Sunday, June 17, 2018

Who’s Running for State Cabinet in the August Primaries?

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August 28, 2018
Primary Elections in Florida
In August, Florida Republicans will hold primary elections for Attorney General (AG), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Commissioner of Agriculture (COA); Democrats will hold primaries for two of those positions. The official qualifying period ends June 22, so the ultimate line-up may change.

Why should you care?

In a unique-to-Florida power-sharing relationship, the Governor and independently-elected Cabinet members oversee and hire the directors of several state agencies including those responsible for taxation, law enforcement, highway safety and bond finance.

Importantly, as the State Board of Executive Clemency, they decide the process by which voting and other rights are restored to former felons and others who have had them taken away.
See “Florida: An Outlier in Denying Voting Rights,” Brennan Center for Justice, 12/16/16

In addition to their shared responsibilities, each Cabinet member is also the Chief Executive of his/her Executive Branch department, which gives her/him individually significant power.

The current salary of a Cabinet member is $128, 972.

In this post, I’ll summarize the responsibilities of each office and the backgrounds and priorities of the likely candidates for each. Since money plays such an important role in elections, I’ll also share the latest campaign finance figures.

Attorney General

As chief legal officer of the state and head of the Department of Legal Affairs, the AG pursues criminal law and antitrust law violations; prosecutes cases of criminal racketeering, Medicaid fraud and civil rights violations; defends the state when it is sued and general laws when they are challenged; and represents the state when sentences for criminal convictions are appealed. There are over 400 lawyers on staff.

Registered Republicans will choose among four candidates and registered Democrats will choose between two Democrats in the August primaries. The winners will face off in a general election in November.

For Attorney General - The Republicans

Jay Fant (R)
Jay Fant (50) is a State Representative from Jacksonville (Duval County); sponsored bills here. He lists his occupation as “Chairman, Caroline Family Office," which his campaign describes as a “fiduciary services” firm but was unwilling to say who the firm’s clients are. Fant’s grandfather founded the once-prosperous First Guaranty Bank and Trust, which Fant took over as chairman and CEO in 2003. The bank failed in 2012, costing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. $82 million. Fant blamed "government overreach."

Fant’s issues are: secure our borders; eliminate sanctuary cities; protect religious liberty; restore the 2nd amendment; preserve the sanctity of life; defend free enterprise; strengthen law enforcement; protect consumer rights; and stop opioid abuse.

His website lists endorsements by the Trump Florida Campaign Co-Chairman and 38 Trump County Chairs, 13 (of 76) Republican state representatives and one (of 23) state senator.

Ashley Moody (R)
Ashley Moody (50) was a Hillsborough County Circuit judge for more than ten years before resigning to run for this office. In that capacity, she founded an Attorney Ad Litem program recruiting volunteer attorneys and developed a mentoring program for at-risk children within the juvenile delinquency system. According to her website, she has “the experience we need to keep Florida safe and protect our communities.”

Moody’s issues are: our flag; our constitution; the rule of law; Florida taxpayers; a healthy Florida (fight the opioid epidemic); law enforcement; our communities; religious freedom; our seniors; and our economy.

Her website lists endorsements by current Attorney General Pam Bondi, 12 state attorneys and 37 sheriffs from across the state.

Ross Spano (51) is a State Representative from Hillsborough County; sponsored bills here. While listed as an active candidate on the Florida Department of State website, he has qualified to run for Congress and is unlikely to appear as an AG candidate on the August ballot.

Frank White (R)
Frank White (39) is a State Representative from Pensacola representing parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties; sponsored bills here. After practicing law in Texas and Florida for over 15 years, he is now CFO/General Counsel for the Sansing Dealer Group of auto dealerships with stores in three states and over 600 employees. In 2015, he was appointed by Governor Scott to the Board of the Florida Development Finance Corporation, where he served as chair, and to the Pensacola State College System Board of Trustees.

