate players such as Walt Disney World and Darden Restaurants, Second Harvest collects, sorts and distributes food to more than 500 local emergency food assistance programs throughout Central Florida.

After praising the model and vowing his administration would plug into it, Levine pivoted to a discussion of The Florida Department of Children and Families, saying he spoke with a Second Harvest volunteer trainee who had come up through foster care, who said that when he turned 18, he had virtually no support system.

“I think that’s an example of something that needs to change. We saw, unfortunately, that shooter from [Marjory] Stoneman Douglas [High School.] I think he had a similar experience. He [Nikolas Cruz] turned 18 and no one was looking after him, in terms of mental health,” Levine said.

“I think we need to start taking care of our people more, and maybe start modeling ourselves after some of the most admired companies in America who take care of their people very much so, the same organizations we want to attract to our state of Florida, whether it’s Amazon or Boeing, or Disney, whatever it may be, we need to start acting more to take care of our people,” Levine said.

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