Dems’ net worth: $3 billion-plus gap between candidates for governor

Florida Democratic candidates for governor, alphabetically from left: Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King, Philip Levine.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum often describes himself as the only non-millionaire in the crowded Democratic primary for Florida governor.

Financial disclosure reports released Monday underscore his point.

As Florida’s candidate qualifying period opened, Gillum listed a net worth of $334,200 on the disclosure form required for all candidates for state office. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham pegged her net worth at $14.4 million. And former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine estimated his at $133 million.

Candidates have until noon Friday to file disclosures and other paperwork and pay a $7,816.38 filing fee to qualify for the 2018 ballot.

Billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene and Winter Park businessman Chris King have yet to file among Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls. If Greene lists a figure in the $3.8 billion neighborhood estimated by Forbes last year, that’s more than 11,000 times Gillum’s net worth.

Neither of the leading Republican candidates for governor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam or U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, has filed yet, either. Putnam listed a $7.8 million net worth four years ago when he ran for a second term as ag commissioner.

Ted Deutch, other Dems call on Putnam to resign over gun check failure

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam campaigning for governor in Riviera Beach last year. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, called on Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam to resign after The Tampa Bay Times reported that Putnam’s office failed to conduct federal background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits for more than a year in 2016 and 2017.

Putnam responded late Friday with a statement suggesting a much smaller-scale problem that his office worked to correct.

“To be clear, a criminal background investigation was completed on every single application,” Putnam said in a statement released by his office. “Upon discovery of this former employee’s negligence in not conducting the further review required on 365 applications, we immediately completed full background checks on those 365 applications, which resulted in 291 revocations. The former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again.”

The lapse occurred between February 2016 and March 2017 because the employee in charge of background checks could not log into the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, according to a June 2017 Office of Inspector General report that the Times obtained through a public records request.

“The integrity of our department’s licensing program is our highest priority,” Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services spokesman Aaron Keller told the Times. “As soon as we learned that one employee failed to review applicants’ non-criminal disqualifying information, we immediately terminated the employee, thoroughly reviewed every application potentially impacted, and implemented safeguards to prevent this from happening again.”

Deutch, whose Palm Beach-Broward district includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, reacted angrily on Twitter this afternoon.

“My blood is boiling. This is an unimaginable failure for anyone who serves the public. He made FL less safe. He put lives at risk. He must resign,” Deutch tweeted.

The story prompted Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, who launched his Democratic candidacy for governor a week ago, to issue his first statement of the campaign.

“Adam Putnam isn’t just a self-proclaimed ‘proud NRA-sellout,’ he’s a downright danger to Floridians and should drop out of the race for Governor and resign from his position as Commissioner of Agriculture immediately,” Greene said.

The four other Democratic candidates for governor also teed off on Putnam this afternoon.

“Drop out now, Adam,” Democrat Gwen Graham tweeted.

“Adam Putnam should resign,” said Winter Park businessman and Democratic candidate Chris King.

“Negligence that threatens and costs lives must never be tolerated…An investigation should be opened immediately. These developments require an immediate response from Commissioner Putnam, starting with if he deserves to continue to serve in his current role,” said former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, in a Facebook live post, accused Putnam of “a complete and total dereliction of duty. It put the everyday citizens of this state, their lives, in harm’s way and at risk…This man does not deserve to be the next governor of Florida.”

 

 

Poll: Levine, undecideds top Democratic governor race

How Democratic candidates for governor rank in a new poll by Democratic firm SEA Polling and Strategic Design.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who has spent about $10 million on a TV advertising campaign since November, has opened up a big lead in the race for Florida’s Democratic nomination for governor, a new poll says.

But Levine is in a virtual tie with “undecided” in the new poll by Democratic firm SEA Polling and Strategic Design, suggesting there’s plenty of room for other candidates to improve.

Levine gets 32 percent support among likely Democratic voters with 31 percent undecided. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who began her TV campaign Wednesday, gets 16 percent and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum 11 percent in the survey.

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, who filed candidate papers last week, gets 4 percent support in the new poll while Winter Park businessman Chris King gets 6 percent.

The poll of 600 voters, conducted Sunday through Thursday, has a 4 percent margin of error. Pollster Tom Eldon said the survey was commissioned by a group of Democrats interested in the race but not tied to any campaign.

“When you have one campaign spending money for a sustained period of time, basically statewide, it doesn’t surprise me” that Levine has taken the lead, Eldon said.

“Undecided is basically tied for first place still,” Eldon said. “There’s a lot of people who haven’t engaged in this race.”

 

Two Democratic gubernatorial debates coming; will Jeff Greene participate?

Florida Democratic candidates for governor, alphabetically from left: Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King, Philip Levine.

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene filed papers last Friday to run for Florida governor, but he hasn’t made any public statements since and it’s not clear whether he’ll participate a pair of upcoming Democratic debates.

Democrats Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King and Philip Levine plan to attend a Saturday debate in Pinellas County and a Monday debate in Miramar.