According to his website, White’s issues are: defend the constitution; stand against government overreach; protect families and consumers with free market solutions; protect the unborn, 100% pro-life; protect the second amendment; defend taxpayers; prevent the spread and harm of Obamacare; and protect our borders and end sanctuary cities.

White leads the campaign money race, but see the Tampa Bay Times re: his $2.75 million personal contributions.

A web search found endorsements by two Florida sheriffs.

For Attorney General - The Democrats

Sean Shaw (D)
Sean Shaw (39) is a State Representative from Tampa (Hillsborough County); sponsored bills here. An attorney and former state insurance consumer advocate, he is the son of Leander Shaw, the first black chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court.

Shaw’s priorities are: protect children and families; crack down on corruption and fraud; lead the fight against opioids; advocate for consumers and ratepayers; and defend civil rights and equal rights.

His endorsements include 33 (of 41) House Democrats, 12 (of 16) Senate Democrats, three state attorneys and former Attorney General Bob Butterworth. Of note: the Florida Professional Firefighters crossed party lines in endorsing Shaw, having endorsed Republicans Adam Putnam for Governor and Denise Grimsley for Commissioner of Agriculture.

Ryan Torrens (D)
Ryan Torrens (32) is a Tampa attorney whose Torrens Law Group, P.A. focuses on foreclosure defense and consumer protection litigation. Prior to starting his practice in 2012, Torrens reviewed toxic mortgage loans as an independent consultant on the federal government-mandated Independent Foreclosure Review Project.

Torrens’ priories are: consumer protection and standing up to big banks; fighting for seniors; protecting Florida families; and tackling the addiction crisis.

His endorsements include two local labor unions and a state Representative.

Chief Financial Officer

The CFO oversees the Florida Department of Financial Services, which is comprised of the former state departments of insurance, treasury, fire marshal, and banking and finance. It is made up of 13 divisions, several specialized offices and 2,000 employees.

While there are four candidates running for CFO, only incumbent Scott-appointee Jimmy Patronis (R) and former State Senator Jeremy Ring (D) are considered to be serious candidates.

For Chief Financial Officer - The Republican

Jimmy Patronis (R)
Jimmy Patronis (46) is a former State Representative from Panama City (Bay County). Governor Scott appointed him CFO a year ago when Jeff Atwater resigned to accept another post. Scott had previously appointed Patronis to positions on the state’s Public Service Commission and the Constitution Revision Commission. In addition to his public service career, Patronis is a partner in his family’s generations-old seafood restaurant in Panama City.

His current priorities as CFO and State Fire Marshall are: supporting our first responders; protecting your identity; and fiscal accountability.

His endorsements include Florida Family Action President John Stemberger, Senate President-Designate Bill Galvano, Attorney General Pam Bondi, five former speakers of the Florida House and the Florida Chamber of Commerce

Jeremy Ring (D)
For Chief Financial Officer - The Democrat 

Jeremy Ring (47) is a former State Senator from Broward County. One of the earliest employees at Yahoo!, he became its director of sales in early 1996 and stayed until mid-2001, becoming personally wealthy. He moved to Florida to raise his family. During his ten years in the Florida Senate, according to his website, he worked to “craft major bipartisan legislation aimed at planting the seeds of an innovation ecosystem” in Florida. He recently published “We Were Yahoo!”, an insider look at the rapid rise and spectacular fall of Yahoo!.

His priorities are: protecting Florida’s retirement system; keeping insurance rates stable; and growing the innovation economy.

His endorsements include many federal, state and local elected officials, the International Association of Fire Fighters, and the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

Commissioner of Agriculture

Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture oversees the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. That organization supports and promotes Florida agriculture, protects the environment, safeguards consumers, and ensures the safety and wholesomeness of food. Through its Division of Licensing, it issues concealed weapon licenses.

Registered Republicans will choose among four candidates and registered Democrats will choose among three candidates in the August primaries.

