May 09, 2017

Gillum, candidate for governor, calls for law protecting Floridians' health care coverage

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@ByKristenMClark

In the wake of U.S. House Republicans voting last week to repeal Obamacare, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum says state lawmakers need to step up and enact protections that will safeguard Floridians' right to health care coverage.

"There's not a lot we can do about Washington, D.C.," said Gillum, who is the mayor of Tallahassee. "But in the mean time, what we ought to be doing is making sure we're providing every single protection possible in the state of Florida."

At a press conference in Tallahassee on Tuesday, Gillum said if he were elected Florida governor in 2018, he'd work with the Republican-led Legislature to pass a new state law that would prohibit health insurance companies from doing three things: Denying coverage based on individuals' pre-existing conditions, charging higher premiums for those conditions and charging higher premiums for women than men.

"We've got to make sure that in the state of Florida we stand up and say we're going to stop insurers from denying coverage from any individual with pre-existing conditions," Gillum said.

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May 01, 2017

Adam Putnam formally launches bid for governor

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via @adamsmithtimes

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam today filed papers to run for governor in 2018, making official what has long been expected.

Putnam: “I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world because I get to call Florida home. It’s our responsibility as Floridians to keep our economy at work, to increase access to high quality education, to fiercely protect our personal freedoms, to keep our state safe, and to welcome our veterans home with open arms. I hope everyone will join me on May 10 at 11:00 a.m.on the old county courthouse steps in Bartow, where I’ll share my vision for Florida’s future.”

Democratic former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee has an announcement scheduled for tomorrow in Miami-Dade County that is expected to make her bid for governor official too.

Photo credit: AP

April 21, 2017

John Morgan: I was not drunk that night at Boots N Buckles

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via @adamsmithtimes

More to come later, but John Morgan charmed an overflow crowd at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club today, where he was asked about that 2014 viral video of him, drink in hand, addressing a crowd at the Boots N Buckles saloon in Lakeland while campaigning to legalize medical marijuana in Florida.

Good question, considering how many of the people who doubt Morgan's strength as a candidate mention booze. (Morgan was charged with driving under the influence in 1997 and 1993.)

"First of all, I was not drunk when I was on that video," said Morgan, laughing off the question and explaining that he had had two drinks at Outback before that video was filed. "I guess if I use the f-word, f-bombs, people think I'm drunk. If that's the case, I'm drunk every damn day of my life. ... When I got on my bus to go back to my beach house, I got drunk. And when I got to my beach house, I got drunker. But I was not drunk at Boots N Buckles. But I do love Boots N Buckles it will be in my heart forever."

If he runs for governor — and many people in the crowd today thought he sounded more likely to run than not — Boots N Buckles may be his unofficial campaign headquarters, Morgan said.

And as for the question about whether a Morgan candidacy could survive surprise cell phone videos that might emerge, Morgan said that does not worry him a bit. "I'm never going to not be me."

"What I would say to people who make that point is this: Let all the perfect people vote for somebody else, and let all the sinners and imperfect people vote for me. I'll win in a landslide," Morgan said to applause.

He also said he had been advised that he would have to lose a lot of weight if he ran and that a doctor told him his ideal weight would be 158 pounds.

"My head alone weighs 50 pounds," he scoffed, assuring the crowd that he will not be following the Jeb Bush weight loss model if he runs. He barely recognized the former governor when he saw a picture of Bush announcing his presidential campaign.

"He was so skinny. I actually thought it was Rick Scott with a toupee."

Photo credit: CHARLIE KAIJO / Tampa Bay Times

April 14, 2017

Conservative groups pushes Ron DeSantis to run for governor

  DesantisAP

@JeremySWallace

A conservative political action committee is trying to rally national support around U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in hopes he will run for governor of Florida in 2018.

The Madison Project, which backed DeSantis's brief 2016 U.S. Senate campaign, put out a statement on a popular conservative website telling readers that DeSantis should run.

"He's not just a regional candidate - Ron is a Congressman who has worked hard to represent the entire state of Florida," the statement attributed to Madison Project president Jim Ryun says. "Running for governor is a no brainer for him."

The statement was on The Resurgent, a popular blog site created by Erick Erickson, a conservative radio host and political commentator. The same site also ran results from a poll from WPA Intelligence claiming DeSantis matches up well with Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican expected to run for governor next year. WPA Intelligence was a pollster for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in his campaign for the White House.

According to The Resurgent, which says it had "exclusive access" to the poll of more than 2,000 Republican Primary voters, Putnam is the choice of 17 percent, while DeSantis is next at 9 percent. The poll showed Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and State Sen. Jack Latvala at 3 percent each, according to The Resurgent report.

"While DeSantis may trail Putnam at this early date, with 52% of voters undecided and 51% not knowing who he is, this race is wide open," The Resurgent story declares.

The Times/Herald has not been able to verify the poll results.

DeSantis, 38, is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and has represented parts of northeast Florida in Congress since 2012. When U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio first announced he was going to run for President, DeSantis was quick to file to run for the U.S. Senate to replace him. When Rubio re-entered the race, DeSantis dropped out of the contest and instead won re-election to the U.S. House. During that short-lived campaign for Senate, the Madison Project and Ryun also endorsed DeSantis over a field of Republican candidates.

DeSantis is a member of the House Freedom Caucus.

February 24, 2017

Andrew Gillum 'seriously considering' 2018 governor's race

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@ByKristenMClark

It’s been no big secret that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has had his eye on the Florida governor’s mansion, but now the Democrat is acknowledging it out loud.

