Donald Trump looms large in Florida governor’s race

Two weeks after President Donald Trump tweeted praise for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, DeSantis has entered the race for Florida governor.

President Donald Trump always figured to loom large in this year’s midterm elections across the nation, and Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantisentry into the Florida governor’s race today confirms Trump will be a big factor in the Sunshine State.

DeSantis — praised by Trump in a Dec. 22 tweet from the tarmac of Palm Beach International Airport — invoked the president and part-time Palm Beach resident while announcing his candidacy on Fox News this morning. Democratic governor candidate Gwen Graham, meanwhile, was the first of what will likely be many Democrats to slam DeSantis for his Trump ties.

“Ron DeSantis running as Trump’s hand-picked candidate with the backing of out-of-state billionaires may endear him to the most partisan primary voters, but he is too extreme for Florida,” Graham said.

DeSantis faces Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and, possibly, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, in the GOP primary. Graham is seeking the Democratic nomination against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Winter Park businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Trump’s tweet that DeSantis “would make a GREAT Governor of Florida” instantly boosted the three-term congressman’s profile. DeSantis mentioned the Trump tweet on Fox and Friends.

“As you remember a few weeks ago, the president tweeted support for me as a candidate for governor of Florida,” DeSantis said. “So today, we’re going to be filing the paperwork to begin that effort. As somebody who’s a military officer, Iraq veteran, a proven conservative and then with the support of the president, I’m in a position to exercise the leadership that can build on the great work that Gov. Rick Scott has done to advance economic opportunity, reform education and drain the swamp in Tallahassee, which needs to be drained just like Washington.”

While eager to associate himself with Trump, DeSantis said he disagrees with a Trump Administration proposal to open up the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling. Scott and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio have joined Democrats in criticizing the idea.

“I agree with Gov. Scott,” on opposing drilling, DeSantis said on Fox and Friends. “In Florida our coastline is so important to our economy, it’s important to property values, it’s important to tourism. And we need to protect our coastline…I’m going to be fighting with Gov. Scott to protect Florida’s coastline. And you know what, I think this is just a draft proposal and I think that the White House will ultimately be with us and I think we’ll be able to work it out so that Florida’s beaches will be protected.”

Democrat Philip Levine brings ‘purple’ message to deep-blue Palm Beach County

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a 2018 Democratic candidate for Florida governor, speaks to a Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee meeting in West Delray on Thursday night. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County Democratic activists are used to hearing a tub-thumping liberal message when candidates come through the deep-blue county seeking primary votes.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine checked off many of the requisite boxes for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate when he spoke at a county Democratic Party meeting on Thursday night. But Levine also spoke of being “pro-business,” of having the state emulate the “most admired companies in America” — and even of wooing some Fox News viewers.

“I’m pro-people, I’m pro-business as an entrepreneur. I always say I’m not right, I’m not left, I’m forward,” Levine told the crowd of about 200 at the South County Civic Center west of Delray Beach.

“We live in a purple state. The way you make purple is you mix blue and red,” Levine said.

Levine noted he often appeared on cable TV in 2016 as supporter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“I was the only Democrat who used to go on Fox regularly. I’d wear my Kevlar vest and I would go on Fox,” Levine said of the network that’s a favorite of President Donald Trump and many Republicans. “Those people that are watching Fox, we need a portion of those folks to vote for us if we’re going to win.”

Levine is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor against former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King.

Levine talks to people in the lobby outside Thursday night’s Palm Beach County Democratic Party meeting. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Levine touched on crowd-pleasing Democratic issues such as addressing sea-level rise, a “living wage,” body cameras and other reforms for police and spending more money on K-12 and college education. Taxpayer dollars should go to traditional public schools rather than charter schools, Levine said.

To entice younger Floridians to stay and work in the state, Levine said: “If you can’t afford to go to college in the state of Florida because your parents don’t make a certain amount of money, we need to make sure that you can go to our universities, don’t have big debt when you graduate if you commit to work in our state for a certain amount of years going forward.”

He called a Trump Administration proposal to open the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling “a disaster.” Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio have also criticized the idea.

Levine also said he’s a supporter of Obamacare. When an audience member asked if he supports “single-payer Medicare for all,” Levine said Florida should seek a public-private solution to guarantee everyone in the state is covered.

