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Fireworks Light Up Final Democratic Gubernatorial Debate ... if Only Briefly

August 2, 2018 - 11:00pm

With one candidate equating this year’s election to the Normandy battle and another proclaiming it “the most important election in Florida’s history,” five Democrats seeking to succeed Gov. Rick Scott briefly took off the gloves Thursday night in their last onstage matchup prior to the Aug. 28 primary.

The televised debate in Palm Beach Gardens featured a few fireworks, including a clash between former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, a latecomer to the Democratic race.

One of Greene’s first TV ads highlighted a confrontation between the Democratic candidate and president-elect Donald Trump at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. Greene is a neighbor of the resort.

“Look, I am the only one who stood up against President Trump. The day before the election, I went on television and I was on CNBC and I said exactly what I felt. I would be scared to death to have Donald Trump as my president. And let me tell you something, it couldn’t be worse,” Greene said when asked how he would stand up to Trump while paying dues to the private club, of which he is a member.

But noting he had spent “a year-and-a-half of my life” supporting Hillary Clinton in her White House bid, Levine blasted Greene for showing support for Trump after the Republican was elected in 2016.

“My God, you went on and said he’s a great guy. … He literally mocked disabled people. He insulted every woman in America. Matter of fact, he did worse than that. He told John McCain he wasn’t a war hero. Told him he was a coward. Even worse than that, he accepted David Duke’s endorsement. I gotta tell you something. Seriously, that sounds more like you’re like Donald Trump, and I gotta tell you one Donald Trump is enough, Jeff,” Levine said early in the debate.

But Greene shot back, accusing Levine of giving campaign contributions to Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Greene also said his post-election support of Trump mirrored that of former President Barack Obama and Clinton.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who trails in the polls and in fundraising but who has garnered a slew of progressive and left-leaning endorsements, including that of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, boasted that he is “the only candidate on this stage who has actually called for an impeachment of Donald Trump.”

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham was asked whether she would welcome former President Bill Clinton on the campaign trail in the midst of the “Me Too” movement against sexual harassment and assault. The former president, who became mired in a sex scandal because of his relationship with a White House intern, supported Graham in her 2014 bid for Congress.

“As the only woman in this race, I am intimately aware with the Me Too movement. It is an imbalance of power. It is an indication where women sadly too often are at the disposal, so to speak, of the men that they work for … and it’s a lack of respect,” Graham said, adding that she is “uniquely able” to address the issue.

When pressed to answer the question, Graham said both Clintons “have served our country well.”

“When we are the general election nominee, we will be welcoming many people to Florida. And I look forward to considering people across the country who want to come down and campaign in Florida because this is the national race in 2018, and we’ve got to win Florida back for Democrats,” she said, drawing a rebuke from Levine, who did not miss the opportunity to praise the former president who continues to enjoy major support from Democrats.

“The Me Too thing is a terrible, horrible tragedy happening in our country, and we need to change the culture in Tallahassee,” Levine said. “But the one thing I can tell you, if one of the greatest presidents in American history wanted to come down and campaign for me, I would welcome him with open arms.”

Graham, who decided not to seek re-election in 2016 after her North Florida district was redrawn, was also asked about her support for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline during her single term in Congress.

Graham, who has led recent polls in the crowded Democratic race but who has been criticized by progressives for being too conservative, said she has answered questions about her vote “over and over and over again.”

“When you’re faced with making a tough decision, you weigh both sides of the issue,” she said Thursday, saying the “old pipeline” could have caused environmental problems.

The new pipeline reduced the impact of carbon emissions, she said, which benefited Florida.

“Wherever there’s an opportunity to decrease carbon emissions …  you have to take it,” she said.

But Greene, punching back, said “this was not a difficult decision,” and went after Graham and her family for harming Florida’s environment by backing what will be the country’s biggest mall on the edge of the Everglades in Miami.

“Will it be a difficult decision for you when Donald Trump is trying to drill (for oil) off our coast?” Greene said, drawing a snide rejoinder from Graham.

“I welcome you to the Democratic campaign for governor,” she said, adding that she backed a measure that would ban oil drilling off the Florida coastline. “You’re right. I was in Congress. I did have to make tough decisions.”

The candidates all indicated they would support a repeal of the state’s first-in-the-nation “stand your ground” law, which allows people to use deadly force when they feel their lives are in danger.

“Well, I know a little about this subject matter in an intimate way as a black man but also a father to two black boys,” Gillum said, adding that “racial bias” is evident in a variety of ways in communities of color. “We need a governor who is understanding of the nuance of this community.”

Thursday’s debate came two days after Trump held a rally in Tampa, where he was joined by U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican running against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the GOP primary for governor.

The 2018 election in Florida "is the most important election in the world," Levine said.

"This is the Normandy for the Democratic Party in Florida. ... We cannot fail that," he said.  

Graham called 2018 “the most important election in Florida’s history” and pointed out she is the only Democrat on the stage that has defeated an incumbent Republican.

 “If you’re ready to end 20 years of Republican rule, I am ready to lead,” she said.

Winter Park businessman Chris King, the fifth candidate in the Democratic primary, predicted DeSantis would capture the GOP nomination.

“That should scare everyone in Florida,” King said. “He is competing to become Donald Trump’s apprentice.”


Yes, DeSantis will be a disaster for Florida but so will Graham. Nominate PROGGRESSIVE CANDIDATES or the base stays home.