For Commissioner of Agriculture - The Republicans

Matt Caldwell (R)
Matt Caldwell (36) is a term-limited State Representative from North Fort Myers (Lee County) and a real estate appraiser; sponsored bills here.

According to his website, “Matt has always been a champion of issues that impact our environment and the agriculture community. He sponsored an expansion of the Everglades Forever Act, which will complete Everglades restoration in the area south of Lake Okeechobee, as well as Legacy Florida, which will permanently fund restoration of the greater Everglades; and fighting Numeric Nutrient Criteria.”

His priorities are to protect Floridians’ 2nd Amendment rights, natural resources, and property.

His endorsements include U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, 47 (of 76) state representatives including Collier Reps. Byron Donalds and Bob Rommel, one state senator, several sheriffs, other constitutional officers and county and city elected officials.

Denise Grimsley (R)
Denise Grimsley (58) is a State Senator who previously served four terms in the Florida House; sponsored bills here. She is also a registered nurse, citrus grower and hospital administrator. Grimsley spent most of her career as a nurse. When her father became ill, she left nursing to run her family’s Grimsley Oil Company and “experienced the frustrations of government red tape and bureaucracy firsthand,” which she says led her to run for office.

Her issue priorities, according to her new (May 2018) Let’s Grow Florida PAC, are: strengthening the Florida agriculture industry; improving and limiting government; lowering tax burdens; protecting Florida consumers; and improving the quality of life in all Florida communities for all Floridians.

Her endorsements include Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson and 27 Florida sheriffs.

Mike McCalister (R)
Mike McCalister is a retired United States Army Colonel, 2010 Republican candidate for Governor, and 2012 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

According to his website, the “former National Spokesman for Citizens for Trump” “has travelled the state protecting our Second Amendment rights and a fierce advocate for saving our monuments that the establishment elites and New World Liberals want taken down to erase the heritage from the sights of our future generations.” He is “committed to protecting Florida’s Families’ Food, Water, Freedom and Animals.”

He is not considered to be a serious candidate in this big-money race.

Baxter Troutman (R)
Baxter Troutman (51) is a former State Representative who served four terms in the Florida House (2003-2010). He is currently General Manager of his family’s Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch, LLC, and President of Chop-N-Block Custom Meat Processing, as well as CEO of Labor Solutions, a personnel services company with 5 locations in Central Florida.

According to his website, “With a lifetime of experience in farming, Baxter will ensure that future generations of Floridians understand the important role the agriculture industry plays in Florida’s economic security by growing food that feeds the world.”

Troutman’s issue priorities are: water quality and supply; the second amendment; land availability; citrus greening; and NAFTA.

Neither his website nor a web search identified any endorsements.

For Commissioner of Agriculture - The Democrats

Nikki Fried (D)
Nikki Fried (40) is an attorney and former public defender. As a lawyer-lobbyist, she “played an integral role during Florida’s 2016 legislative session in the passage of HB 307, relating to the usage of medical marijuana for those who are terminally ill.” She subsequently formed a one-woman lobbying firm, Igniting Florida, which according to News Service of Florida, “most people consider a tongue-in-cheek reference to her work in the marijuana arena.”

According to Igniting Florida, Fried is “one of the most visible faces and key activists in Florida’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry.”

Having just filed to run last week, she has yet to create a website and has reported no campaign contributions or endorsements.

Jeff Porter (D)
Jeff Porter (58) is former City Councilman and Mayor of Homestead (Miami-Dade County). He resigned to run for this position.

“This area of the country, inside our borders, is the only place where we can grow produce in the winter to feed the nation, yet we’ve become totally reliant on food that comes from foreign countries,” Porter said. “It’s almost like a national security issue.”

Speaking about damage after Hurricane Irma, Porter said he wants the state to establish a separate emergency relief fund for farmers and ranchers, separate from one typically opened for all businesses affected by natural disasters.

