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Pastors Call for DeSantis Apology

August 31st, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Outrage is growing over comments made by GOP Gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis on Fox News about his opponent Andrew Gillum.
DeSantis took the first shots Gillum just one day after the primary.
“Lets build on the success of Governor Scott. The last thing we need to do is monkey this up,” said DeSantis.
The comment was perceived as racist by many.
It spurred outrage and captured national headlines.
Now a group of faith leaders in the state capital are joining the cries for an apology from the Congressman.
“The term monkey from our Afrocentric psychological, theological perspective is highly offensive,” said Reverend R.B. Holmes with Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.
Pastors believe that DeSantis misspoke and that the comment wasn’t intentionally racist, nonetheless they think he should still apologize.
“All of us know the value of repentence and the importance of forgiveness and I call upon him to repent,” said Pastor Brant Copeland with First Presbyterian Church of Tallahassee.
Earlier in the week Gillum addressed DeSantis’ remarks on network television saying he didn’t need an apology for himself.
“He needs to apologize to Florida voters because if he thinks that those kind of shenanigans are going to be persuasive enough in this midterm election to turn this their way, I think he’s badly mistaken,” said Gillum.
The comments haven’t been all bad for Guilim, they fueled $1 million in campaign contributions in a single day and the money is likely to keep flowing in from both in and out of state.
DeSantis has denied any racial intent to his statements on Fox.
He has so far refused to apologize, calling the reaction from the left manufactured outrage.

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Blue Wave or Ripple?

August 31st, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Democrat Andrew Gillum bested his nearest rival by 45 thousand votes.
“We’ve got to redouble our efforts as we go forward,” said Gillum in his victory speech.
But turnout hardly suggested a ‘blue wave’.
Despite Gillum’s ability to bring out unexpected voters and the highest turnout in a primary election in 16 years, Republican voters outnumbered democrats by more than 100,000.
Also the Republican race wasn’t close, with Ron DeSantis pulling nearly twice as many votes as Gillum, thanks to an endorsement by the President and fewer candidates.
“The president can reach out, put his hand on the shoulder of a man and make him the republican nominee,” said GOP Political Strategist Mac Stipanovich.
Convincing enough Democrats in the state to unify behind Gillum to compete with DeSantis could be a challenge.
Some analysts say Gillum’s hard left platform may cost him the support of some moderate democrats.
“Those in the middle, whether it’s independents or moderate republicans or conservative democrats are going to face a tough choice in November,” said Stipanovich.
However, Gillum’s former opponents are rallying around him.
His popularity on social media has also exploded.
“We went from 40,000 followers to Election day to almost 170,000,” said Gillum Wednesday night.
As of Friday morning he was up to 273 thousand followers.
The online interest could be the first sign of unity among Democratic voters, or a consequence of capturing national headlines for three days in a row.
The Democratic ticket for statewide office includes two African Americans, Andrew Gillum and Sean Shaw and a woman, Nikki Fried. Gillum hopes the diverse array of candidates will result in more democrats turning out on election day.

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Gillum Calls on FBI to Tell Voters He is Not a Target

August 30th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The FBI issued subpoenas to the City of Tallahassee more than a year ago.
Andrew Gillum, the city’s mayor and now Democratic nominee for Governor, has repeatedly said he is not a target of the investigation.
The Gubernatorial hopeful is following a major state paper in calling on the FBI to tell voters what they know.
An investigation into city government contracting in the State Capitol has been underway since 2015.
Two subpoenas seeking development records were delivered to City Hall last June.
A third, a City Commissioner dropped last September.
Since first becoming public, Mayor and now as Democratic Nominee for Governor, Andrew Gillum has repeatedly said he has been told he is not a target of the investigation.
“This investigation seems to have settled around an individual,” said Gillum.
A picture of Gillum with an FBI agent and the supposed informant surfaced last year.
Now, In an exclusive interview, Gillum is calling on the FBI to tell voters what they know.
“I join the Tampa Bay times to make clarification. They’ve done it before, and unfortunately, it was far to close to an election that I think impacted its outcome,” said Gillum.
Republican nominee Ron DeSantis has already hinted he’ll make the investigation an issue.
“I mean, he’s got huge problems on how he has governed Tallahassee,” said DeSantis on Fox News.
The FBI Field Office here in the state Capitol declined to comment on Gillums request.
So far, the investigation hasn’t hurt the Democratic nominee.
Day one of the campaign saw significant fundraising.
“We’re fortunate to have raised about a million dollars online. That’s to say nothing of larger level donors giving to the part on our behalf,” said Gillum.
His Twitter followers have also exploded from 50,000 on election day to almost a quarter million Thursday afternoon.
The election Gillum said, was impacted was Hillary Clinton’s run for President in 2016 when the FBI closed and then reopened an investigation into her use of a private server for classified emails.

