Donna Shalala losing momentum as primary election approaches

SP_shalala

w/ @AlexTDaugherty

Things seem to be heading the wrong direction for Donna Shalala.

Not only has the frontrunner in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 27th congressional district watched her lead shrink this summer, but the former Health and Human Services secretary also seen her closest competitor nearly triple her fundraising over the last month.

Newly filed pre-election campaign finance reports show that, during the five weeks between July 1 an Aug. 8, Shalala raised $134,983.53.

Not bad.

But state Rep. David Richardson pulled in $364,712.65 over the same period.

Richardson’s July haul suddenly gives him more money to spend over the final two weeks before election day. Though Shalala reported $723,319.44 in cash-on hand (compared to Richardson’s $566,476.64), more than $300,000 of that amount was earmarked for the general election.

A breakdown of the fundraising totals shows that Shalala, as of Aug. 8, had about $420,000 left to spend on the primary. Richardson had about $500,000. Matt Haggman, who raised $67,806.71 in July, had $280,000 to spend since close to a quarter-million of his money is reserved for the general election.

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Hepburn lag far behind in the money race.

Dollars aren’t the same as votes. But internal polls released by Richardson and Haggman last month suggest that the two candidates are gaining on the former University of Miami president. And if you compare Shalala’s end-of-primary fundraising totals to the $1.17 million she touted raising during her first three weeks as an official candidate (neglecting in a press release to mention that she loaned herself $500,000), it looks like her campaign is losing momentum.

As Richardson celebrated his fundraising numbers Friday, he was also campaigning in Miami with Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Pocan sees a competitive primary in a seat that favors Democrats as an opportunity to expand the power of liberal Democrats in Congress. 

"This is one of the best chances for a pickup in the country," Pocan said. "You do not take a majority in Congress if you don't pick this seat up. We've got a really, really great candidate in David Richardson, if you look at his background, it's the path he took as a state legislator where I see some of the most successful members of Congress coming from."
 
Pocan noted Richardson's work on prison reform in the Florida legislature as an example of someone who can make an impact even when the public's attention is elsewhere. 
 
"People don't become major advocates of prison reform to get ahead, it's the kind of issues people work on when no one's looking that kind of tells you who is a good candidate. It shows that he’s very woke to what’s going ton and Shalala is trying to wake up to what’s going on."

Richardson says his campaign is intensely focused on the ground game with a week and a half remaining in the primary, now that they've spent money on mailers and television ads to build up his name ID. His campaign estimates that about half of undecided voters are going his way, with the other half split between Shalala and Matt Haggman, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Hepburn

"I don’t believe in going to the doors too early," Richardson said. "I think its much more impactful to be at the door after they’ve seen the mail, TV messaging."

And Richardson said he isn't afraid to bring up Shalala's name and experience when talking with voters, adding that most already know who she is and he can use her well-known career as the former Secretary of Health and Human Services and tenure as the University of Miami president as a jumping off point to discuss their differences.

Pocan said he isn't worried that a Richardson victory in the primary would give Republicans more of a chance to win in November, arguing that the issues Richardson advocates for like Medicare for all are the issues that interest independent voters.

"I'm from Wisconsin. Honestly, if this was the decision to pick the next football coach, (Shalala) would be great, she made a great pick with Barry Alvarez at the University of Wisconsin," Pocan said. "But if it's to be the next member of Congress, it's got to be David."

This article has been updated to correct information regarding the candidates' primary election money. A previous version of this article lumped general election money in with primary election money.

August 18, 2018

Florida election officials seek info as support builds for Nelson’s Russian-hack claim

Scott and nelson

@alextdaugherty @greggordon2

Florida election officials said Saturday they are seeking more information to combat any possibility of ongoing hacking efforts on county voting systems, as support mounted over the weekend for Sen. Bill Nelson’s recent claims that Russian operatives have “penetrated” some county voter registration databases in Florida ahead of the 2018 elections.