“We wish we knew” whether Greene is participating, said Vickie Dunn, whose Indivisible FL 13 group is organizing Saturday’s forum along with Women’s March Florida and Fired Up Pinellas. “We’ve made all kinds of efforts to contact him. We’ve set up our logistics so we can accommodate and we’re getting nothing back.”

Saturday’s debate runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and can be viewed at http://www.baynews9.com or http://www.mynews13.com.

Monday’s debate is being organized by the Service Employees International Union and other groups. The SEIU’s Eunic Ortiz said Tuesday that organizers had not heard from Greene.

 

Gwen Graham joins the Democratic gubernatorial air war with new TV ad

Former Democratic Florida Gov. Bob Graham makes an appearance in daughter Gwen Graham’s new TV ad as she seeks the governorship.

The first TV ad for former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham‘s gubernatorial bid debuts today with a $1 million buy in the Orlando and Tampa TV markets.

The 30-second spot highlights her status as a mom who was active in the PTA and as the daughter of former Florida Democratic Gov. Bob Graham. And while Gwen Graham has at least four rivals for the Democratic nomination, her ad has a general-election feel, urging voters to end two decades of Republican control of the governor’s mansion and Florida Legislature.

“Twenty years with one party running everything with all the wrong priorities,” Graham says in the ad. “The Florida Legislature have not taken Medicaid expansion, they have hurt education, they have used the lottery to reduce funding — but we’re going to take it back.”

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine leads several Democratic polls after spending about $10 million on TV ads since November. Winter Park businessman Chris King began spending more than $1 million on TV ads last month. A PAC supporting Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum bought ads last month accusing Graham of not being liberal enough. A fourth Democrat, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, entered the race this week and another Palm Beach County Democrat, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, is expected to announce soon whether he will run for governor.

Dem Chris King rips Rick Scott, NRA; touts gun control in new TV ad

Chris King in his new TV ad.

Winter Park businessman Chris King, the only Democratic candidate for governor aside from Philip Levine to advertise on TV so far, is airing a second ad in Palm Beach County and other Florida markets that invokes the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre and this year’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting to call for tougher gun control measures.

King doesn’t allude to any of his Democratic primary rivals, instead taking aim at two targets loathed by Democratic primary voters: Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the National Rifle Association.

“Two years ago, 49 people were murdered at Pulse nightclub –– and Rick Scott and the Legislature did nothing,” King says in the 30-second spot. “Then tragedy hit Parkland. But this time, a movement of young people refuses to accept the unacceptable.”

King, a first-time candidate who last week told a Palm Beach County audience he represents “a new politics,” continues: “I want to shake up the old politics. I’ll stand up to the NRA and hold both parties accountable –– to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, and require background checks on all gun sales. I’m Chris King and I’m running for governor. Join us.”

King’s campaign spent $1 million on his initial ad. His campaign described this one as “part of an open-ended significant ad buy.” In addition to the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast market, it will air the Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne and Panama City markets.

 

Levine’s internal poll shows him leading Democratic primary for governor, 33 percent undecided

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at a Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee meeting in January. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Public polls on the Florida Democratic gubernatorial race and internal polls that the campaigns choose to make public seem to agree on two points: Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is ahead — but a large number of Democratic voters haven’t made up their minds as the Aug. 28 primary approaches.

Levine’s campaign released an internal poll today that says Levine leads the Democratic field with 30 percent, followed by former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham at 20 percent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 12 percent and Winter Park businessman Chris King at 6 percent with 33 percent undecided. PPP conducted the poll of 583 likely Democratic voters last Monday and Tuesday. It has a 4 percent margin of error.

Gillum’s campaign released an internal poll recently that showed Levine at 20 percent and Gillum and Graham tied at 13 percent in an initial ballot test. That poll showed 52 percent of voters were undecided.

Potential candidate Patrick Murphy commissioned a poll that showed Levine at 20 percent and Graham and Murphy tied for second at 14 percent with 41 percent undecided in an initial ballot test.

A Florida Atlantic University poll this month showed Levine holding a within-the-margin-of-error lead over Graham with 42 percent undecided.

Levine has been advertising on TV since November and no other candidate was on the air until King launched a $1 million TV campaign two weeks ago. Gillum and Graham have not gone on TV yet.

Levine’s poll shows him leading Gillum, the only black candidate in the race, by a 27-to-19 percent margin among African-American voters. The poll shows Levine leading Graham, the only woman in the race, by a 30-to-17 percent margin among female voters.

Legalizing marijuana: Why nobody is winning the John Morgan primary

After his success with a medical marijuana referendum in 2016, attorney John Morgan favors full legalization but isn’t impressed with pot postures of this year’s Democratic candidates for governor.

The four Democrats running for Florida governor all favor some degree of legalizing or decriminalizing recreational marijuana use.

But John Morgan is not impressed.

Morgan, the Orlando-area trial lawyer who poured a combined $7 million into the losing 2014 medical marijuana campaign and the victorious 2016 follow-up, says Democratic frontrunners Gwen Graham and Philip Levine are too timid on the issue of full legalization. And he’s dismissive of the legalize/regulate/tax stances of Andrew Gillum and Chris King.

On the GOP side, gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis oppose legalized pot.