“I don’t believe necessarily that we have one public government answer for all of health care,” Levine said. “I believe if you can’t afford health care, we must provide it for you, absolutely, 100 percent. But if you can afford health care, it needs to be affordable, it needs to be reasonable and we need to make sure about it and your employer probably needs to pay for it as well.”

He added: “Is there one single-payer system? I’m not so sure….I’m a private-sector guy. I believe there’s a public-private answer to that.”

Levine said the governor’s race is the world’s most important election in 2018.

“I believe that I can actually help the people in the state of Florida, help our country and help our world because this governor’s election, I tell people all across the country, it’s not only the most important election in the state of Florida, it’s not only the most important election in our country, it’s the most important election in the world,” Levine said. “So goes Florida this year, so goes our country in 2020. OK? That’s how important this governor’s election is.”

Speaking to The Palm Beach Post afterward, Levine said he’s espousing a “progressive, pro-people, pro-business message…My message is the same message, I always say, of the most admired companies in America, whether it’s GE or Apple or Amazon or Lockheed or Boeing, my message is the same message: Treat your people really well and we’ll all do better together.”

Scott has emphasized a business-friendly climate and job creation in his two terms as governor, but Levine took issue with his approach.

“He (Scott) wants jobs. He doesn’t care if they’re $8.10-an-hour jobs or $8.25-an-hour jobs. His vision is a state of Walmarts and McDonalds,” Levine said. “My vision is different. My vision is a state of Boeings, Lockheeds, Amazons, Apples, GEs and the most admired companies in America that will look to Florida as a place for them to expand.”

Democratic and Republican candidates tend to appeal to their respective party bases in primaries, but Levine struck a different tone.

“I’m not a partisan guy. Never going to be. I’m pro-people,” Levine said. “No one has a monopoly on good ideas – not Democrats and not Republicans. Good ideas can come from everybody. As I said, I don’t know any admired company that’s Republican or Democrat. They’re just pro-people and pro-business.”

Trump in Palm Beach: Rare video of president playing at his golf club

President Donald Trump tees off in an image from golfer Taylor Funk’s video.

Rare footage of President Donald Trump playing golf was posted on YouTube by pro golfer Taylor Funk and then removed this afternoon.

Funk joined his father, PGA Tour veteran Fred Funk, for a round with the president on New Year’s Day at Trump International Golf Club in unincorporated West Palm Beach.

The video included some clips of Trump teeing off, putting and offering some advice on how to play one of the holes at Trump International. It wasn’t immediately clear why the video was pulled.

“One of the biggest honors of my life. Mr. President was so real, thoughtful, fun, engaging, and just an overall great guy! and a pretty good golfer! He shot 36 on the front 9!” the younger Funk wrote on YouTube.

The Funks discussed the round on CNN this morning, with Taylor Funk saying the president shot a “legit 36” on the front nine and was “decent” but didn’t do as well on the back nine.

“He’s definitely a lot better than I thought he was going to be. He’s a good player. He’s a lot of fun to play with and he’s very engaging and I don’t have a bad thing to say about our round. It was amazing,” Taylor Funk said.

Trump returned to Washington on Monday after a 10-day stay at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.

President Donald Trump putting in Taylor Funk’s video.

He made the short trip to Trump International on nine of the mornings he was in town — skipping only Christmas day.

On Friday, Trump shut down the course to allow about 60 U.S. Coast Guard members to play in a tournament.

In addition to the Funks, Trump during his latest trip played with with professional golfers Daniel Berger, Jim Herman and Justin Thomas on Dec. 23 and PGA Tour member Bryson DeChambeau and former professional golfer Dana Quigley on Dec. 26.


Watch Donald Trump make his 2018 predictions

President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Sunday night with son Barron and first lady Melania Trump. (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post)

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump predicted a “fantastic 2018” on Sunday night as he arrived at the Mar-a-Lago ballroom for a New Year’s Eve gala.

Check out the video of the president, first lady Melania Trump and son Barron arriving on the red carpet:

Earlier Sunday, Trump played golf and had lunch with Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Check out other red carpet photos from New Year’s Eve at Mar-a-Lago by clicking here.

Trump today is spending a final day at his Palm Beach estate before returning to Washington in the afternoon.

Follow and @gbennettpost on Twitter all day today for updates