A U.S. government official familiar with the matter confirmed to McClatchy on Saturday an NBC news report that Nelson was right when he said Russian hackers had “penetrated” some of Florida’s county voting systems. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee told Nelson recently that operatives working for Russia penetrated some county voter registration databases in Florida. That appears to represent new information about fallout from a Russian hacking operation nearly two years ago and not evidence of a fresh attack, the government official familiar with the matter said.

And on Saturday, Nelson defended himself against claims by Gov. Rick Scott, his likely opponent in a hotly contested U.S. Senate election, that he was careless with classified information.

“I did exactly what the leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee — both the Republican chairman and the vice-Chairman — asked Marco Rubio and I to give that warning. And to give it to the supervisors, which we did,” Nelson said at a campaign stop in Tampa. “I think now that Marco Rubio and I have brought it to everybody’s attention, despite the attempts at politicization of it by Gov. Scott, I think now that it’s out there on the open on what is the potential threat, I think the supervisors will make sure that their systems are secure.”

However, the U.S. government official who spoke to McClatchy said Nelson overstated the threat in saying on Aug. 7 that, after penetrating county voter registration databases, Russian cyber operatives “now have free rein to move about.” Nelson since has voiced concerns that the Russians could tamper with voter registration databases, suppress votes and create chaos at the polls on Election Day.

Details of the extent of any election security threat from the Russians’ penetration of Florida counties are classified, and the limited information that has leaked presents a confusing picture.

Florida officials faced with the prospect of ongoing hacking attempts say they’ve seen no evidence of voter information being altered as early primary voting continues in counties around the state.

Paul Lux, the supervisor of elections for Okaloosa County and the president of the state Association of Supervisors of Elections, said county-level election officials have not been informed of concrete steps they should take to inoculate themselves from the specific threat of ongoing Russian hacking attempts that Nelson has alluded to. Florida officials who do have access to classified information regarding the state’s voting systems typically receive briefings from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.

Read more here.

August 17, 2018

Nelson declares vindication on Russia hacking claim

Scott and nelson

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson declared vindication Friday over his still unsubstantiated claim that Russians hacked into some county election systems in Florida, pointing to a news report that stated there is a "classified basis for Nelson's assertion."

The Florida Democrat tweeted a breaking news alert from NBC News. "Bill Nelson wasn't making things up when he said Russians hacked Florida election systems," it read.

The report was based on "three people familiar with the intelligence."

Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Nelson for re-election, has accused Nelson of leaking classified information or simply fabricating the story, first disclosed to the Tampa Bay Times more than a week ago.

The Times has reported how top Republicans in Washington, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Sen. Marco Rubio, have issued statements that neither confirm or contradict what Nelson said.

[Bill Nelson: The Russians have penetrated some Florida voter registration systems]

The Florida Department of State did not respond to the NBC News report.

Instead, a spokeswoman pointed to a Thursday letter sent to Nelson from Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Paul Lux, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, asking for evidence to support his claims.

"The Department of State has no evidence to support his claims at this time. We look forward to his response," the spokeswoman said Friday, responding for the governor as well.

As governor, Scott has a security clearance and could have requested a briefing from Washington officials but did not. A spokesman said that Detzner's office was handling communication with federal authorities.

Republican groups hammering away at Nelson reacted to the report by questioning if the Democrat "broke the law" by revealing classified information.

Rules for the Senate Intelligence Committee do say senators are not to disclose material and can be referred to the ethics committee if they do.

Parkland parents' super PAC releases new ad—but they're waiting to attack pro-gun lawmakers

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 2.37.31 PM

@alextdaugherty

A group of Parkland parents are getting their hands dirty ahead of the 2018 elections. 

The Families Versus Assault Rifles PAC, a super PAC organized by Parkland parents who want to oust lawmakers that do not support limiting access to assault weapons, banning bump stocks and limiting magazine size, released a new ad that uses footage from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the day of the shooting and a salvo of gunshots to drum up support for their cause. 

The ad, a 30-second digital spot titled "Mass Shootings are NOT Normal" opens with footage of Parkland students being led away from their classrooms during the shooting before the sound of gunshots cuts in. Then, Parkland parents Sergio Rozenblat and Jeff Kasky urge supporters to join and donate to the cause.

