2018 Governor’s Race: DeSantis Devoid of Policy Ideas, But Do Republicans Care?

by | Jul 24, 2018

Over the next five weeks, Florida Republicans and Democrats will cast their ballots to choose a nominee from each party to face off in the general election. Many voters have already chosen their candidates, but millions more are only just starting to pay attention to the race and conduct some background research.

The GOP side offers an interesting contrast in styles. Both candidates have been in the race for months, and both have had plenty of time to outline policies and priorities. But only Adam Putnam has done so, while his opponent, Ron DeSantis, continues to campaign on a single, high-profile endorsement. For many, that will be enough. Other, more cerebral voters may expect more out of a candidate asking to be hired as the chief executive of a state with an $85 billion budget and 21 million residents. Even if both candidates are ideologically similar, the 2018 GOP primary offers a stark choice – a known entity with well-outlined priorities, or a relative unknown who refuses to elaborate on the important details required for the job.

In 2010, Rick Scott ran as an outsider, and bucked the traditional campaign model by eschewing newspaper endorsements and staying laser-focused on a single over-arching message: “Let’s get to work fixing Florida’s economy and creating jobs.”

If DeSantis is taking a page from the Scott campaign and similarly “bucking the system,” his approach lacks the laser-focused policy message, and instead relies entirely on the endorsement of the president. But is that enough to satisfy Republican voters?

Things are a bit different on the Democrat side, where the candidates have created a virtual logjam of policies and priorities, and it may be difficult to sort them out. All five Democratic candidates, even the recent entrants into the race, have posted detailed outlines of their priorities for the state.

Here are the links to all known Republican and Democrat gubernatorial policy positions listed as of July 24th, 2018:


Adam Putnam

Putnam has served in a statewide capacity as Agriculture Commissioner since 2010. Prior to that, he served in Congress. Putnam announced his entry into the governor’s race back in 2017, and has been one of the most aggressive and assertive candidates from either party when it comes to making his views, positions and priorities known to voters.

From his official website:

“Adam is a principled conservative with a proven record. He’s someone who can get the job done by standing up for his conservative principles and our Florida values. As governor, Adam will continue to fight for less government interference in our lives and to protect our constitutional liberties.”

He’s posted three comprehensive policy papers and a handful of videos explaining his views on the following topics:

Putnam’s Florida First Families Agenda offers his views on protecting the unborn, removing judicial activism from the courts, defending constitutional freedoms and spearheading faith-based initiatives from inside the governor’s office.

On issues like security, crime prevention, law enforcement, and illegal immigration, Putnam published his Secure Florida First Agenda, with priorities like putting an end to illegal sanctuary policies in Florida, protecting the right to vote, fighting against human trafficking, and even his plan to fight Florida’s growing opioid epidemic.

No electoral platform would be complete without a plan for Florida’s booming economy – the 20th largest in the world. By now one can guess the title of the paper, given Putnam’s recurring themes: Florida Jobs First Agenda. A quick scan-through reveals a heavy focus on education and vocational training – Putnam calls it “career training” and he emphasizes the importance of expanded career pathways for those with aptitudes and skills that can flourish in specific trades.

There’s also a handful of videos expanding on each of the topics outlined above, so you can see Putnam in his own words.

Congressman Ron DeSantis

DeSantis entered the governor’s race in early January, and has leveraged numerous appearances on Fox News to introduce himself to Florida voters. His primary campaign message has been simple, straightforward, and unwavering: he’s been endorsed by the President of the United States. While he’s answered his share of issue questions during those brief talking-head appearances and during radio interviews, he’s never offered any detailed policy positions or outlined his priorities in any official capacity.

From his official website:

A native Floridian with blue collar roots, Congressman DeSantis worked his way through Yale University, where he graduated with honors and was the captain of the varsity baseball team.  He also graduated with honors from Harvard Law School.  While at Harvard, he earned a commission in the US Navy as a JAG officer.  During his active duty service he supported operations at the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and deployed to Iraq as an adviser to a US Navy SEAL commander in support of the SEAL mission in Fallujah, Ramadi and the rest of Al Anbar province. His military decorations include the bronze star medal for meritorious service and the Iraq campaign medal. He has also served as a federal and military prosecutor.

The DeSantis for governor website consists of a landing page offering voters the chance to join his email list. The other pages offer visitors a chance to donate or volunteer. DeSantis has no formal policy positions on his site.


Gwen Graham

The daughter of former Florida Democrat governor Bob Graham, Gwen Graham’s website offers up a comprehensive breakdown of her formal policy positions and priorities if elected to the Florida Governor’s Mansion.

From her website:

Gwen Graham never expected to run for public office. After graduating from college and law school, she worked in the private sector as an attorney and then focused on starting a family and raising her three children. Gwen volunteered to serve on her children’s school advisory board and as PTA president, then worked for her local school district where she brought together the administration, teachers and parents to improve education.