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Gillum Scores Victory Despite Being Outspent in Democratic Primary

August 29th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Outspent by rivals by at least ten to one, Democrat Andrew Gillum scored a stunning victory in Tuesday’s primary for Governor.
As the only non-millionaire in the Democratic Party, Andrew Gillum stressed his upbringing.
Gillum beat rival Gwen Graham by more than 68,000 votes in Democratic heavy Southeast Florida, fueling his 45,000 vote victory.
“This race is about every single one of us,” Gillum said in his victory speech Tuesday night.
Appearing first on MSNBC and then CNN Wednesday morning, Gillum said he would not attack his rival, Ron Desantis, but continue to focus on people.
“And I’m running on a platform that says We’re going to create opportunities for everyday Floridians and that’s whats most important to do in order to prevailon November 6th,” said Gillum.
Under Gillum’s watch as a leadership mayor, the FBI served subpoenas, seeking tens of thousands of documents.
Gillum has said since the beginning he was told that he is not a target.
“This investigation has centered around an individual,” said Gillum said on MSNBC.
This is how he responded to the question on CNN, “Should there be individuals who have done anything inappropriate, what we said, they ought to be held fully accountable, but we pushed that issue past us in this primary.”
The questions about the FBI investigation aren’t likely to go away.
“All of them gave Andrew Gillum a pass on some real vulnerabilities that I think the republicans will be working on here pretty quick,” said GOP strategist Mac Stipanovich.
Gillum has until the end of business next Thursday to name a running mate.
The race has already taken a turn towards the nasty.
GOP Nominee Ron DeSantis, on Fox News said electing Gillum would “Monkey Up” the states economy.
The Democratic Party Chair shot back saying ,”It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles.”

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Florida Supreme Court Scrutinizes Amendment to Ban Greyhound Racing

August 29th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The State Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday morning on whether to keep a constitutional amendment banning greyhound racing on the November ballot.
Amendment 13 would end greyhound racing in the state by 2020, but allow tracks to continue offering slots and card rooms.
Breeders argued before the State Supreme Court that the ballot language misleads voters by convincing them the changes are all about the dogs.
“If this passes there will be in effect, a vote for free standing casinos in the state of Florida,” said Major Harding, an attorney representing the Committee to Support Greyhounds.
Supporters of the amendment say if anything the amendment will reduce gambling in the state.
“Nothing is expanded, something is eliminated. Dog racing,” said Stephen Turner with the Committee to Protect Dogs.
Paramutual facilities have only been allowed to operate card rooms and slot machines if they also run greyhounds.
There have been attempts in the Legislature to allow the card rooms to operate independently for years.
Amendment 13 was taken off the ballot by a lower court earlier this month.
The ruling found the ballot summary didn’t inform voters Floridians could still legally place bets on out of state dog races.
The State argues the amendment clearly states the amendment only ends live racing within the state.
“Not only do voters understand that under this amendment races in other states are going to be unaffected, but they also are going to read what the language says,” said Deputy Solicitor General Jordan Pratt.
After the Supreme Court hearing both sides felt confident the court would rule in their favor.
A ruling is likely to come before the November election, but when trying to predict how the court will act there are no safe bets.
Most Elections Supervisors plan to send their ballots to the printer by September 4th at the latest.
If the court hasn’t ruled by then, Amendment 13 will still appear on the ballot.

