The Democratic candidates for Florida's gubernatorial election took part in a debate Monday evening. They answered questions on a range of issues, including gun control, a living wage, taxes, teacher salaries, and climate change.
The Democratic primary is Aug. 28.
Who participated in the debate?
Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee; Gwen Graham, a former member of Congress; Chris King, an entrepreneur; and Philip Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach. Another candidate, billionaire Jeff Green, did not participate because he announced his candidacy after the deadline for the debate had passed.
About 800 people attended the event.
What was debated?
The biggest debate among the candidates seemed to be how much they supported traditional liberal policies, including opposition to the National Rifle Association and support for abortion and environmental policies. The debate was rarely confrontational, with the exception of a few jabs that Gillum threw at Levine.
On the gun control, Graham said that she did not think that existing Florida laws went far enough, and that she would sign an executive order banning the sale of "military-style assault weapons" and high-capacity magazines. Gillum touted how he had been sued by the NRA (a point he has repeatedly brought up in this campaign) for failing to repeal an ordinance that would have allowed for the shooting of guns in public parks. He also said he would end "stand your ground" laws. He also bashed Levine for not backing him in that lawsuit.
On abortion, Graham said she was "proud to have a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood" and that if she becomes governor "any bill that comes across my desk in that any way strips the right of a woman to have the health care that she needs, I will take out my red pen and I will veto it immediately." Graham motioned drawing a line through something with an imaginary pen for emphasis.
Gillum took this opportunity to bash Levine again, although not by name. "I've never given a political contribution to an elected official who has sought to strip Planned Parenthood of their funding or has otherwise taken an assault on women. There is one such candidate on this stage who has, and I'd like him to apologize for it, but we've got to be with you every single step of the way." King applauded as Gillum finished. According to Federal Election Commission filings, Levine donated $2,400 in September 2009 for Sen. Marco Rubio's 2010 re-election bid.
On a living wage, all candidates seemed to agree that the minumim wage in Florida needed to be raised to $15. Levine reminded the crowd that he had already raised the minumum wage significantly in Miami Beach, a move that is currently being contested by the state government.
On climate change, Graham promised to convene a commission to address climate change "on day one" if she is elected, and that she would "break the hold that utility companies have on the state of Florida." Levine pointed to the French Legion of Honor he received for his work in climate change.
What was said about the Republican frontrunner?
The candidates also jointly slammed Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam, calling for his resignation due to his office's handling of gun permits. The Agricultural Department under Putnam failed to adequately review concealed weapons permits from 291 people in accordance with state law.
Those permits later had to be revoked and current Republican Gov. Rick Scott said that the entire episode was “disturbing.’’ Putman is currently running for the Republican nomination for governor, since Scott is banned from running again due to term limits.
Levine said he would institute stricter background checks, while King said he would institute a tax on bullets that would "fund programs that prevent gun violence."
What about the Republican candidates?
According to a recent poll sponsored by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Putnam is leading his Republican opponent Rep. Ron DeSantis by a comfortable margin of 32 percent to 15 percent. The poll interviewed 501 likely Republican voters June 7-9, and had a margin of error of +/- 5.3 percent.