As the first Democrat up at the Associated Press’s annual political media day Thursday in Tallahassee gubernatorial candidate Chris King quickly turned on the Republicans who preceded him, seeking to position himself as the Democrat who’ll take the economic debate to Republicans.
“I see a very different Florida than what the governor and commissioner have just shared,” said King, referring to the previous comments from Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
“One of the sadnesses for me in elections is when a voter says, ‘Democrats, Republicans, pox on both of their houses. They are the same. There are no differences in them. I want to be very clear, the person you just heard [Putnam,] if I’m your governor, how he and I would do it very differently.”
Then King spent most of his address offering a litany of issues, mostly economic — in which he drew distinctions between what he said were Scott’s record, Putnam’s positions, and Republicans’ policies in general — and his own, on promotion of affordable housing, Medicaid expansion, workplace rights for gay, lesbian and transgender employees, higher education affordability, business development incentives, climate change, gun law reforms, and voting rights restoration for felons.
In particular, King pushed three policies he offered as fundamental to his campaign: free tuition to community colleges and trade schools; stopping budget raids on the state’s affordable housing trust fund — and spending that money to aggressively develop affordable housing — and distancing himself from the sugar industry as a commitment to his environmental agenda.
“Big differences between the parties in this election,” he added.
While those differences may have been clear, King was then left to differentiate himself from the other Democrats running, which includes former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and, now, as of Wednesday, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who shares King’s background as a successful businessman-turned-politician.
“We have to win the economic debate. Mr. Putnam. Gov. Scott. Mr. [Richard] Corcoran, [Jack] Latvala, [Ron] DeSantis, whomever I have to oppose in idea or candidacy, will make a very clever argument that you can’t trust the Democratic candidate: they are a tax-and-spend liberal. They will run our economy down. They can’t create jobs or build businesses. I believe I am a different kind of Democrat,” King said, addressing what he said would be his advantage over Graham and Gillum.
And then he subtly turned to address Levine, whose Democratic chops have been questioned.
“You haven’t seen someone who has both the progressive credentials, a life-long Democrat who will fight for this thing,” King said, “and an entrepreneur, someone who’s built successful businesses, created new jobs, while abiding by his values.”