Continuing his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next year, Orlando businessman Chris King announced on Tuesday morning that he was expanding his team.
While King stressed the need for political change when he ramped up his campaign earlier this month, he is turning to a team of veteran campaign operatives to help his efforts.
On Tuesday, King said that he was bringing in Zach Learner, who had worked for former Gov. Charlie Crist’s unsuccessful 2014 gubernatorial bid and Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns, as COO and general counsel. Raymond Paultre, another veteran of the Obama and Clinton campaigns who also led efforts for Enroll America in the Sunshine State, will be director of strategic engagement. King brought in Stephanie McClung as finance director, a post she held for Crist’s successful election to Congress in 2016 and for the Florida chapter of liberal group Ruth’s List. Raul Martinez, who led Hispanic outreach for Obama in Florida in 2012 and was chief of staff to former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., will be King’s South Florida regional director. Amanda Sands will be digital director while Juanica Fernandes, another activist who helped Obama in 2012, will be King’s regional finance associate. Omar Khan, who also helped Crist’s 2014 efforts, joined the King campaign weeks ago.
King said bringing in a team of experienced Democratic campaign operatives will help boost his bid.
"I'm encouraged that so many smart, talented campaign veterans are ready to join me in building a new approach to our politics," said King. "Our campaign will reflect the diversity, energy and possibility of Florida, and with these additions we've taken a great first step in meeting that goal."
Based out of Orlando, King is the CEO of Elevation Financial Group, which, according to his team “creates quality, affordable housing for seniors and families in Florida and across the Southeast.” King is also active with a group helping low-income students afford higher education. This marks the first time the Orlando businessman has run for office.
While the Democrats haven’t won a gubernatorial election since then Gov. Lawton Chiles held off Republican challenger Jeb Bush back in 1994, there could be a crowded field lining up in 2018 when current Gov. Rick Scott faces term limits. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is the only other major Democratic candidate in the race besides King. Gillum and King could be joined by two former members of Congress in Gwen Graham and Patrick Murphy, Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine and attorney John Morgan.