 

"There are certain entities, who are gun lobby entities, who claim certain amounts of membership in the millions of people. There’s one in particular that has 6 million members," Kasky said, referring to the National Rifle Association. "That means there’s 344 million Americans who are not members of your organization. But we also want to be able to say these are the Americans who disagree with your message. You’ve got your 6 million we’ve got our 344 million." 

Kasky started the super PAC shortly after the mass shooting on Valentine's Day and his son Cameron became one of the most visible student leaders in the March for Our Lives effort. The elder Kasky's goal is simple: raise money to fund ad campaigns against lawmakers who don't agree with their agenda. 

Kasky said the group isn't publicly announcing which races around the country will be a part of their effort until after primaries conclude nationwide in a few weeks, though he said the U.S. Senate race between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson along with the race for the open Florida governor's seat are on his radar personally. 

"When we find a candidate who disagrees with us then he or she will be in our crosshairs," Kasky said. "Then, we’ll take a look and see if the investment will be productive." 

The group's process is simple, Kasky said. Candidates or lawmakers are asked about their positions on banning bump stocks, limiting magazine sizes and if they support severely restricting assault weapons. If a candidate answers yes to all three, the group moves on. If not, the group will decide if the candidate is worth attacking during election season. 

"We’re looking at each race as a possible investment, if we look at a race and it looks like we can make a difference and it's close enough," Kasky said. "We know our opponents are very well-funded and that’s why were in this fundraising mode. Say our guy is 25 points behind in a traditionally conservative gun-friendly area, we’re not going to look at it, its a waste of our money." 

So far, the PAC has raised about $200,000 according to federal filings that were due at the end of June. If the group wants to compete with some of the nation's biggest super PACs who can swoop in with TV ads during the final weeks of a campaign it will need to raise millions of dollars. 

"It almost goes against every fiber of my being, I’m a professional mediator," Kasky said of the group's negative approach. "I’m a lover not a fighter, but the other side has made it very clear that this is the way they do things. We’re going to have to get a little dirty." 

Watch the ad here: 

A tale of two primaries: The race to replace Ros-Lehtinen enters the final stretch

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty

The Republican and Democratic primaries to replace Miami icon Ileana Ros-Lehtinen both have front-runners.

That’s where the similarities end.

Democrats are arguing over policy issues that could accelerate the party’s leftward shift and are trying to attack former University of Miami President Donna Shalala. Discussions about abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and implementing Medicare for all are ideas that just recently came to the national party’s attention.

Republicans are arguing that the leading candidate, TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar, was flirtatious with former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in an television interview 23 years ago, lobbing well-worn accusations of being soft on Cuba that have been a staple of Miami campaigns for decades.

“You would think that in Miami that we’re running campaigns on foreign policy,” said Republican political consultant Jesse Manzano-Plaza, who is not involved in the GOP race. “This is an example on the federal level, but even on the policy it seems like it’s about the perception that someone may have been friendly to Fidel Castro in an interview years ago.”

When Ros-Lehtinen, the GOP’s leading social moderate in Congress and a noted critic of President Donald Trump, announced her retirement nearly a year and a half ago, the seat instantly became the Democrats’ to lose. Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by more than 19 percentage points in the district that encompasses Miami Beach, most of Miami, Kendall and parts of coastal South Dade.

Republicans and Democrats have gone 0 for 23 in situations like Ros-Lehtinen’s since 1994, when an incumbent representative doesn’t run for reelection in a district carried two years earlier by a president from the opposite party.

Read more here.

Florida gun group: Ron DeSantis supports openly carrying guns without requiring permit

Handguns
Alan McFadden, 54, of Seminole, looks at guns and shops for ammunition in the gun shop at Bill Jackson's Shop For Adventure in 2015. (LARA CERRI | Times)

Ron DeSantis told a gun rights advocacy group that people should not need a permit to openly carry a firearm in public, according to the group's lawyer and a release sent out by the organization this week.

