TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s 2018 midterm election is one of the most important in years. The governor’s office and all three Cabinet seats are on the ballot, Republican Gov. Rick Scott is challenging three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, several congressional seats will be competitive, and Floridians will vote on 13 proposed constitutional amendments, ranging from property tax cuts to banning greyhound racing. The following are items of political interest from the past week:
HE’S TRUMP, HE’S IN THEIR HEADS
Do you think President Donald Trump will be a factor in Florida’s election?
Yes, Democrats are complaining about the president and trying to create a blue wave. But Republicans like Trump, and the two top candidates running for governor know it.
In the first debate between U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Trump was mentioned by name or as “the president” more than 50 times. That’s not including Trump being referred to as “he.”
DeSantis, who is endorsed by Trump, evoked the president’s name more often, roughly twice as much as Putnam.
TRY, TRY AGAIN
Personal injury lawyer John Morgan passed on a chance to run for governor, but the man who led the effort to get medical marijuana legalized in Florida says he’s going to try to put some other issues on the ballot in 2020.
Morgan said he plans to push for constitutional amendments to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and to legalize recreational marijuana.
Morgan said last year that he would not push to get recreational pot legalized, but after seeing Gov. Rick Scott and the Department of Health’s handling of medical marijuana, he has changed his mind.
“The slow play on implementing medical marijuana is so bad that you have to think it is intentional,” Morgan said. “Rick Scott has made the decision that he wants things done his way or they won’t be done at all. He’s not upholding the law with the constitutional amendment. He’s breaking it.”
Morgan is also well versed in the process of getting referendums on the state ballot. His medical marijuana proposal fell just shy in 2014 of the 60 percent it needed to be implemented. Two years later, it was approved by 72 percent of voters.
“I made 1,000 mistakes in 2014. I learned from those and we got it passed in 2016,” he said.
FLORIDA’S TEACHERS: CAN WE BE AVERAGE?
The union that represents the state’s teachers this week asked those running for state office to support budgets that would raise Florida’s teacher salaries to the national average by 2023. Florida’s teacher salaries currently rank near the bottom nationally and union leaders say that some teachers require extra jobs to help pay their bills.
“No one should spend all day teaching our children and then have to go to a second job just to get by,” said Joanne McCall, the FEA president.
The FEA has set up a website to keep track of those politicians who agree to the pledge. Four of the main Democratic candidates for governor have signed the pledge as have several legislators. So far no Republicans have agreed to the pledge. Republicans have routinely clashed with the FEA over private school vouchers, charters schools and other initiatives.
McCall said that local teachers plan to meet with legislative candidates face to face and ask them to join the effort.
“We want them to look them in the eye and say ‘they are not worth a living wage,’” said McCall.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“I care more about the other St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Florida,” Putnam during a debate with DeSantis, who has often gone on Fox News to defend Trump and criticize the probe into Russia meddling in the 2016 election.
“I am not in favor in Florida of doing recreational marijuana because I remember in high school that was the number one reason why some of the people I went to school with ended up falling out and didn’t do good in school, didn’t do good in sports,” DeSantis.