In an election year with a unique opportunity for Democrats to successfully end twenty years of uninterrupted Republican rule of the state, the party has given us an underwhelming set of candidates. The perceived front-runner Gwen Graham does have a lot going for her. She’s the daughter of a former Governor and Senator, the beloved Bob Graham and has coalesced much of the institutional support. She’s run a campaign focusing on GOP rule in Tallahassee and environmental issues. On the basis of her campaign alone,. Graham might be a solid choice for progressives and our writers.
However, her record as a one-term member of Congress including votes for the Keystone XL pipeline (which she’s rationalized very poorly publicly) and to pause the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the US is troubling. The legislation Graham voted for in 2015 essentially froze what was already a slow, laborious and difficult process for refugees to come to this country many of these potential refugees quite possibly would have been Christians fleeing IS/Daesh persecution. Graham’s vote was a defiance of President Obama (who spoke out strongly against the legislation) and an embrace of the racially tinged reactionary politics the GOP was popularizing in 2015 and 2016.
It is understood that Graham represented a conservative district in Congress. It is also true she didn’t run for reelection in that conservative district. Perhaps she intended to run for reelection before the district was redrawn but that’s still not an excuse for some terrible votes. More likely, she and her advisors felt such a voting record would give her a better opportunity to win statewide. We reject that sort of thinking which has clouded the minds of Florida Democrats for years.
Graham’s closest challenger is likely to be former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. Having been outraised heavily by Graham thanks partly to institutional biases against candidates from south Florida, Levine is trying to buy his way through the primary using his own money. He’s a decent candidate, probably better than Graham but still falls short of the ideal standard we’d like to see.
That brings us to progressive favorite Andrew Gillum who has been endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders. Gillum’s consistent flirtation with ethical trouble and questions about his decision-makingas a public official mean that however much we like his platform and his advocacy on the most important issues to progressives, he cannot be supported. Several other lingering questions exist about Gillum’s decisions and possible ethical lapses that we don’t need to get into today. All of this is unfortunate because Gillum could be the perfect candidate, the type we’ve long been waiting for – but we cannot support him.
Chris King has articulated himself well in this race and perhaps has a future in the party, but he’s not ready to lead the state or carry the party’s banner in November just yet. King should stay involved and active because he adds an interesting voice and different perspective to the conversation than we normally hear from politicos or candidates being handled by professional consultants.
Obviously Democrats and progressives should support one of the four candidates listed above, but we are not comfortable recommending any of them at this time.
As for Jeff Greene, no thank you. progressives should NOT be fooled by slick ads to cast a ballot for him. We’ll leave it at that for now.
In many ways, the Attorney General’s position is as important as the Governor. Under Bill McCollum and Pam Bondi, the office has been little more than a rubber stamp for an out of control legislature and has not provided effective protections for the people of the state. When then-Republican Charlie Crist was Attorney General, he followed the example of the man he succeeded, Democrat Bob Butterworth to govern in the interest of the citizens and holding power people, be they politicians or corporations to account. But in the last 12 years the GOP has pushed an agenda that was rejected by Crist but embraced by McCollum and Bondi to turn the AG’s office into what amounts to a partisan law firm. We have seen rare exceptions here and there but by and large the office has become a partisan one that does not serve the interests of Floridians at all.
Democrats have an exceptional candidate in State Representative Sean Shaw for this office. Shaw is one of the best potential candidates Democrats have fielded statewide in years – the son of the late Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw Jr., Shaw has been a forceful and articulate advocate for progressive ideals, consumers and social justice even when it meant he lost elections, as he did twice for the State House before being elected. Shaw also was an effective member of Alex Sink’s team when she was Chief Financial Officer, where he served as the insurance consumer advocate. From our perspective, given the thin Democratic bench, Shaw is pretty close to a dream candidate for this important office.
The Democrats have fielded consistently ineffective or ethically challenged nominees for this office over the course of the last two decades. In Nikki Fried, the party has a chance to at least have someone forcefully talking about important issues not only to agriculture but consumers in the state on the November ballot. Fried has gotten a lot of attention for her aggressive stands on marijuana which we support but less discussed is her willingness to talk about the aftermath of Hurricane Irma’s impact on farming and the general balance between ag and consumers. Fried, if nominated would be a prohibitive underdog to a well-funded Republican in the General Election. But we feel she’s the right person to shape the debate and conversation in this state moving forward and if the blue wave is strong enough, she might end up winning the office in her own right. Either way her voice is an important one, and we endorse her candidacy.