Eric Friday, the general counsel for Florida Carry, said he met with DeSantis in Kissimmee while the Congressman was there for the Republican "Sunshine Summit" in June, which featured a debate between DeSantis and his rival in the governor's race, Adam Putnam, as well as prominent speeches from prominent Republicans like Ben Carson.

DeSantis' position was originally touted in a roundup earlier this week of various lawmakers' stances on gun issues based on conversations they had with the group.

Florida currently requires a permit (and thus, background checks) for anyone wishing to carry a handgun, and it must be concealed. Thirty-one states have adopted permissive "open carry" laws that allow people to carry guns without a permit if they are in plain sight. This is also sometimes called "constitutional carry," because its supporters believe the Second Amendment bypasses the need for a license.

"What Congressman DeSantis said is he doesn’t understand why you need a license to exercise a fundamental right in the first place," Friday said in an interview with the Times/Herald. "He did not make a commitment to support open carry or unlicensed carry. He didn’t say he would he would push for it in the Legislature (if elected governor)."

"We were very pleased with his answers and very pleased to hear him express support," Friday added.

In the original release, Florida Carry also said that DeSantis supports "campus carry," or allowing gun owners to carry firearms on college or university campuses.

Campaign spokesman David Vasquez did not respond to requests to confirm DeSantis' statements made to the group.

Florida Carry is a state organization comparable to the National Rifle Association, though Florida Carry has sometimes taken stronger positions than the NRA.

The issue of gun rights has continued to draw a great deal of political oxygen throughout this campaign cycle, as the Parkland students completed a national bus tour registering young voters. February's murder of 17 students and teachers in Parkland also returned to the fore this week as students went back to school, this year with armed guards required on every campus.

Then, last month, a broad daylight killing of an unarmed man in a Clearwater parking lot sparked renewed furor over Florida's self-defense law.

READ MORE: 27 Days: The Markeis McGlockton case, from shooting to stand your ground furor to shooter’s arrest

Also according to the Florida Carry release, DeSantis' rival in the Republican race for Florida governor, Adam Putnam, "refused to meet" with them. Friday elaborated that a staff member from Putnam's campaign agreed to meet with him in Kissimmee but then stopped responding to texts to set it up.

That's uncharacteristic of a candidate who has received A+ ratings from the NRA and has drawn ire from the left for tweeting that he is a "proud NRA sellout."

On the campaign trail, Putnam said more than a year ago that he would support a "pathway for Florida to get to a form of open carry," as well as campus carry. He did not specify whether he would support allowing open without permits.

While serving as Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture, Putnam also advocated for streamlining the process to issue concealed carry permits. It was later found that his office mishandled that process and failed to review background checks in several thousand cases.

His campaign's spokeswoman, Meredith Beatrice, said Putnam's reported refusal to meet Florida Carry was a "misunderstanding."

She then doubted DeSantis' authenticity.

"You mean to tell me Congressman DeSantis, who recently stood with Al Sharpton and Democrats against Florida law enforcement on Stand Your Ground, previously told this group he is in favor of constitutional carry?" she said in a statement.

"That’s the real story here, he will pander and say anything to get a vote. There is no one in this race who is a stronger advocate of Second Amendment rights than Adam Putnam."

READ MORERepublican candidates for governor get in dust-up over Clearwater ‘stand your ground’ shooting

August 15, 2018

Democrats eager for a blue wave admit Carlos Curbelo is beating them

Curbelo

@alextdaugherty

Carlos Curbelo’s low-lying and Democratic-leaning Miami-to-Key West district is ground zero for a blue wave in November.

But he’s built a sizable sea wall.

With two-and-a-half months until Election Day, polling from Republicans and Democrats shows Curbelo with a lead over his likely Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in a district that Hillary Clinton won by more than 16 percentage points over Donald Trump, and Curbelo isn’t running television ads yet.

A poll released by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, an organization that seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives, shows Curbelo with a seven-percentage-point lead over Mucarsel-Powell among 500 likely voters.

It’s unusual for political organizations to release polling that shows their favored candidate trailing, and the poll shows a larger gap between Mucarsel-Powell and Curbelo than a DCCC poll from April that showed Curbelo with a five percentage point lead.