Having just filed to run, Porter has yet to create a website or report any endorsements.

David Walker (D)
David Walker (26) is a marine biologist and fifth-generation Floridian. A former researcher with United States Geological Survey, National Park Service, and Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, he has researched and explored the impact of climate change, invasive species in the Everglades, and has advocated for air, land, and water conversation. He is currently president of South Florida Audubon, a volunteer firefighter, and member of the Everglades Regional Conservation Committee.

According to his website, Walker was ”driven to run” by “recent disturbing policy changes that are detrimental to our environment and … will lead to pollution, discourage renewable energy, and accelerate climate change in order to benefit big businesses and the fossil fuel industry.”

He is the only Agriculture Commissioner candidate who voiced straight opposition to withdrawal from NAFTA. The others have cited produce dumping from Mexico in criticizing the pact (Sun-Sentinel, 5/29/18).

Walker’s “Vision for Florida” includes positions on: conservation; consumer services; agriculture; food and nutrition; gun rights; renewable energy; and water.


As you can see, there is much similarity among each party’s candidates for office. In many cases, the issues they mention and the positions they take align them clearly along the national partisan divide. That said, differences can perhaps be discerned from the things they do not mention.

In the ten weeks between now and Election Day, there will be opportunities to learn more about the candidates and attend candidate forums and meet-and-greets. I will post these events as I see them on the Sparker's Soapbox Event Calendar, and share who I'll vote for in August.

Meanwhile, for more on the August primaries, stay tuned for future "Get Ready to Vote" posts, and catch up on what you missed:

Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

State News in Review - May 2018

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With the Legislature out of session and campaign season underway, May’s news was full of stories about how state government is not serving Florida residents well. This post highlights examples in the areas of elections and election security, public education, healthcare, hurricane preparedness and more.

As you read these paragraphs and the linked articles, consider the role your elected officials played in the various stories. This year, the seat of each one of them will be on the ballot. Election Day is your opportunity to hold them accountable.

Elections and election security
  • Democrats and independents out of luck, only Republicans can vote for region's next state attorney. Fort Myers attorney Joseph Hoffman qualified as a last-minute write-in candidate to close the Aug. 28 primary to only registered Republicans. News-Press, 5/4/18
    • Related Editorial: Disenfranchising state attorney voters is shameful. The Florida Constitution Revision Commission and Collier County's entire legislative delegation are among those to blame. Naples Daily News, 5/12/18
  • Florida’s early voting ban on campus challenged in court. Gov. Scott calls the lawsuit by the League of Women Voters of Florida 'frivolous' and 'an election year gimmick to distort the facts.' Tampa Bay Times, 5/22/18
  • Gov. Scott orders hiring of election security consultants, despite state legislators’ rejection of similar request earlier this year. APNews, 5/3/18
  • Scott orders Florida to use federal cybersecurity money for 2018 elections, over-ruling Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Sun Sentinel, 5/23/18

  • Florida Supreme Court to consider school funding lawsuit that charges the state is ignoring the 1998 constitutional amendment that says a “high quality system of free public schools” is a “paramount duty” of the state., 5/1/18
    • Related: ‘Framers’ of 1998 schools amendment side with the plaintiffs, seek role in court battle. News Service of Florida via Florida Politics, 5/22/18
  • Florida House says per-student bump of 47 cents is a myth. Fact-checkers say Mostly False. PolitiFact Florida, 5/30/18

  • Cuts to prison drug programs in the midst of opioid crisis draw criticism. The Department of Corrections shifted the money to cover a shortfall in its health care program. News Service of Florida via The Ledger, 5/3/18
  • With Scott on defense, reports show Florida woes for not expanding Medicaid. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Florida has the third-highest percentage of uninsured adults in the country, and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that women’s mental health is declining while their suicide rates are going up. Politico Florida, 5/22/18

