The Great Debate: Democrats for governor to face off in online-only event

By: - July 16, 2018 12:01 pm
shows Democratic candidates

The Democratic candidates for Florida governor

With the Aug. 28 primary election rapidly approaching, Florida voters will get a chance to see the five candidates running for governor debate Wednesday at 7 pm at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.

The debate won’t be broadcast statewide, but people can watch via or on the Florida Democratic party’s  Facebook page.

This will be one of only two scheduled debates before the August 28 primary, with the finale set for August 2nd in Miami. Polls show that about a third of Democratic voters still remain undecided.

Candidates Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King and Philip Levine will all get their chance to make their cases on the stage. Since Jeff Greene announced his candidacy later than the others, this will be his first time debating his opponents.

The contest is coming down to the wire. Ballots have already been mailed out to military and overseas voters, and absentee ballots will go out in a week.

Until now, the race seemed to be evolving into a two-person contest between Graham, a former U.S. Rep. from Tallahassee (daughter of former senator and governor Bob Graham,) and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. Like Palm Beach billionaire Greene, Levine has saturated the airwaves with campaign ads (18 TV ads to date, according to the Associated Press.)

It appears Greene’s frequent television and direct mail ads are making a difference. One poll released Monday by St. Pete Polls  raised eyebrows among Florida pundits: it showed latecomer Greene leading the race. Another poll by Gravis Marketing – also released on Monday – has Greene in second place, trailing only behind Graham (albeit by nine points, with Graham polling at 27% among likely Democratic voters and Greene at 18%.)

Other polls over recent months have depicted a fluctuating electorate, with Levine sometimes leading and Graham coming in second, or Graham leading and Levine coming in second. Gillum and King have trailed the other candidates when pollsters survey likely Democratic voters.

July 30 is the deadline to register to vote in Florida’s primary election.

The two Republicans running for governor, Congressman Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, have one more debate scheduled, on August 8 in Jacksonville.


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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.