“All I can figure is that the DCCC released this poll to send a message to their floundering candidate: ‘You’re losing. Get your campaign in order and do something about it,’” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Maddie Anderson said.

At least one Republican poll that hasn’t been released publicly shows Curbelo with a larger lead over Mucarsel-Powell than the DCCC poll.

The DCCC touted their poll, which was conducted a month ago, by arguing that the race became tied after voters heard basic biographical information about Curbelo and Mucarsel-Powell. Around the same time the poll was conducted, Mucarsel-Powell switched campaign managers and her husband was found to have financial ties to an Eastern European oligarch dogged by allegations of contract killings and embezzlement.

“In the initial vote, despite major name ID disparity, Mucarsel-Powell earns 41 percent to Congressman Curbelo’s 48 percent. This lead quickly erodes after equal biographic information from both sides,” a DCCC polling memo said. “This exodus from Curbelo is spurred by the introduction of Mucarsel-Powell, who at the time of the poll was largely unknown and had not yet communicated with voters in the 26th district.”

Mucarsel-Powell entered the race a year ago, and her campaign started running television ads to introduce herself last week, after the poll was conducted. But Curbelo hasn’t started running TV ads, and he finished the latest fundraising quarter with more money to spend than Mucarsel-Powell in an environment where 56 Democratic challengers outraised Republican incumbents across the country, many in districts that are far less friendly to Democrats on paper.

Read more here.

After condemning U.S. Sugar's influence, Ron DeSantis to visit toxic green algae

Greenslime
A finger canal off the Caloosahatchee River in the River Oaks neighborhood near LaBelle was clogged with algae. [Pedro Portal | Miami Herald]

Congressman Ron DeSantis is scheduled for a quick visit to southwest Florida on Wednesday, adding himself to the long list of state and federal officials who have traveled to see the green, "guacamole-like" toxic algae for themselves.

But there is one thing that makes DeSantis's visit different: his condemnation of U.S. Sugar's role in the algae crisis during the Republican debate in Jacksonville last week. U.S. Sugar is one of the most dominant special interests in Tallahassee, one that some Democratic candidates for governor, like Chris King, have used as a punching bag during this race.

DeSantis's harsh criticism of the company, is highly unusual for a Republican frontrunner for governor, especially during a televised debate. U.S. Sugar has poured millions and millions into the campaign of his opponent, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

READ MORE: Only one candidate for governor still takes money from Big Sugar: Adam Putnam

Calling Putnam the "errand boy" for U.S. Sugar, DeSantis dismissed the effect of septic tanks in causing the green, toxic algae, instead placing heavy blame on the phosphorous pollution from agriculture, which includes U.S. Sugar. Research has found that both play a role, but U.S. Sugar has also been resistant to sell land south of Lake Okeechobee where Republican state Senate President Joe Negron suggested building a reservoir that would hold  excess water so it wouldn't have to be released to surrounding waterways, which exacerbates the crisis.

"Commissioner Putnam ... will not do anything that offends U.S. Sugar who is his main supporter," DeSantis said. "At the end of the day, if you let one company call the shots we’re going to continue to end up having the problem. Nobody should get special treatment."

Putnam argued back that the toxic algae was caused by many factors, and that there is "no unicorn and rainbow pixie-dust solution to this."

READ MORE: ‘Seinfeld candidate’ vs. Sugar’s errand boy. DeSantis, Putnam clash in final debate

Putnam held a grassroots campaign events in both Fort Myers and Port St. Lucie in the past two weeks, but neither were algae-specific. Putnam is also kicking off a statewide tour of about 20 cities Wednesday, which is scheduled to last until just three days before the primary.

Meredith Beatrice, Putnam's campaign spokeswoman, said that he is the "only candidate with a plan and a track record of protecting Florida’s Golden Goose: water."

DeSantis's visit to Englewood in southwest Florida is scheduled to last just an hour and 30 minutes total, starting with a one-hour "roundtable" with local business owners at 4 p.m., then a 15-minute press conference, ended by a 15-minute "waterfront tour" to wrap everything up by 5:30 p.m.

