With the primary election still three months away, the race for the Democratic nomination for governor is getting interesting and has the potential of becoming more so.
Last week, a supporter of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum called former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham a “skank.”
Earlier this week, in an effort to win the title of the party’s most progressive candidate, Orlando-area businessman Chris King announced that, if he were elected governor, he would not sign any death warrants and would work to end capital punishment in Florida.
Now, as the Palm Beach Post reports, there’s word that former South Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy is still considering a run for governor — with former Republican Congressman David Jolly as his running mate — and expects to make a decision by early June.
Murphy has been contacting potential donors and got an opinion from an attorney that nothing in Florida law prohibits a gubernatorial candidate from selecting a lieutenant governor candidate from a different party.
“Honestly I believe people are more interested in getting their problems solved than the politics of political parties,” Murphy told The Palm Beach Post Thursday.
The Post also reports that that Palm Beach Billionaire Jeff Greene is still considering the possibility of entering the race.
Recent polls have shown former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Graham leading the pack. A poll released last week by Florida Atlantic University showed Levine receiving the support of 16 percent of the voters surveyed, while Graham received 15 percent. King followed behind with 10 percent and Gillum with 6 percent.
But no one is taking charge of the race. The FAU poll shows more than 40 percent of Democrats remain undecided.
That’s why the candidates are jockeying for position in the Democratic horse race.
Among the four Democrats who are already in the race, there’s a battle being waged over which of them is most progressive. In Democratic primaries, the party’s core base is more likely to turn out to vote. That’s especially true this year with progressive voters energized and motivated by Donald Trump’s presidency.
Gillum debated House Speaker Richard Corcoran earlier this year on the this issue of immigration and the House bill that would have banned sanctuary cities in Florida.
Last week, a political committee that supports Gillum, started running a television spot critical of Graham’s voting record in Congress, labeling her as being more conservative and voting against issues supported by then-President Barack Obama. The dispute led to the “skank” comment from a Gillum supporter..
Graham, meanwhile, touts the support of liberal groups like Emily’s List, a pro-choice organization, and her calls for gun control.
Levine promotes his record as mayor which included supporting a higher minimum wage, fighting climate change and legalizing marijuana.
But, it was King who earlier this week may have jumped out front in the race for the title of most progressive candidate when he announced a criminal justice reform package that calls for the legalization of marijuana, the automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, and the end to the state’s death penalty — the latter being a position none of his three opponents could fully support.
“We’re disappointed that every other Democrat running for governor supports the continued application of the death penalty in Florida despite Florida’s alarming rate of wrongful convictions and the overwhelming evidence of racial bias in its application,” King campaign spokesman Avery Jaffe said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “The other candidates’ positions are based in political calculus and we need to move beyond the failed politics that puts perceived electoral gain ahead of doing what we know is right.”
For now, the race is still wide open with the possibility of a wild card — A Murphy-Jolly ticket — potentially shaking up the contest. A poll done for Murphy last month showed Murphy, with Jolly as his running mate, jumping out in front of the Democratic race with the support of 21 percent of the voters. Levine comes in second with 17 percent.
The primary is just three months away, but there are still a lot of cards in the deck that have yet to be played.