Hurricane preparedness
  • Florida officials make few changes for upcoming storm season. After promising a dizzying array of fixes following the devastation of last year’s hurricanes, the state has enacted only a few — the largest aimed at protecting seniors in nursing homes., 5/31/18
  • How does an inexperienced 30-year-old become hurricane chief? With early forecasts suggesting a near-normal or above-normal storm season, the state’s disaster preparedness lies in the hands of a political newcomer whose first official job experience with emergency management began two years ago. Miami-Herald, 5/25/18
  • State catastrophe fund seeks to expand bonding capacity. While there are enough reserves to cover the “maximum potential liability” from Hurricane Irma, there may not be enough should Florida experience another massive storm or series of hurricanes., 5/20/18

In the courts
  • Judicial resignations: Subverting democracy? A recent spate of resignations has allowed Scott to reshape the 12th Circuit, appointing nearly 40 percent of the circuit judges. Critics see the move as a blatant attempt to bypass voters and allow the governor and local supporters to put their hand-picked people in control of the judicial system. Herald-Tribune, 5/27/18
  • Florida's ban on smokable medical marijuana ruled unconstitutional by a Leon County Circuit Court Judge. A Florida Department of Health appeal has imposed an automatic stay. Associated Press via Orlando Sentinel, 5/25/18
    • Related: Attorney John Morgan, who formed People United for Medical Marijuana, implored Gov. Scott to drop the state’s opposition. Associated Press via Miami-Herald, 5/29/18

Other news of note
  • Florida lawmakers shortchange affordable housing as demand soars. Since 2001, the Legislature has swept $2.2 billion out of two trust funds created to pay for affordable housing, including $182 million in the 2018-19 state budget. News-Journal, 5/13/18

That does it for May. Stay tuned in the coming days for my next "Get Ready for the 2018 Elections" post.

Catch up on previous posts! 

Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Local News in Review - May 2018

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Collier County, FL
Here’s this month’s review of news about our elected local officials and governing bodies.

Managing growth and development
Other County news
City of Naples
City of Marco Island
Collier County Public Schools
August 2018 local elections
That’s it for May’s local news. Stay tuned in the coming days for my review of state government news!

Catch up: My last post | My website


Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Who's Running for Congress in the August Primaries?

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August 28, 2018
Primary Elections in Florida
When there is more than one candidate for an office from one of the political parties, the August Primaries determine which of them will go on to the General Elections in November. Florida voters will elect one of their two U.S. Senators and their member of the House of Representatives in 2018. U.S. Senators are elected in statewide elections. Members of the House are elected by the voters in their district; Collier County voters live in either Congressional District 19 or 25. (Find your district)

Here’s what you can expect:

U.S. Senate: Republican Party Primary Only

Florida Governor Rick Scott has one primary challenger: multimillionaire developer Rocky De La Fuente. Incumbent Democrat Senator Bill Nelson is running unopposed for his party’s nomination for a fourth term in office.

Interestingly, De La Fuente ran for the Senate as a Democrat in 2016. He was then one of five challengers for the seat held by Republican Marco Rubio. He came in fourth in that race, receiving just five percent of the primary vote. He then ran for president on the Reform Party ticket and got less than one percent of the vote in the general election.

Congressional District 25: No Primaries

Democrat Mary Barzee Flores and Republican incumbent Representative Mario Diaz-Balart will be on the ballot in November. Both are unchallenged so there will be no primaries. Politico Florida says Barzee Flores “gives the longtime incumbent the first serious Democratic challenger he has had in a decade.”