Speaking Friday at the Central Florida Urban League’s Cornerstone Awards in Orlando, Gillum announced officially that he is “seriously considering running for governor.”

The announcement is not unlike recent ones by those of fellow Democrats, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former Tallahassee Congresswoman Gwen Graham — who also have all-but-announced formal campaigns for 2018.

“I feel strongly that the direction our state government has gone these last 20 years is out of step with the majority of Floridians, from the environment to wages, to education and job creation,” Gillum said, according to prepared remarks. “I believe this is a moment that requires not just people who quietly agree on these issues, but people who are going to be champions, who will get out and lead on them.”

The 37-year-old Gillum is viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party. The affable African American politician was among the featured speakers at last summer’s Democratic National Convention and he has been a standout in Tallahassee city politics for 14 years.

However, Gillum faces some big obstacles if he does embark on a statewide campaign.

Full story here.

Photo credit: CateComm

January 31, 2017

Ag Commissioner Putnam: 'We need to make workforce development a priority'

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@ByKristenMClark

Although Republican Gov. Rick Scott has made jobs and business incentives a staple of his administration, a statewide official who might seek to replace him in next year’s election says Florida needs to do a better job of making sure its residents are actually qualified to fill in-demand jobs and be hired by the companies that move here.

“The talent pipeline is not in place,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told reporters Tuesday. “The worst of all worlds is for us to recruit contracts or recruit businesses to Florida and not be able to staff the pipeline to meet their talent needs.”

More here.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

January 13, 2017

John Morgan doesn't know if he'll run for governor. But he's talking like he will.

Morgan

@ByKristenMClark

Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan isn't a candidate for public office and says he's still not sure he'd ever be one. But he sure was talking like one Friday in a speech to the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club in Pensacola.

In a half-hour speech during a club luncheon, Morgan -- who is considering a run for governor in 2018 -- spoke like a politician testing the waters and trying out a potential stump speech.

He recounted his youth in Lexington, Ky., his wealth and success owning multiple businesses from a billboard company to hotels, and his recent high-profile work to get Amendment 2 passed in Florida, which legalized medical marijuana.

He said he had hoped the Legislature would take action first and when lawmakers didn't, he was forced to step up to the plate.

"They wouldn't do it in Tallahassee," Morgan said. "You all ask yourselves a question: When is the last time in the last 10 years that Tallahassee's ever done anything -- anything -- to help you? That's benefited your life?"

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December 23, 2016

Will Weatherford says he's not running for governor in 2018

@MichaelAuslen

Will Weatherford won't run for governor in 2018, the former Florida House speaker said Thursday.

"Running for governor is a pretty big commitment, and it's something that is certainly of interest," he told the Herald/Times. "My focus right now, which I'm really enjoying, has been growing a business with my partners who are my brothers and being there for my four young children."

Weatherford, a 37-year-old Republican from Wesley Chapel, isn't ruling out a run in the future. His children are all young — 8, 6, 4 and 2 years old — and he said he has years ahead of him to return to politics.

"While I'm compelled at some point to re-engage in the political arena, I just think the timing right now is not right," he said.

More here.

December 08, 2016

Republicans go on offensive against Gwen Graham

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@ByKristenMClark

Gwen Graham hasn't officially launched a campaign for Florida governor in 2018 -- but that's not stopping the Republican Governors Association from taking a pre-emptive swipe at the outgoing Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee.

In a statement Thursday, the RGA accused Graham of not being transparent, saying her congressional office hasn't responded to a Freedom of Information Act request made by the RGA.

However, the federal FOIA applies only to the executive branch, i.e. federal agencies. Congress, like federal courts, is exempt so Graham -- or any other member of Congress -- is under no obligation to respond to FOIA requests.

Nonetheless, RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said, "when it comes to transparency, Gwen Graham says one thing, but does another."

"Graham says she believes that Florida families deserve full transparency, but as her actions have demonstrated, she only believes in full transparency until it could impact her quest for political power," Thompson said.

Graham dismissed the RGA's criticism, saying in a statement: "We are 23 months away from the governor's election in Florida, and there will be plenty of time for the RGA to engage in this petty nonsense and partisan attacks."

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November 04, 2014

Ken Detzner: So far, no hitches at the polls on Election Day

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Voting is going "very smoothly" this morning, with all polls opening on time in the state's 6,222 precincts, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said at an elections briefing in Tallahassee.

While millions are expected to vote today, the number of early votes cast could be a record, he said. As of last night, 1.7 million Floridians voted by absentee ballot and 1.3 million voted in-person at the polls. By party, 655,020 Democrats and 791,324 Republicans voted by absentee ballot and 555,473 Democrats and 518,476 Republicans voted early in-person at the polls.

"Voters are very pleased to get out early and vote absentee," he said. "I think we might actually see some records in regards to the number of absentee ballots that were mailed and that we're seeing returned.

"By the time the polls close this evening, we should have a sizeable number of votes already counted because of legislative changes made in 2013," Detzner said, referring to fixes restoring more early voting after Florida's flawed 2012 election process.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is monitoring polling locations in four Florida counties -- Duval, Hillsborough, Lee and Orange -- to ensure federal voting laws are followed. Detzner said these "observers" are present in 17 states, but stressed his confidence that the voting process has improved.

Given a governor's race too tight to predict, the state is ready for a recount, Detzner said. But the contest between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Cristisn't the only challenge supervisors face this evening.

Several other tight races could require a recount, including the 2nd Congressional District race between Republican Steve Southerland and Democrat Gwen Grahamand the District 26 race where Miami Democrat Joe Garcia is battling Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.

Continue reading "Ken Detzner: So far, no hitches at the polls on Election Day" »