With the Memorial Day weekend behind us and less than two months remaining before Florida’s primary election, the candidates for governor — at least on the Democratic side — are kicking their campaigns up a notch.
Among the hot topics on the campaign trail are a variety of progressive issues including a proposed new tax on ammunition to fund gun safety programs, a raise in school teacher salaries and a plan to decriminalize the personal possession of marijuana.
Two days after releasing a digital campaign ad touting his position on gun control, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine released another spot (see below) Friday morning. This one focuses on education and features a South Florida school teacher.
“Alyssa Rodriguez teaches biology. There’s nothing else she’d rather do,” Levine says in the spot. “But Florida politicians care so little about her and other teachers they are now amongst the worst paid in the nation as our public schools are left begging for funds.”
The spot, which calls for a $10,000 increase in teacher salaries, is backed by a $1 million ad buy and will air statewide.
“Everywhere I go in our state, I hear from Floridians about how our public schools are underfunded, and our teachers are underpaid and under-appreciated,” said Levine in a written statement. “If we want to build a 21st century economy in Florida, it starts by upping our game and rising to meet our responsibility to ensure that Florida’s public education system is the best in the nation.
Meanwhile, Orlando-area businessman Chris King, who released his own gun control ad a couple of days ago, met with Tampa Bay area community leaders Friday to release details of a gun safety package.
King’s plan — “Every Kid Fund” for Gun Violence Prevention — would invest in prevention and intervention programs, school safety measures, programs to study and reduce the epidemic of everyday gun violence. It would also reimburse trauma centers for medical costs of treating victims of mass shootings.
Funding for the program would come partly from a new “safety fee” of 6 percent charged on the sale of ammunition. Public safety officials would be exempt from the fee.
“I’m proposing the ‘Every Kid Fund’ for Gun Violence Prevention because every child deserves to grow up in a state free from the scourge of gun violence, whether it’s everyday gun violence or mass shootings,” King said. “We should be investing in new and innovative ways to keep Floridians safe and that’s why I’ll bring my bold, progressive policy to Tallahassee and send ‘proud NRA sellouts’ like Adam Putnam packing.”
On Thursday, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham released a nine-point criminal justice plan that would decriminalize the personal possession of marijuana and put an end to private prisons in the state.
Graham’s plan would also reform the bail bond system to help those low-level offenders who can’t afford bail. It would also increase pay for state corrections officers, reduce sentences for non-violent drug offenders, and require state attorneys to get approval from an in-house panel of prosecutors before seeking the death penalty in capital cases.
“For too long, the politicians in Tallahassee have ignored the inequity and pervasive prejudice in Florida’s criminal justice system,” Graham said. “While they’ve failed to act, Floridians have been hurt by mass incarceration, increasing costs and devastating cuts.”
Meanwhile, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum appeared at a town hall meeting of the Central Florida Grassroots Progressives Thursday evening.
“Democrats “need to make sure they’re creating an agenda [voters] can see themselves in,” Gillum told those attending the town hall meeting. “Yes, deal with Trump, but by the same token, let’s not make him the centerpiece of our electoral success.”