           Mary Barzee Flores (D)             Mario Diaz-Balart (R)
  • Barzee Flores switches races, challenges Mario Diaz-Balart. Barzee Flores’ decision was made at the urging of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, EMILY’s List, and Florida Democrats who did not want Diaz-Balart to again escape an election cycle without a major Democratic challenger. Politico Florida, 5/3/18

Congressional District 19: Democratic Party Primary Only 

Francis Rooney (R)
Republican incumbent Representative Francis Rooney is seeking a second term and is unopposed in his party. Democrats David Holden and Todd James Truax will face off in August.
  • Democrats seeking U.S. House seat take aim at Rooney. Whichever one of the Democrats captures the Aug. 28 primary won’t have an easy go of it come November. The district votes heavily Republican. Rooney won the 2016 election with 65.9 percent of the vote over Democrat Robert Neeld. Naples Daily News, 4/4/18
As we get closer to November, I’ll write about the candidates in the General Elections. For now, here’s what I found by web research about the candidates in the District 19 Democratic primary.

The Naples Daily News called the political platforms of the two Democrats identical but said they differed in what would be their first priorities if Democrats take control of the House. For Truax, it would be to impeach President Trump. For Holden, it would be for Democrats to reorganize themselves in Congress.

David Holden (D)
David Holden is a partner in a financial planning practice in Naples. He has a degree in political science from Temple University and a Masters in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He says his educational experiences have formed his deep commitment to quality public education and affordable access to higher education for all Americans.

Holden says he has worked his entire career to solve problems for families and his community. His career includes service as Deputy Director of the California Association of Social Rehabilitation Agencies, and as President of the United Way of Greater White Plains, NY. He also spent over a decade with YMCA Youth & Government programs, helping train high school students in facets of state government, and helped Massachusetts residents gain access to quality healthcare and safe, affordable housing.

Holden’s website states his perspectives on gun violence, taxation, the environment, climate change and healthcare.

His website is, his Facebook page is here, his LinkedIn page is here, and he’s on Twitter @holden2018.

Todd James Truax (D)
Todd James Truax is a social worker, counselor, administrator and occasional nursing assistant. He has BS in psychology, gerontology from Cleveland State University, a Masters in Social Service Administration in mental health and aging from Case Western Reserve University's Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, and a certification in nursing home administration from The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business. He currently serves on the Board of Café of Life in Bonita Springs.

He says he is often sought out by leaders in Senior Housing and Long-term Care who recognize the need to attract the industry's best talent, and that his unique "hands-on" experience has helped him consistently steer communities toward regulatory compliance, solid financial returns and patient and family satisfaction since 1997.

His website states his perspectives on education, the environment, taxes, healthcare, immigration, national security, criminal justice and net neutrality.

His website is, his Facebook page is here and his LinkedIn page is here.

How I would vote: David Holden shares my values, priorities, and positions on issues. I admire his intelligence, his drive, his passion for civic engagement, and his willingness to serve. Importantly, he has, in my view, the better chance to beat the incumbent in the November General Election. As a result, he has my support and I have contributed to his campaign.


That wraps up my high-level review of our Congressional candidates in the August Primaries.

IMPORTANT: Since Florida is a closed primary state, voters may only vote within their party. If you have not registered as a Democrat or Republican, you cannot vote in either primary. The winning candidates of the Primary Elections will move on to the General Election in November.

Election Day is August 28. Be sure to update your voter registration information and request a Vote By Mail ballot to make voting easier, whether you will be in town in August or not. Visit

For more on the August Primaries, catch up on what you missed!

Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Who’s Running for Governor in the August Primaries?

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August 28, 2018
Primary Elections in Florida
This is the first of what will be several posts in the coming months about the candidates running for offices that will be on Collier voters’ ballots for the August 28 primary elections. See my earlier “Get Ready to Vote in the August 2018 Primaries” for a review of what will be on the ballot, the types of races and who can vote in each, and things you should do right now to make sure your vote is counted.

Twenty-Six Candidates!

Believe it or not, 26 candidates have qualified to run for governor: six Democrats, 12 Republicans, one Green Party, two Libertarian Party of Florida, and five No Party Affiliation.

I did some research into the six major candidates and in this post, I share what I learned.

The Democrats

Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King and Philip Levine are the major Democratic candidates.