Glad I missed seeing this one... It must have been a real hoot. Reminds me of a "pi$$ing match"!

Typical politicians. Every candidate was asked how much per student did they think was necessary to improve our national stand AND where would the money come from. Not one of them answered it because they’re all full of crap. Anyone can get up there and spout off about I’m for this snd that, but they have no clue as to how to achieve it. It’s nit good enough to just criticize your opposition’s failures; you need to say how you would succeed.

Jeeze what a bunch of gutless, spineless, cowards. Not a single one brought up Gwen's enviorenmentaly distructive "Mall being built in The Everglades". Not a single one even mentioned the fact Gillum is Mayor of the highest violent crime city in Florida.

You should have watched it before you commented. Graham received plenty of flak over her Father's company building a mall at the edge of the Everglades that will allegedly be environmentally unsound and a mecca for low-paying jobs. Remember, though, that Scott's own company, Columbia Healthcare, ripped off U.S. taxpayers to the tune of $2.3 billion in fraudulent Medicaid and Medicare charges ... and ChromeDome was still elected governor ... twice! You're just peddling partisanship ... as usual. Fake news!

No leftist talking points in defense of Mayor Gillum?

The higher-taxes-on-corporations-for-redistribution-to-special-interests tack just isn't going to work. Dem candidates neatly avoided any distinction between themselves and Rick Scott, as well as any comprehensive, inclusive plan for the betterment of all Floridians. For the next debate, the nominee better get some charisma and prepare to explain how ALL Floridians will be better off. Considering the current FL political climate, that is a long, uphill row to sow.

Everyone of them needs to demonstrate that they know the Constitution and understand that the government whether Federal, State, or Local is supposed to be a limited government not an all encompassing Socialist government.

King or Gillum for Lt. Gov, a debate coach for shaky Gwen. If you're going to be governor you've got to explain the megamall and the Keystone vote. Like Rick Scott, she ignores the question and blurts out canned talking points. All of them seemed well prepared vs. their prior debate. She is least likely to win a debate with Putnam or Desantis, yet most likely to whip them both. Levine most likely to deliver us from the grip of the Climate Deniers. Greene, you are not Trump's worst nightmare, you are Levine's worst nightmare, but all of you did a great job last night!

Gillum and Levine seemed to be the best articulators of their respective positions. (?) Graham seemed to be 'Republican-lite'. She came across a lot like Jeb Bush back in the day when he was running for governor. (?)

This is Florida's "classic example" of "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" taking aim at each others' feet ! Are THESE the "Clowns" you want to expose to Florida's CITIZENS, the rest of the United States (and the entire world), as OUR choice to put 'in charge' of OUR "Sunshine State"?!? If THAT'S "the case", the entire world is going to hope there is a "cliff" in Florida that is high enough to watch our Florida Democrat "Lemmings" march over (in lockstep) their doom (talk about a "Reality TV Show"!). ANY 'one' of these five 'demonstrated' miscreants can put a crimp in Florida's currently surging economy and cripple our overall progress for decades to come (It's what Democrats inherently DO !). Take another look at what Democrats have historically done to States, Cities, Counties, Towns, Hamlets, etc., that they have been "put in charge of" over the last seven decades since WWII... "THEY" have always compelled us ALL to "join their march to the cliff" whenever "they are put in charge"...! We can't afford "them" any longer Folks: VOTE CAREFULLY !

A "classic example" of purely partisan hot-air!

This field the Dems have looks week.

Said the person who can't even spell weak! …………. The field is very strong and repubs need to be afraid, very afraid as the people are tired of their bad policies.

The Democratic Party is on track to lose another election with the nomination of "republican-lite" Gwen Graham. Graham is NO PROGRESSIVE and will do nothing to motivate progressives like me to go to the polls. We haven't leanred a DAMNED THING from Charlie Crist and Alex Sink. Say hello to Governor DeSantis. Sad!

The only problem the Democrats have with their primary candidates is that there's too many of 'em! The party would have done itself a favor if they could have winnowed the number down to just two or three ... maybe Gillum, Levine, and Graham. (?) For me ... I really would have liked to have seen the "Murphy and Jolly" ticket!

I feel really bad for people in this economy, I like everyone have been struggling. But I tell you what I've done I've taken life into my own hands being responsible for myself. I knew trading was the answer for me and I've purchased different courses at different places and the best course I've found by far is at the website Emini S&P Trading Secret, just Google them and find them and do like I did they get started trading for yourself and take life into your own hands.

There is only ONE real candidate that can actually run the government in our great state of Florida. A fighter, A military Vet, an UN-Establishment Candidate that would care for the people of the state : U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, ALL IS SAID AND DONE

Desantis will lose to any of the Dems who will bury him in the debates, commercials as such a bad candidate, policies.

I am a progressive Democrat. I am sick and tired of choosing from the lesser of two evils. I did it in the 2010 and 2014 Gubernatorial races, and I did it hat again with Hillary in 2016. I WILL NOT. Mark my words, WILL NOT do it again in 2018. It's time for the establishment in the democratic party to understand that millennials will not be motivated to the polls to vote for Republican lite candidates. Nominate Graham and DeSantis will win the election.

Well, no one said a thing about being Governor.

That is also the problem with De Santis Trump's endorsement is all he talks about has never said anything about what he would do as Governor These five fools are sadly mistaken Neither Trump or the NRA are on the ballots and a Governor has no power to fight them It shows what is wrong with Florida politics

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