Can Democrat Chris King ‘turn the tide’ with pot legalization stance, TV ad blitz?

Democratic candidate for governor Chris King makes his TV advertising debut today.

This is a key week for Winter Park businessman Chris King as he tries to make a move in the four-candidate Democratic race for Florida governor.

First-time candidate King embarked Tuesday on a “Turning the Tide” tour in which he became the second Democratic gubernatorial candidate to call for legalizing recreational marijuana use and taxing it. And today, King is launching a statewide TV ad campaign today with a 30-second spot highlighting his refusal to accept sugar industry contributions to his campaign.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has already called for legalized recreational pot. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who boasts that he decriminalized weed when he was in office, has said he’ll support legalizing recreational marijuana use if Florida voters approve it in a referendum. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, asked about recreational marijuana legalization in a televised debate last month, said “we have got to get the medical marijuana firmly implemented and have everyone take advantage of it and then we can talk about further steps.”

King outlined his marijuana stance as part of a campaign swing focused on criminal justice reforms. His “Turning the Tide” platform also calls for reducing the state’s prison population by 25 percent over five years by reducing punishments for non-violent offenders; ending the death penalty; ending private prison contacts; restoring voting rights to felons who have completed their terms; and “ending the school-to-prison pipeline” by spending more on childcare, education and other programs.

King, who through April 30 had pumped $2.1 million of his own money into his campaign, will spend $1 million or more on a TV ad campaign that begins today. His first 30-second spot promises to take Florida in a “new direction” and, aside from his anti-sugar stance, highlights his calls for Medicaid expansion, more affordable housing and expanded community colleges and trade schools.

Levine is the only other Democrat to advertise on TV, spending about $8 million since November.