This labor union is the latest to launch attack ads against Gwen Graham over the American Dream mall

Graham Unite Here ad
A screenshot from UNITE HERE's ad attacking Gwen Graham over her affiliation over the American Dream Miami mega-mall.

A major labor union says it's launching a six-figure ad buy against Gwen Graham, targeting the Democratic front-runner for governor over her family's involvement in the American Dream Miami mega-mall.

UNITE HERE, which represents more than 260,000 mostly service industry workers across the country, says it's going after Graham because of her failure to take a stance on the project, of which her family's company is involved.

"We think that Gwen Graham can’t hide behind the fact that it’s her family who’s involved in the project," said Wendi Walsh, Secretary-Treasurer for UNITE HERE Local 355. "She skirts the issue at every turn."

The union has endorsed one of Graham's opponents, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, in the governor's race. 

The union says it's spending six figures to target more than 800,000 Democratic voters, mostly in South Florida. In addition to advertising on social media and websites, they're buying 50 30-second ad spots during morning and evening shows on CNN, MSNBC, OWN and BET in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area.

"While Graham and her family make millions," one of the TV ads says, "Florida will be stuck with poverty-wage jobs, endangered wildlife and massive traffic congestion."

The campaign is expected to start today and run through Tuesday.

Walsh says the union has tried to get Graham to come out against the project, to no avail. Graham has repeatedly declined to take a stance on it.

Her campaign's spokesman has said Graham "believes local communities should have the first and final voice on the project and to date, they have strongly supported it."

The union isn't the first to go after Graham about the project. Fellow candidate and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene has already aired television ads attacking Graham. Levine has said he's been against the project from the beginning, but has so far stayed out of the fight.

The mall project, which would feature a theme park and an indoor ski slope, would be America's largest, and it has been strongly opposed by environmental groups over fears that it would encourage more development on the eastern edge of the Everglades.

Despite rhetoric by Graham's opponents, however, the mall is not in the Everglades, and Graham's campaign maintains that she's never had any involvement in its formation.

The mall is being built by Triple Five, the company that developed Minnesota's Mall of America, but part of the 175-acre property is owned by the Graham Companies. The Graham Companies is also planning to build a massive mixed-used development on 300 acres south of the mall.

Graham, like many members of her family, has a small stake in the family company that is worth millions. But she resigned as a member of the board in 2015, when she was elected to Congress, and her campaign says she owns less that 1 percent of voting stock in the Graham Companies.

August 13, 2018

Here's how candidates for governor reacted to the arrest in 'stand your ground' shooting

SYGprotest
LUIS SANTANA | Times Family and friends of Markeis McGlockton, the 28 year old man that was shot and killed during a parking lot altercation in front of his children gathered in front of the location where he was shot. The shooter was not arrested because authorities said it fell within the criteria of Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law. Protesters gathered to voice their concerns and seek an arrest in the case. [Sunday July 22, 2018] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]

The shooter in Florida's latest, high-profile "stand your ground" shooting was arrested on Monday and charged with manslaughter, sparking immediate reaction from those running to be Florida's next governor.

Michael Drejka, 47, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail, where he will be held in lieu of $100,000 bail, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Drejka was not immediately arrested after he shot 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton on July 19 because of the controversial self-defense law, called "Stand Your Ground," that eliminated one’s duty to retreat before resorting to force.

The case has drawn the national spotlight and renewed debate over racial injustice and the controversial law. Drejka, the shooter, is white and McGlockton was black.

The two Republican candidates for governor, Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam, got into a nasty disagreement over the case that started on Twitter and then spilled into last week's debate in Jacksonville. DeSantis said that Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri had not "analyzed the law properly" in his decision to apply the "Stand Your Ground" law in this case,  and Putnam accused him of improperly criticizing law enforcement and "siding" with Democrats.

Democrats universally celebrated the arrest and some renewed calls for a repeal of "Stand Your Ground." National civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, who visited Clearwater after the shooting, said in a statement on Monday that the arrest is a "ray of hope," while the state law is "an abomination" that allows "vigilante justice that consistently provides cover to racists and bigots for murdering innocent Black Americans."