Andrew Gillum
Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee

Gillum, 38, was the first in his family to graduate college (Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University), and at age 23 became the youngest person ever elected to the Tallahassee City Commission. After being overwhelmingly reelected to three successive Commission terms, he was elected Mayor in 2014. (The population of Tallahassee is ~191,000, compared to the City of Naples population of ~22,000.) More here and here.

According to his website, "Andrew Gillum is running for Governor to rebuild Florida into a state that works for all of us."

His top three priorities are:
  • Fair Share for Florida’s Future - Gillum wants to “adjust Florida’s corporate tax level to 7.75%, which still allows corporations in Florida a massive tax cut” yet enables the state “to recoup at least $1 billion back from the richest corporations and put it where we need it most “ — education.
  • Medicare for All & Health Care as a Constitutional Right.
  • A $15 Minimum Wage.

Gillum has been called the far-left candidate in the race, and has the support of billionaire donor George Soros.

Gwen Graham, former U.S. Representative

Gwen Graham
Graham, 55, is the daughter of former Florida governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham.

Graham has degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and American University’s Washington College of Law. After working as an attorney, she was a self-described "stay-at-home mom" for 13 years while raising three children. Later, she worked for Leon County Schools as director of employee relations. She was elected to Congress in 2014, but did not seek re-election due to redistricting, which turned her seat into a safely Republican district. More here, here and here.

According to her website, “Over the past twenty years, the politicians in Tallahassee have abandoned their responsibility to educate Florida’s students, protect our environment and foster an economy that provides every family with an opportunity to get ahead. Gwen believes it’s time for government to care about people again and put Florida families first.”

Her top three priorities are:
  • Expanding Healthcare - If the Legislature won’t do it, Graham will “fight to place and pass a constitutional amendment to expand Medicaid on the 2020 ballot.”
  • Focus on Teaching, not Testing - She will “work to end the high-stakes testing and place teachers, parents and local school districts back in charge of education.”
  • Protecting Florida's Clean Water - Her four-point plan addresses failing septic tank systems, fully funds the state’s water management districts, defends and improves the state’s water quality standards, and fully funds Florida Forever as voters intended.

Graham is considered the most moderate Democrat in the race.

Chris King, Winter Park business owner
Chris King

King, 39, is an entrepreneur and founder of Elevation Financial Group,  a consortium of companies specializing in real estate investment, property management and property renovation, focused on affordable senior and multifamily housing. He is the only major candidate for governor who has never held elected office.

He has a BA from Harvard and a law degree from the University of Florida. A third-generation Central Floridian, his father was a lawyer for the Fair Districts movement and his mother played leadership roles in organizations serving those without affordable health care. More here and here.

According to his website, “Chris King is running for Governor to give every Floridian the opportunity to dream big, dare greatly, and succeed. … Florida has important needs that our politicians just aren’t addressing. One-party rule has left families behind — it’s time for practical ideas to lift up our economy and make it possible for Florida to take the lead.”

His top three priorities are:
  • More Jobs that Pay Well. 
  • Affordable Living - King's plan includes “fixing Florida’s affordable housing crisis;” free community college and public trade school; student loan forgiveness programs; and Medicaid expansion.
  • Open and Accountable Government - He will “close the revolving door between lobbyists and politicians” with an eight-year lobbying ban, and refuse to take money from Florida’s sugar industry.

King is a self-described "progressive.”

Philip Levine, former mayor of Miami Beach

Philip Levine
Levine, 56, is a businessman and entrepreneur who made his fortune in the cruiseline industry and is largely self-funding his campaign.

As two-term Mayor of Miami Beach (population ~92,000), he focused on responding to climate change and sea level rise. He has a BA from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, and completed the advanced leadership program at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. More here and here.

According to his website, “Philip Levine is running for Governor with a progressive vision to move Florida forward as a leader in the 21st century economy.”