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Florida Supreme Court Hears Stand Your Ground Case Involving Sheriff’s Deputy

August 28th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
A Broward Sheriff’s deputy facing 30 years for shooting a man with an air rifle was at the Flordia Supreme Court today as the court considers whether police officers can claim stand your ground.
In 2013, Jermaine McBean was walking down a busy South Florida highway carrying a newly purchased air rifle. 9-1-1 lit up.
Originally charged with manslaughter, Deputy Peter Peraza sat in the Supreme Court Chamber as his attorney told Supreme Court justices what happened next.
“BSO. Broward Sheriff’s office. Stop. Drop,” said Eric Schwartzreich an attorney with the Police Benevolent Association.
The case boils down to whether a police officer is also considered a person under the state’s stand your ground law.
“The officer doesn’t get the less rigid standard that we’ve argued applies to the average citizen based on the enactment of Stand Your Ground,” said Assistant Attorney General Melanie Surber.
Justices appeared skeptical.
“If the legislature intended to exclude police officers from the stand your ground statute, why didn’t they say so,” asked Justice Jorge Labarga.
Afterwards, the PBA said the case was important to every police officer in Florida.
“We can’t expect officers to be on the scene and think, well, if I make an arrest this one applies and, we have officers that have to make split second decisions,” said John Rivera, President of the Florida Police Benevolent Association.
While justices seemed to buy the idea that a police officer was also a person, the family says they expect justice.
“We’re thankful that it actually came to the Florida Supreme Court. Just the very fact that our brothers name will be more than just another death, and hopefully we can get a favorable outcome,” said Jermine’s brother, Ander McBean.
If the court denies the deputy’s stand your ground claim, he would have to go to court and prove he acted lawfully.
If the deputy is forced to defend himself in court, he faces up to 30 years in prison on a manslaughter charge.

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Gillum Casts Vote in Tallahassee On Primary Day

August 28th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
All of Florida’s 5,881 precincts were reported open by the Secretary of State’s Office in an e-mail sent at 11 am.
At the same time Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum arrived at his local precinct in the state’s capital city to vote himself.
Gillum became emotional as he described what it felt like to see his name on the ballot.
“You know, watching my mother and father at different times having to struggle between paying the bills to now be in this race and to have my family you know right along side me it’s overwhelming. It’s an overwhelming feeling,” said Gillum.
Gillum’s popularity surged in the final days before the vote, but all of the voters we spoke with had their minds up well before election day.
“Some of them for years,” said Tallahassee voter Sam Shingles.
“I have personal relationships with most of them so I knew exactly who I was voting for,” said voter Yuvonda Stewart.
One of the biggest issues voters we spoke with said mattered to them was gun violence and the second amendment.
“A lot was going on with our young people with the guns and things like that,” said voter Ora Johnson.
“The stand your ground,” said another voter, Sylvia Salvo.
“The second amendment was huge,” said Tallahassee voter Sheila Macdonald.
Another big sticking point was the environment.
“What makes Florida and our natural resources safe from some of the outside influences even at the Federal level,” said voter Sarah McRae.
The latest poll showed Gillum trailing Gwen Graham by nearly seven points.
Gillum says if he does lose he’ll throw his energy behind making sure Democrats win in November.
Because Flordia is In two time zones, the state won’t begin releasing unofficial results until 8PM eastern time when polls in the panhandle close.

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Jacksonville Shooting Not Likely to Impact Primary Election

August 27th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
All five Democrats in the race for Governor have condemned the shootings Sunday at the Jacksonville Landing and have renewed their call for increased gun control, but as  the shooting is not likely to have a major impact on Tuesday’s primary election because almost 1.9 million ballots have already been cast.

Since the Valentine’s day shooting in Parkland, every Democrat running for Govenor has called for more gun control.

The two Republicans vying for Governor have gone the other way, with Ron DeSantis criticizing the legislature for raising the age to buy a long gun.

“There’s really no precedent to just do a blanket ban on certain adults,” said DeSantis on a Fox News appearance.