Graham’s policy priorities are very similar to her competitors, and she has one of the more comprehensive lists, broken down into 15 priorities which touch on virtually every big Democrat Party issue: the environment, economy, criminal justice reform, health care, civil rights, energy policy, women’s rights, LGBTQ issues, guns, immigration, veterans issues, security / law enforcement, senior citizens, ethics and government transparency.

Here’s the direct link to her “Priorities” page.

Jeff Greene

The newest entrant in the governor’s race, Jeff Greene has stormed onto the scene with a withering blitz of television ads, promising to spend whatever it takes out of his personal fortune to secure the governor’s mansion for Democrats.

From his website:

I’ll be a different kind of governor for Florida. One who is fearless in fighting for families. And I won’t owe any favors to the special interests who have been using their money to get their way. It’s time we put everyday Floridians first. When I’m elected governor, those are the people who will be front and center. And they are the ones I’ll think about when it comes time to make the hard decisions. These are folks who can’t afford high-priced lobbyists. They have worked hard and need government to work for, not against them.

Greene has spared no expense getting his policy positions fleshed out, too. Like the other Democrats, he adopts a kitchen-sink approach to listing his views. He touches on no fewer than 10 different policy areas on his website. His priorities include: Jobs and wages, education, criminal justice reform, immigration, LGBTQ+ equality, women’s rights / abortion, gun restrictions, environment, healthcare and affordable housing.

Greene’s comprehensive policy page is posted here.

Phil Levine

The Mayor of Miami Beach, Phil Levine has managed to remain a contender despite some Democrat heavyweights, and he’s made it no secret that he wants to translate his experiences from South Florida to the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee.

From his website:

With a proven track record of extraordinary private and public sector success as a self-made South Florida entrepreneur, and then as a two term Mayor of Miami Beach, Philip demonstrates the leadership skills necessary to break one-party rule in Tallahassee and bring Floridians together to get things done. Inspired by the example of great leaders and frustrated with the inaction of City Hall, Philip first ran for Mayor for the city of Miami Beach in 2013, where he has lived the past 40 years, taking on sea-level rise, cleaning up government corruption, and reforming the police department. He funded his own campaign, refusing money from special interests, and easily won re-election to two terms with a majority of the vote.

Levine’s website breaks his priorities down into 13 different categories, each very similar to his competitors: environment, education (splits into two distinct policy areas: K-12 and higher ed), health care, jobs, gun control, criminal justice reforms, government accountability, immigration reform, LGBT rights, women’s rights, veterans and military families, and transportation and infrastructure.
A direct link to Levine’s priority page is posted here.

Andrew Gillum 

The Mayor of Tallahassee has remained a contender despite some early setbacks when some in his social circles became embroiled in an FBI investigation which led to rampant speculation that Gillum may have bigger problems to worry about. But through it all, Gillum has remained steadfast in his focus on his campaign, and now, after a year of non-stop attacks trying to discredit him, Gillum’s campaign is well-funded, focused and competitive.

From his website:

Andrew is running for Governor so that Florida can finally confront the challenges we’ve shrunk from over the past 20 years: rebuilding our economy, revitalizing public education, protecting and expanding healthcare access, and addressing our climate change crisis with a clean energy economy.

Like his competitors, Gillum’s site offers no obvious differences in terms of overall priorities. He breaks his into 10 distinct policy areas: criminal justice reform, economy and jobs, education, the environment, gun control, health care, immigration, LGBTQ issues, women’s rights, and one that’s a bit different – Puerto Rico – where he pledges to “never waver” in his commitment to the Puerto Rican community.

Here’s a link to Gillum’s “Priorities” page.

Chris King

King has been an underdog from the start, but he puts his money where his mouth is. King has personally funded a large portion of his own campaign, and recently pledged to put up another $1 million to remain competitive in the race. A Harvard grad with a law degree from the University of Florida, King is a real estate investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist who wants to bring his unique skill set to the governor’s mansion.

From his website:

Chris isn’t a professional politician — he knows politics as usual isn’t working for Florida. He’s seen an economy that leaves too many behind, a school system that doesn’t fulfill its commitment to our children, and a community more divided than ever. When Chris identifies a problem, he doesn’t stop until he’s made a plan to solve it. He’s taken on Florida’s housing crisis by launching a purpose-driven business with his brother Michael. He’s revitalized thousands of homes to make them affordable for fixed-income seniors and working families. 

King lists 14 distinct policy areas on his website, in no particular order: gun control, criminal justice reform, affordable housing, equality, environment, health care, jobs, ethics, workforce training, affordable college, veterans, elections and voting, economic fairness, and women’s issues.

Check out King’s priority page here.


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