By Rachel Christian
The 2018 midterm elections are right around the corner and as usual, Florida residents will face some important choices on their ballots.
The Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce gathered last week
during a legislative session round-up to discuss these upcoming races and recap statehouse victories.
Aubrey Jewett, a political science associate professor at the University of Central Florida, served as the event’s keynote speaker. Jewett provided insight into the two biggest elections for the 2018 Florida midterms.
The first is a hotly contested race for the governor’s seat.
Current Gov. Rick Scott reaches his two-term limit this year, opening up the ring to candidates from both sides of the aisle.
Jewett said many states are electing governors this year, but only four, including Florida, will be competitive races.
Jewett first reviewed Democratic gubernatorial forerunners.
Phillip Levine: Former Miami-Dade mayor. A 55-year-old multi-millionaire entrepreneur who made his fortune running media companies in the cruise industry, Levine has described himself as a “radical centrist.”
Jewett said the candidate’s biggest asset is his massive amount of personal wealth.
Andrew Gillum: The 37-year-old mayor of Tallahassee. He was elected to the Tallahassee City Council when he was still a senior at Florida A&M. Jewett said that Gillum, an African American, will rely heavily on minority support across the state. As the most liberal of the four Democratic candidates, Gillum appeals to the “Bernie Sanders wing of the party.”
Gwen Graham: An accomplished politician with a strong family name; she is the daughter of Bob Graham, former U.S. Senator and Florida governor. Graham was an active Congressional representative from the Panhandle area. Jewett said it would likely be her family’s network of supporters and donors, not the Graham name itself, that serves as her major asset. She is running as a moderate Democrat.
Chris King: A 38-year-old entrepreneur from Winter Park. King is CEO of a financial corporation that invests in affordable and senior housing projects.
Jewett said King jump-started his own campaign over a year ago with a hefty personal donation. He is also an evangelical Christian.
Among the Republican candidates discussed:
John DeSantis: A 39-year-old Congressman from Volusia County. Formerly served as a military lawyer before entering politics six years ago. President Trump has already endorsed DeSantis and said he should run.
Adam Putnam: commissioner for the Florida Department of Agriculture. He served in Congress for 10 years, representing the Central Florida-based 12th Congressional district. He’s originally from Polk County. Jewett said that during a normal election year, Putnam would be the Republican party forerunner, but noted that shifting political landscapes make it difficult to call.
“To be kind of an establishment Republican candidate in a Republican primary will not necessarily be a great thing for him,” Jewett said.
Richard Corcoran: Currently serves as speaker of the Florida House. Has yet to officially announce his run, but has already started campaign ads. Like all of the Republican candidates, Jewett said Corcoran adheres to a conservative ideology.
U.S. Senate race
Republicans can count on about 48 seats and Democrats are looking to maintain 44 seats in the U.S. Senate. That leaves eight competitive Senate races for the upcoming 2018 midterms, Jewett said.
This once again allows Florida voters to make a difference on the national stage.
Jewett said Democrats “certainly have some hope” of taking over majority control of the U.S. Senate this year, but acknowledged that the “numbers don’t look terrific.”
Holding the line and getting Sen. Bill Nelson re-elected will be imperative for Democrats, Jewett said.
Current Gov. Rick Scott announced plans to run against the three-term Democrat incumbent April 6, following months of political speculation.
Jewett used a quote by the governor himself to classify the race: “It’s one of the most exciting races in the country between two of the least exciting candidates.”