GOP Strategist Mac Stipanovich calls the Jacksonville shooting a terrible tragedy, but says it will have no impact on what happens in Tuesdays election.

“in order to get the maximum exploitation, the gun control people need a long gun.They need a so called assault rifle as the weapon. This was a handgun,” said Stipanovich.

While all five Democrats on Tuesday’s ballot say they would like to ban assault weapons, none has suggested more controls on handguns.

FSU Political Scientist Carol Weissert says with so many ballots cast, it would  be difficult for gun control voters to have much of an impact.

“Have the people have already voted and the other half know how they’re going to vote, and whether they’re going to vote, so I thing the turnout’s not going to be affected,” said Weissert.

Democrat Gwen Graham did go to a planned event in Jacksonville Monday.

Republicans Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam both cancelled events in the city.

The gun reforms group Mom’s Demand Action has developed a “Gun Sense” rating for candidates.

It rates candidates on their willingness to enact what they call common sense reforms.

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Andrew Gillum Surges into Second Place

August 27th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
With just one day before the primary election all eyes are on Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.
Gillum has been stuck fighting for third place in the democratic gubernatorial primary since the start of the race, but the tides appear to be turning in his favor.
A new independent poll conducted by St. Pete Polls shows Gillum in second place.
“I think it’s coming up because he’s got a lot of field work. He’s got a lot of support. I think the mainstream Democrats and Progressives really probably resonate with his message,” said FSU Political Science Proffessor, Dr. Carol Weissert.
Gillum has long said he has the support of black and young voters.
That can be seen on FAMU’s campus, the historically black college where Gillum got his start in politics serving as the President of the FAMU Student Government Association from 2001 to 2002.
“He likes to put people at the forefront and that’s what I really appreciate about him. He always comes to FAMU, he’s very generous in doing so and yeah, I definitely think he can get the win,” said FAMU political science major Theondre Peoples.
“I stand with his ideas and what he wants to accomplish and I do think he can definitely push through and get that win,” said FAMU student Dre Bradley.
Even still, Gillum is trailing frontrunner Gwen Graham by nearly seven points.
Graham holds a significant lead with voters over the age of 50 and with the first day of the Fall semester just one day before the primary, youth turnout could take a hit
“The end of August is a really busy time particularly for university students,” said Weissert.
The latest poll now puts Philip Levine in 3rd, but still within striking range of Gillum.
Levine is only four points behind.
His campaign said in a statement, “We are confident in the final hours of this election.”
Gillum will be returning to FAMU Monday night, it’s the last stop of a weeklong statewide bus tour.
Gillum’s campaign said in a statement, “This race has always been late breaking and we’re confident that the energy we’ve created in the past two weeks — from Bernie Sanders’ endorsement to our statewide “Bring It Home” Bus Tour — have put Mayor Gillum in front of more voters than ever before. We’re going to make history tomorrow.”
The tour was a last push to gather support and seems to have paid off, but with 8.1% of those yet to vote undecided, it’s still anybody’s race.

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Suit to Remove Amendment 6 From Ballot Gets First Hearing

August 24th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Yet another amendment placed on the November’s ballot was in court today.
Amendment six adds crime victims rights to the constitution, changes how agency rules are interpreted by courts and raises the retirement age of judges.
Lawyers argued the amendment also takes away rights of defendants by giving victims more rights, but they zeroed in on the idea that the ballot title only mentions rights of crime victims and judges, not state agencies, and therefore, misleads voters.
Sot: Harvey Sepler
Attorney
“So the title only mentions two of the three components in the proposal and you put that together with voter fatigue, I think you have a problem as to whether the voter understands looking at that what the proposal stands for,” said Attorney Havey Sepler.
“The ballot title doesn’t have to be very specific. It can be broad. In this case the reference to judges mentions two issues and that’s all that’s necessary and in addition as I said, the Supreme Court has made crystal clear, you can’t read the ballot title by itself. You have to read it along with the summary and if when you read both of them you understand everything that’s in it, that’s sufficient,” said Attorney Barry Richard, representing the state.
The judge indicated a speedy ruling.
Whatever she decides is expected to be appealed all the way to the state Supreme court.

