Buckhorn out of governor’s race; many potential Dems remain

Actual or potential 2018 Democratic candidates for Florida governor. Top row, from left: Andrew Gillum, Chris King, Gwen Graham. Bottom row: Philip Levine, John Morgan, Jeff Greene.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced this morning he’s not running for governor in 2018 — removing one Democratic name that had drawn much speculation over the past year.


Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

“For me, finishing Tampa’s next chapter is more important than starting mine. Absent extenuating circumstances, I intend to finish the job I was hired to do and prepare Tampa for the great things that are about to occur,” Buckhorn said in a Facebook post.


“I am confident that there will be a number of good candidates on the Democratic side that can speak to the hopes and aspirations of our fellow Floridians,” Buckhorn added.


It could still be a crowded race for the Democratic nomination next year to succeed Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who faces term limits.


(The GOP field appears to be smaller. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to run; House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’-Lakes, is also getting a lot of mention. Keep in mind, however, that Scott didn’t launch his 2010 candidacy until April of that year.)


Here’s a look at other Democrats who have opened campaigns or are being mentioned as potential 2018 candidates:


• Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum announced his candidacy last week. Gillum, 37, was elected to the Tallahassee city council in 2003, won the mayor’s job in 2013 and spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. He’s the only African-American in the race.


• Central Florida businessman Chris King also opened a campaign last week. He is president and CEO of Elevation Financial Group LLC, which specializes in real estate development, property management and renovation.


• Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has made no secret of her interest in the job, which her father, Bob Graham, held from 1979-87. Gwen Graham has appeal as a Democrat who can win votes beyond the party’s liberal base; she unseated a Republican incumbent in a Republican-leaning North Florida congressional district in the very Republican year of 2014. But a court-ordered redistricting effectively drew her out of the seat in 2016, so she opted not to seek re-election.


• Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is actively exploring a run. He announced in January that he won’t seek re-election in Miami Beach this year and will be “exploring ways of how best to serve both my community and my state.”  An entrepreneur who started businesses in the cruise and media industries, he first ran for office in 2013 and frames his mayoral record as one of advancing progressive issues but also “getting things done.”


• Trial lawyer John Morgan has said he’s considering the race. A major Democratic donor whose Morgan & Morgan law firm advertises heavily around the state, Morgan was a key backer of the medical marijuana amendment approved by Florida voters in November. His ability to self-finance means he doesn’t face the time pressures other candidates are under to make a decision.


• Billionaire Palm Beach developer Jeff Greene has also been mentioned and recently told the Tampa Bay Times he’s not ruling out a run for governor. Greene couldn’t be reached this morning. He spent more than $23 million of his own money on a 2010 Senate bid, losing in the Democratic primary to former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.






At GOP donor meeting, Scott talks 2018 for self, party

Gov. Rick Scott talks to an attendee at the Republican National Committee spring retreat at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach.
Gov. Rick Scott talks to an attendee at the Republican National Committee spring retreat at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach.

PALM BEACH — Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who spoke to a few hundred major Republican donors at the Four Seasons Resort today, says he’s optimistic about GOP prospects in 2018 and in no rush to pull the trigger on his own expected Senate race.

Scott spoke at the Republican National Committee’s spring retreat, which on Friday night had President Donald Trump as the featured speaker and will hear from Sen. Marco Rubio tonight.


Scott says Republicans will succeed if Trump does what he said he'd do in 2016.
Scott says Republicans will succeed if Trump does what he said he’d do in 2016.

Remarks by Trump, Scott and others were closed to the press. But Scott said in an interview shortly after his speech that he told donors to “make sure you stay active…Everyone ought to be excited. We won. We have the White House, we have the House and the Senate, but you have to stay active.”


Scott faces gubernatorial term limits next year and is widely expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. This weekend’s Four Seasons crowd could supply money and valuable national fundraising contacts for Scott.


Scott said he told curious members of the donor class the same thing he’s been telling reporters about 2018.


“I have a really good job. There’s no rush to make a decision. And if you remember, I didn’t get into the race in 2010 until April so I’m going to keep doing my job,” Scott said.


The party that wins the White House often loses congressional seats in the ensuing midterm elections, but Scott said he’s confident about GOP fortunes in 2018.


“I think we’re going to do well,” Scott said. “I think Trump’s going to do what I’ve done. He’s going to really focus on what he ran on. I ran on jobs, I focused on jobs. He ran on the economy, he ran on keeping people safe, he ran on replace and repeal Obamacare. He’s doing that stuff so I think the positive for us is no different than what happened in Florida. We didn’t have an issue in Florida because I did what I said I was going to do. Trump’s going to do what he said he’s going to do.”

Senator No: Bill Nelson opposes 10 of 18 Trump Cabinet picks

Bill Nelson at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last year.
Bill Nelson at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last year.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted Thursday against President Donald Trump‘s nominations of Ben Carson for secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Rick Perry for secretary of Energy.


Nelson has now voted against 10 of 18 Trump Cabinet nominees who have come before the Senate.


Nelson also joined most Democrats in opposing Mike Pompeo (CIA), Rex Tillerson (State), Betsy DeVos (Education), Jeff Sessions (Attorney General), Tom Price (HHS), Steven Mnuchin (Treasury), Mick Mulvaney (OMB) and Scott Pruitt (EPA).


Republican Sen. Marco Rubio expressed some reservations about Tillerson but ultimately voted for him and all 17 other Trump Cabinet nominees.


Nelson is up for re-election next year in a state Trump won by 1.2 points in 2016. Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, up for re-election in another state Trump narrowly won, has also voted against 10 of 18 Trump nominees, according to an analysis by DecisionDeskHQ.com of senators up for re-election in 2018.


The most Trump-friendly Democrat who’s running next year in a state Trump carried has been West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who has supported 14 of 18 Cabinet nominees. North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has backed Trump on 13 nominees.


Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, up for re-election in a state where Trump eked out a surprise 2016 win, has voted against 13 Trump nominees.



Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum: ‘I’m running for governor’

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum made if official today, announcing on social media and in a YouTube video that he’s seeking the 2018 Democratic nomination for governor.


Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in his video announcing his 2018 Democratic bid for governor.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in his video announcing his 2018 Democratic bid for governor.

“I’m running for Governor of Florida. I hope that you will join me on this journey,” Gillum posted on Facebook this morning with a link to his video, which stresses his upbringing as the son of a municipal bus driver.


Other Democrats considering the race include former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and millionaire trial lawyer and medical marijuana advocate John Morgan.


Click here for a 2016 article on Graham, Buckhorn and Levine doing some early 2018 campaigning at the Democratic National Convention.


Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is likely to seek the Republican nomination, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land-o-Lakes is another potential GOP candidate.



Nelson: Trump nominee Gorsuch must address ‘real concerns’

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson
Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson says he has “real concerns” about voting rights and campaign finance disclosure that he wants President Donald Trump‘s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to address.


Nelson’s initial reaction to Trump’s pick was only that he looks forward to a “full examination” of the nominee.


“Of course, I’m going to talk to him and listen to the Judiciary Committee hearing,” Nelson said in a statement issued this afternoon.


“But I have real concerns about what I believe are two of the most fundamental rights in our democracy: the right to vote and the right to know who you are voting for. And I specifically want to know how the judge feels about the suppression of voting rights and about the amount of undisclosed, unlimited money in campaigns.”


Nelson, up for re-election in 2018, can expect pressure from Democrats and Republicans alike on the Gorsuch nomination.