Who’s Running for Governor in the August Primaries?

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 www.colliervotes.com.

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