Here are the candidates' reactions, all provided via statements, unless otherwise noted:

Republicans:

Adam Putnam: "I support the State Attorney’s decision. The process worked."

Ron DeSantis: His campaign has not yet responded to a request for comment. This post will be updated if a statement is received.

Democrats:

Andrew Gillum: "I'm relieved Markeis McGlockton’s family and the people of Clearwater will be heard in this horrific tragedy. ... However, Stand Your Ground still created the environment where the shooter believed he had a legal right to murder Markeis McGlockton. I again call on Governor Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency and suspend this law before someone else gets hurt or killed."

Gwen Graham: "Today’s decision to charge Michael Drejka is a step toward justice for Markeis McGlockton — but it also exposes the fatal issues with Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. ... As Governor, I will lead an effort to repeal the law and examine legislation that protects those who are legitimately defending themselves, without creating a legal loophole for criminal behavior. I will also create a task force of prosecutors, community and civil rights leaders to take a look at every self-defense case where a death occurs to ensure that the law isn't allowing criminals to slip through the cracks."

Jeff Greene: "Today’s (delayed) decision to arrest and charge Michael Drejka means justice may finally be served in the senseless killing of Markeis McGlockton. I am proud that our voices and calls to action made a difference here – but the fact remains that an innocent, unarmed father was shot to death in front of his children in the middle of the afternoon. Stand Your Ground is legalized murder. It must be repealed."

Chris King: "The state attorney’s office is doing what Sheriff Gualtieri has failed to do thus far –– seeking justice for the death of Markeis McGlockton. This community is crying out for action and the McGlockton family deserves justice, and that’s why I’ve been calling for leaders to act since this tragedy occurred. Today’s decision is another example why Florida’s broken ‘stand your ground’ law must be repealed so that justice in this case and every other tragedy can never be delayed or denied."

Philip Levine, who spoke to a Times reporter at an event in Tampa: "(The arrest is) a first step in the right direction. I’m surprised it took that long. I think the Sheriff was wrong in not arresting him immediately on the scene because clearly there was probable cause. I’m not a lawyer, but based on what I saw, he should’ve been arrested there instantly."

Tampa Bay Times reporter Steve Contorno contributed to this report. 

Gwen Graham's latest endorsement? Jimmy Buffett

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In this Friday, Nov. 4, 2011, photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett performs before some 3,500 of his fans on Duval Street in Key West. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Rob O'Neal)

 

Jimmy Buffett is again hitting the concert circuit, this time to host a rally for Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham.

In a statement released by Graham's campaign today, the singer/songwriter said he was endorsing Graham and performing at a "get out the vote rally" for her on Aug. 23 in South Florida.

"It’s been too long since we have had a Governor for all the people," Buffett said in a statement released by Graham's campaign. "For that reason, I am supporting my friend, Democrat Gwen Graham, for governor and I encourage ya’ll to do the same."

Graham, who has surged in the polls in the final weeks of the Democratic primary, cited Buffett's dedication to the environment.

“Jimmy isn't just a legendary musician, he is also a dedicated environmentalist who has worked with my family for years to preserve Florida's natural treasures," Graham said in a statement. "I am proud to have earned his vote on election day – come that Tuesday, it’ll be alright."

Her campaign said details of Buffett's rally would be released later.

In another state, an endorsement by Buffett probably wouldn't matter much.

But the Florida icon was one of a few big names who showed up at rallies to help Graham win her Congressional race against Republican incumbent Steve Southerland in 2014.

One of the others who hit the stump for her that year? Bill Clinton.

But Graham has been noncommittal about whether she'd welcome the former president on the campaign trail.

At the final Democratic debate earlier this month, she declined to answer a moderator's question about Clinton, who has been viewed differently in the #MeToo era.

At a later meeting with the editorial boards of South Florida's three major newspapers, she again declined to answer a question about Clinton. Pressed a second time, she said she would consider his support.