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Governor and Legislature at Odds Over Unspent Guardian Funds

August 24th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature are butting heads over what to do with unused money for school districts to arm school staff members.
In the wake of the Parkland shooting the Florida Legislature passed sweeping school safety legislation.
While they decided against the idea of arming teachers, lawmakers still put $67 million aside to train and arm school staff.
When Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into law he did so with one reservation.
“If the $67 million in there is not used, I want to work with them [the Legislature] to move those dollars over for more law enforcement,” said Scott.
So far about 1/3rd of Florida’s school districts have adopted the guardian program in some form.
Twice as many have rejected the idea.
Now the Governor says it time to make the $58 million left over available for other needs.
Andrea Messina with the Florida School Boards Association says the money could make a big difference for districts struggling to come into compliance with the law.
“The school districts, the sheriff’s departments, the police chiefs, the counties, they’ve all incurred additional costs,” said Messina. “This is a pot of money that might help them recoup some of the costs that they’ve already expended.”
Senate and House leadership aren’t on board though.
They argue the guardian program needs time to grow, fearing the program could fail if the funds are pulled too soon.
When asked about the Legislature’s reluctance to re-appropriate the guardian funds Governor Rick Scott said, “I want to do everything we can for our kids, so I’m going to fight to make sure that money goes back into our schools for more law enforcement.”
Messina says she’s confident the Legislature will come around eventually, but the sooner the better.
“This fiscal year certainly is a hope for us,” said Messina.
School districts say if the funds do become available districts need to be allowed to use them how they see fit.
Whether it be for school hardening, mental health or hiring resource officers.

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Graham Casts Ballot in the State’s Capital

August 23rd, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Democrat Gwen Graham became the first major Gubernatorial Candidate to vote for herself, Thursday morning.
Graham arrived at the early voting site across the street from the Capitol where she hopes to govern to the cheers of about two dozen supporters.
After voting, she called the experience chilling.
“Chills, very exciting. It was wonderful,” said Graham.
Graham has campaigned against 20 years of republican control of state government.
We asked how she would deal with a GOP controlled legislature, which isn’t likely to change even if she is elected.
“If they are not willing to work with me, work with the state government, in the best interests of the people of Florida, I will find a way to go around them,” said Graham.
Graham has a deep following here in the state’s capital.
In part because she grew up here, but mostly because her father was Governor for eight years.
Tom Lewis was a Republican working to elect Graham’s father.
He changed parties then to vote for him, changed back and changed again to vote for the daughter,
“Yes I did. Both of us did. Supported her when she ran for Congress. She’s a wonderful moderate,” said Lewis.
Polls show Graham is neck and neck with former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine.
She declined to contrast herself with him when we asked.
“For me this is what we bring to this race,” said Graham. “It’s about having a Governor again that’s fighting for the people of Florida.”
If elected, Graham told us he will live full time in the Governor’s Mansion full time, something that hasn’t happened here in at least a dozen years.
Graham would be Florida’s first female Governor.

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Supervisors Say Implementing Bilingual Ballots Would Be Difficult Before November

August 23rd, 2018 by Jake Stofan

A coalition of civil rights groups are suing the state in an effort to force a greater use of  Spanish voting materials.

Elections supervisors say some of the demands would put too much of a strain on the system to be implemented by November.

In Florida 13 counties are already required by federal law to provide Spanish language ballots. Now a federal suit aims to force another 32 counties to do the same.

The move comes in response to the large influx of Puerto Ricans following Hurricane Maria.

The suit wants the ballots, registration forms more by November, something Leon Supervisor Mark Early finds challenging.

“While I think the numbers that I’ve seen from LatinoJustice says that there are potentially 292 voters in our county that would qualify for this, you know we have 206,000 voters who don’t,” said Early.

After being contacted by one of the groups involved, Early did begin providing just about everything in Spanish but the ballot that goes into the machine.

“We’ve done what I think we can get done, but certainly we’re being asked to do a lot more,” said Early.

Many smaller counties don’t have the same resources as Leon and haven’t been able to provide as much assistance for Spanish speaking voters.