His top three priorities are:
  • Investing in Tomorrow’s Leaders Today - Levine wants tuition-free college for students who can’t otherwise afford it, provided they work in the state “for a period of time;” “meaningful investments” in vocational and technical training; and a stop to tax dollars going to for-profit charter schools.
  • Protecting and Preserving our Environment - He proposes a special office dedicated to fostering climate change resiliency, and would have the Department of Environmental Protection work within its existing budget to create a culture for startup solar energy companies.
  • An Economy That Grows Opportunities for All - He would sign an Executive Order requiring equal pay for equal work. He would also propose a “statewide living minimum wage” and empower local communities to go higher.

Levine, who calls himself a “radical centrist,” has said he likes a lot of Republican ideas and considered running as an Independent.

The Republicans

Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam are the major Republican candidates.

Ron DeSantis
Ron DeSantis, U.S. Representative

DeSantis, 39, served in the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps, working directly with detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and was deployed to Iraq with SEAL Team One. He has a BA from Yale and a JD from Harvard Law. More here and here.

DeSantis was elected to Congress in 2013. While there, according to his website, “he has led efforts to impose term limits on members of Congress, cut taxes, repeal ObamaCare, relocate America’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, … combat radical Islamic terrorism, stop illegal immigration and defund sanctuary cities, and conduct oversight over … the investigation into … the use of the Clinton-funded Steele dossier against Donald Trump, and the failure to prosecute the criminal activity of terrorist group Hezbollah by Eric Holder’s DOJ.”

His top three priorities are:
  • Strengthening Florida by Creating a Global Economy - “We need to continue trade relationships with countries like Israel which are strong in the tech sector. When they want to bring their business and technology to this country, we need to ensure Florida is the place they do it.”
  • Florida as the Global Education Leader - As a “leader in school choice initiatives, we must create an environment where parents can place their child in any school they see fit.”
  • Reshaping Florida’s Court System - “We need to get serious about tort reform,” and also “shape the Supreme Court with appointing at least three justices … and cement a constitutional majority.”

DeSantis says, “As a proven conservative, with the support of the president, I’m in a position to exercise the leadership that can build on the great work that Governor Rick Scott has done to advance economic opportunity, reform education, and drain the swamp in Tallahassee that needs to be drained just like Washington.”

Adam Putnam, Florida commissioner of agriculture

Adam Putnam
Putnam, 43, was first elected Commissioner of Agriculture in 2010. Reelected in 2014, he is now term-limited.

A fifth-generation Florida cattle rancher and citrus grower, Putnam was the youngest person ever elected to the Florida House of Representatives at age 22. After two terms in the Legislature, he served ten years in the U.S. House of Representatives, then returned to Florida to run for his current position. Putnam has a degree in food and resource economics from the University of Florida. More here and here.

According to his website, “Adam is running for Governor to ensure that every Floridian has the freedom and opportunity to pursue his or her American Dream.” 

  • Make Florida the first choice for Americans to launch their careers, start their businesses and raise their families - Putnam wants to strengthen workforce training; let parents decide what’s right for their kids; and return decision-making about what goes on in the schools to local school districts.
  • Make Florida first in the nation in protecting 2nd Amendment rights.
  • Make Florida first in welcoming our military, veterans and their families - Ensure members of the military can seamlessly transition into civilian life; expedite veterans to the front of the line; and support veterans through mental health services and when they encounter the criminal justice system.

Putnam is considered the more moderate of the Republican candidates.


That wraps up my high-level review of the four major Democrats and two major Republicans running for governor.

IMPORTANT: Since Florida is a closed primary state, voters may only vote within their party. If you have not registered as a Democrat or Republican, you cannot vote in either primary. The winning candidates of the Primary Election, if there is opposition from another party, will then move on to the General Election in November.

Election Day is August 28. Be sure to update your voter registration information and request a Vote By Mail ballot to make voting easier, whether you will be in town in August of not. Visit


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