After his success with medical marijuana, Morgan says he’s not interested in pursuing another pro-pot referendum. Instead, he has already pumped more than $450,000 into his Florida For A Fair Wage committee, which is trying to put a question on the 2020 ballot to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Click here to read more details about Morgan’s views, candidates’ marijuana stances and where legalization efforts stand at MyPalmBeachPost.com

Democrat Chris King seeks the ‘bold and progressive’ lane in governor’s race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King campaigning west of Delray Beach on Monday. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

WEST DELRAY — As he tries to break out of a crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary field, Winter Park businessman Chris King — the only candidate who has never run for elected office — told a liberal group here Monday that he’s the candidate of new ideas and “a new politics.”

“In a nutshell, I am the candidate that says that this is a moment for new ideas and fresh ways of thinking,” King told about 50 women at a meeting of a group called SEE. “I am the candidate that folks say is willing to take very bold and progressive positions, not always because they’re helpful politically, but because they’re right for the future of our state.”

Those positions include flat-out opposition to the death penalty, support for legalizing marijuana for recreational use, free community college and trade school, expanded affordable housing programs and a pledge not to accept any money from the sugar industry.

Monday’s appearance was part of an 11-county “Turning the Tide” tour focused on criminal justice reforms that King began last week.

Chris King says “big ideas” separate him from his Democratic primary rivals. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

King, 39, has languished in single digits in most Democratic polls, but a Florida Atlantic University poll this month showed him getting 10 percent of the Democratic vote — within striking distance of former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine (16 percent) and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham (15 percent) and ahead of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. And that was before King went on the airwaves with his first TV ad last week.

The SEE group, which President Dana Aberman said was formed the day after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, displayed a sign that said “Womens Rights are Human Rights” at the meeting and one that depicted a clenched fist with “Rise and Organize.” Another sign offered Laurence W. Britt‘s 14 “Early Warning Signs of Fascism,” which include “Powerful and Continuing Nationalism,” “Controlled Mass Media” and “Corporate Power is Protected.”

There was much discussion of gun control in the aftermath of Friday’s mass shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. King supports a ban on “assault”-style weapons and universal background checks for gun purchases. He said the 2016 Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando and February’s mass slaying at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have created a new type of activist who is not only interested in gun control.

“They want a new politics. They want an aspirational politics. They want to take on folks that have not gotten things done, whether it’s gun safety or affordable housing or health care and they want new leaders who are willing to do big things. And that’s been our story,” King said.

King said he wants to “end the death penalty once and for all” — a position that puts him to the left of his Democratic rivals.

Graham “personally opposes the death penalty but will enforce Florida law,” her campaign said Monday. Gillum “is in favor of it, but very sparingly,” a campaign spokesman said. Levine’s campaign said he is “not an advocate of the death penalty,” but “in certain and rare circumstances, the death penalty should not be ruled out.”

King said in an interview that his willingness to stake out such positions should convince a plurality of Democratic primary voters “to see me as the candidate of fresh ideas and a new perspective on politics, a Democrat who can win and a Democrat who can be transformative. So everything I do will be trying to convince folks of that.”

With a little more than three months until the Aug. 28 primary, King said, “the race right now is incredibly wide open…..I’m going against three candidates that have been in the political world – they or their families – for years and years and years. I’m the new guy. So I have more of a burden to introduce myself. But I think there’s an incredible opportunity to do that.”

Patrick Murphy says bipartisan governor ticket legal, decision soon

Democrat Patrick Murphy says he expects to decide in early June whether to run for governor with a Republican running mate. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter says he expects to decide in early June whether to launch a campaign for governor with former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly as his running mate.

The deadline for candidates to qualify for the ballot is June 22. Four Democrats are running, but polls show a wide open race and Murphy and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene have not ruled out making late entrances.

Murphy has been contacting potential donors and got an opinion from an attorney that nothing in Florida law prohibits a gubernatorial candidate from selecting a lieutenant governor candidate from a different party.

“Honestly I believe people are more interested in getting their problems solved than the politics of political parties,” Murphy told The Palm Beach Post today.

Democratic candidates for governor, alphabetically from left: Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King, Philip Levine.

Murphy last month gave his OK to a poll testing his name against the four Democrats already running in the Aug. 28 party primary: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Winter Park businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

The poll also tested how Murphy would fare if he announced Jolly as his running mate. Jolly, a prominent critic of President Donald Trump, has been touring college campuses with Murphy to decry partisanship and governmental gridlock.

With Jolly as his running mate and Murphy described to respondents as “a different kind of Governor who would work together with reasonable Republicans in Tallahassee to set aside Florida’s old, partisan politics and get things done,” the poll found Murphy leading the Democratic field with 21 percent to 17 percent for Levine.

After the idea of a Murphy-Jolly ticket was floated, some Democrats questioned whether it’s legal for candidates from different parties to run together.

“There is no prohibition under the laws of the State of Florida on a candidate for the office of Governor from one political party selecting a candidate for Lieutenant Governor from another political party to run with them,” says a legal memo prepared for Murphy by Fort Lauderdale attorney Jason Blank.