Early says even with Leon’s resources, providing bilingual ballots on such short notice would be costly.

“That’s a big ask as far as our budget is concerned, our resources to test ballots,” said Early.

When asked about the suit, Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham didn’t respond specifically, but did say:

“I think any time we can make voting easier we should do it,” said Graham.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued this statement regaurding the suit, “The Department of State provides all of its election materials in English and Spanish in accordance with the Voting Rights Act and this lawsuit does not dispute that fact. The Department believes that all Supervisors of Elections should continue making voting accessible for all voters including those whose first language is not English. This lawsuit names 32 locally-elected Supervisors of Elections who are responsible for voting in their counties and we will review it.”

The 13 counties already required to proved Spanish language ballots must do so because of their large hispanic populations.

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Poll Suggests Gillum Upset Possible

August 22nd, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has trailed in 3rd place since the start of the race, but a new poll suggests he may have a chance yet.
The Democratic line up for Governor seems split into two categories.
Gwen Graham and Philip Levine competing for first and second and Jeff Greene, Andrew Gillum and Chris King battling it out for third.
“Y’all have the ability to go out and vote like you’ve never voted before,” said Gillum at a rally in Tallahassee Monday.
The polls haven’t slowed Gillum down though.
He kicked off a statewide bus tour this week and is holding rallies in different cities each day leading up to the primary election, Tuesday.
“I want you to know that the poll that matters is the one on election day,” said Gillum.
It’s a continuation of his grassroots campaign strategy, which included leading a march from FSU to the Capitol following the Parkland Shooting.
Now, a new poll suggests it may be paying off.
San Fransisco Based ‘Change Research’ shows Gillum in first place, with a ten point lead over Graham and Levine.
Levine says he doesn’t buy it.
“We don’t see it on ours, that I can tell you. So if every other poll ain’t showing it,” said Levine.
And despite most recent polls suggesting Gillum is still struggling to maintain 3rd place, the candidate says he appeals to a different kind of voter that pollsters may not anticipate.
“Many of those voters, they’re black voters, they’re brown voters, they’re young voters, they’re poor voters. I believe we have the ability to move more of those voters to the polls than anybody else running,” said Gillum.
Gillum has the endosement of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
While some political experts doubt the accuracy of the Change Research poll because it was conducted online, they suggest likely indicates Gillum’s popularity among young voters.
The same demographic that supported Sanders in 2016.
The state will have to wait and see if Gillum’s base turns out, but if the country learned anything from the 2016 Presidential election… it’s that an election isn’t over until it’s over.

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Levine Stops at Universities and Early Voting Sites Ahead of Primary

August 22nd, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Democratic Gubernatorial hopeful Philip Levine visited three college campuses, Wednesday and a number of early voting sites.
Greeted by chanting supporters at an early voting site across the street from the state Capitol, Democrat Philip Levine sounded more like a general election candidate than someone who still has to win a five way primary.
“This is the last line of defense against Donald Trump and his little mini me, radical Ron DeSantis,” said Levine.
Levine’s team is constantly polling and while he’s taking shots at the GOP candidate endorsed by the President, he concedes his own race is still tight.
“When I entered the race early on, I was in last place. Now I understand myself and Gwen are right at the top, the two of us together,” said Levine.
Latest reports show the former Miami Beach mayor has already dropped nearly $18 million of his own money into the race.
He told us he doesn’t regret one dime of it.
“Because this is fight for the soul of the nation, and I would say, investing in your own campaign, as well as the money we’ve been able to raise is well worth it,” said Levine.
Throught the day Levine stopped at  FSU, The University of Florida, and then the University of Central Florida.
Amy Datz decided to support Levine a month ago.
“He marched in the rally against fracking in St. Augustine a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t see other gubernatorial candidates doing that,” said Datz.
And Levine also made it clear that if he does has a fall campaign, it’ll be against just one person.
”I’ve fought Donald Trump. I’ll fight him again,” said Levine.
While Levine is neck and neck with fellow Democrat Gwen Graham, all but one recent poll shows the other top three contenders fighting for distant third.

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