June 04, 2018

Gwen Graham to spend more than $1 million on first TV ads

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Gwen Graham released a new digital ad Tuesday, April 3. Credit: Gwen Graham for Governor via YouTube. [Screen grab from YouTube.]

Gwen Graham is finally making the plunge into television with her first ad buy of the campaign.

The ad buy, worth $1.1 million, according to Politico, will air in the Tampa and Orlando markets starting mid-week.

Graham, a former Congresswoman and the daughter for former governor and senator Bob Graham, is the only one of the four (now five) candidates running on the Democratic side who hasn't yet had a presence on TV sets.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has spent millions already introducing himself to voters on TV and on social media, and leads Graham in most polls. Orlando businessman Chris King has already aired two ads.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum hasn't spent money directly on ads, but a Super PAC supporting him has dropped more than $700,000 to attack Graham on television.

“After 20 years of one-party Republican rule, Floridians are ready for new leadership,” said Graham’s campaign manager, Julia Woodward, in a statement. “We’re excited to share our positive message with even more Democrats across the I-4 corridor.”

June 01, 2018

Gwen Graham would end private prisons and decriminalize pot possession

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Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham.

Gwen Graham would phase out private prisons in Florida and decriminalize the personal possession of marijuana if elected governor, according to a nine-point plan her campaign laid out today.

"For too long, the politicians in Tallahassee have ignored the inequity and pervasive prejudice in Florida’s criminal justice system," Graham said in a statement. "While they’ve failed to act, Floridians have been hurt by mass incarceration, increasing costs and devastating cuts."

Graham, one of four Democrats running for governor, laid out proposals that she thinks can pass in Florida's Republican-dominated Legislature, where some Republicans have led the charge for criminal justice reform - with mixed success.

Graham said she supports reforming the bail bond system, which keep poor people who can't afford to pay bail in jail longer. Orlando-area State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced in May that prosecutors in her office would no longer seek bail for low-level offenders, one option that Graham says she is considering.

Some of her other ideas include:

  • Pay raises for prison guards.
  • Require state attorneys to get the opinion of a panel of in-house prosecutors before seeking the death penalty.
  • Reduce sentencing for nonviolent drug possession.
  • Restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences.

Graham said her first priority is "upholding the will of the people" and making medical marijuana accessible to those who need it. But she also believes that possession of marijuana in small amounts should not have a criminal penalty.

Some Florida counties have changed their ordinances so that being caught with small amounts of marijuana results in a civil fine, rather than an arrest.

"Florida should embrace the principle that no young person should go to jail or have their lives ruined over an incident of marijuana use — we can and should decriminalize," she said in a statement.

Her ideas were endorsed by former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, state Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, Leon County Public Defender Nancy Daniels and the state's largest police union, the Police Benevolent Association.

“We believe Graham’s plan to better support officers, close the state’s private prisons, and expand rehabilitation programs will make Florida safer," PBA executive director Matt Puckett said in a statement.

Her ideas didn't go quite as far as Orlando businessman Chris King's, who is trailing in the polls. King wants to eliminate the death penalty in Florida and legalize marijuana completely.

Graham's plan prompted King campaign spokesman Avery Jaffe to take a shot at her, calling it "half-hearted" and "lame."

May 31, 2017

'Floridians need a champion again,' Andrew Gillum says

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@ByKristenMClark

Amid a crowded field of contenders for governor in 2018, Democrat Andrew Gillum is casting himself as the “slightly out of place” candidate who would bring years of government experience but also fresh ideas and “something different” than Florida has seen under two decades of Republican rule.

“It is our political leadership — or the lack thereof — that has failed us,” Gillum said Wednesday, speaking for nearly an hour in front of a couple hundred people at the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee. “We’ve had enough with slogans and showgames, enough with struggling to get ahead, enough with shrinking from our state’s challenges. ... Floridians need a champion again.”

Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, aimed to set himself apart from other Republicans and Democrats seeking to lead the nation’s third largest state, while also acknowledging his long odds against competitors who have more prominent names Floridians likely already know.

“I recognize this is more than a notion — to be on this journey,” Gillum said, when one Tiger Bay Club member bluntly asked Gillum if he’d settle for being just lieutenant governor.

“I don’t have a famous last name and I cannot stroke my own check to become the next governor of the state of Florida,” he said in an apparent reference to his Democratic primary opponents: former Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham — the daughter of Bob Graham, who is a former U.S. senator and Florida governor — and Orlando businessman Chris King, who this spring put $1 million of his own money into his campaign.

Gillum added: “I’m going to have to do this the old-fashioned way — that means going around, that means talking to people, that means asking people for their support, for their investment, for their belief that we can actually do it different.”

“If I become the Democratic nominee for governor, which I’m going to fight hard to accomplish, I believe I can go on and win this race. ... So, I’m running for governor,” he said, drawing applause from the room.

Gillum — who’s viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party and who spoke at the Democratic National Convention last summer — is trying to build up his name recognition across Florida as the 2018 race heats up.

More here.

Photo credit: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, talks to members of the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee before delivering a luncheon speech on Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 30, 2017

Miami Beach mayor yells at owner of nightclub: 'Go get a job'

@joeflech

In the aftermath of a fatal shooting in South Beach on Sunday, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine got into a shouting match with the owner of a top bar on Ocean Drive during a press conference.

Levine, a second-term mayor in the Beach and potential gubernatorial candidate, hurled insults at the owner of Mango's Tropical Cafe when he objected to proposals to limit alcohol sales and reduce outdoor noise on Ocean Drive.

The owner, David Wallack, spoke up as Levine talked about improving the brand of Miami Beach.

“You’re talking about businesses that created the label ‘Miami Beach,’ ” Wallack shouted.

Levine responded by attacking Wallack's business acumen.

“You know what you did? You inherited a business. Go get a job. Go build a company. And go tell me when you build something,” snapped Levine.

Wallack actually founded Mango’s, among the top-grossing nightclubs in the U.S., in the 1990s. Before opening Mango’s, Wallack relocated an existing assisted living facility he’d founded in the building on Ocean Drive, which he inherited from his father.

The testy exchange underscored the heated debate about how to prevent violence on South Beach by changing the tourist city's atmosphere. Levine is proposing the city ban alcohol sales after 2 a.m. on Ocean Drive impose stricter noise limits.

Read more.

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.

Continue reading "Gillum, candidate for governor, calls for law protecting Floridians' health care coverage" »

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