MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Early voting begins Monday in Florida’s Aug. 28 primary election and one of the most hotly contested races is for Governor of Florida.
There are primary races for governor on both the Republican and Democratic sides as both parties make a play for the seat that Republicans have held since the 1998 election.
Top Democrats include former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, businessman Chris King, and real estate investor Jeff Greene. The Republican frontrunners are Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.
Sitting Gov. Rick Scott (R) is prevented by term limits from seeking election to a third term in 2018. He’s running for a U.S. Senate seat currently held by three-term incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D).
On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham’s top priorities are expanding health care, improving public schools and protecting the environment.
Gillum wants health care for all, higher corporate taxes to better fund schools and a $15 minimum wage.
Levine lists education, the environment and the economy as his top priorities. He is also putting gun control at the top of his to-do list, and wants to push a ban on assault weapons.
King wants better-paying jobs, more affordable housing/living and more ethical and transparent government.
Greene is a champion of education, proponent of increasing the minimum wage and supporter of a law banning anti-LGBT discrimination. He also supports expanding Medicaid to the 700,000 Floridians who would qualify for the program if Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-dominated Legislature had agreed to expand coverage to uninsured working adults.
Gillum, Graham, King and Levine also support Medicaid expansion.
The Democratic candidates part ways when it comes to other health-care issues that may resonate with voters, including their positions on whether to expand marijuana legalization in Florida beyond current medical-only uses.
Gillum was the first to support allowing recreational use of the drug. King and Levine also support it.
Graham and Greene support legal marijuana only for medical uses. Graham said, though, that she would decriminalize the use of marijuana, a step short of full legalization.
On the Republican side, President Trump endorsed Ron DeSantis in December 2017. DeSantis has represented Florida’s 6th Congressional District, which includes St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, since the 2012 election. He is a former Navy lawyer who received a history degree from Yale University and a law degree from Harvard Law School.
Two years ago, he set his sights on the U.S. Senate, but returned to his House seat when U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio reversed course and decided to seek another term after bowing out of a bid for president.
As governor, DeSantis said he wanted to improve education in the state, including providing options for vocational training for trades and computer training. DeSantis emphasized the importance of preparing students for college and citizenship. He wants the improve the economy by recruiting new industry, particularly finance and technology. He also wants to remake the court system and believes there should there should be a renewed focus on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Adam Putnam was first elected as agriculture commissioner in 2010 after serving five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and two in the Florida House of Representatives. He was endorsed by state House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R) and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Putnam is the only candidate to mention guns as a top priority.
He has vowed to “make Florida the first in the nation for law-abiding citizens to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.”
He also cited work-force training to increase vocational and technical education in high schools and helping veterans by providing job-training programs and mental-health services “when they encounter the criminal justice system.”
During their final debate on August 8, DeSantis and Putnam exchanged insults and name calling, as Putnam tried to regain momentum lost after President Trump endorsed DeSantis.
The two candidates also traded blows over the environment and the recent toxic algae blooms that have hit the state’s two coasts.
DeSantis said that he supports plans to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to store water, but at the same time he ripped Putnam because the sugar industry has backed him with hefty campaign contributions. The industry has resisted any plans that would require using land owned by the industry to store the water.
There are eight total candidates on the ballot. Besides DeSantis and Putnam, they are Don Baldauf, Timothy Devine, Bob Langford, John Joseph Mercadanta, Bruce Nathan, and Bob White.
HOW TO VOTE
There are three ways to cast your ballot.
Early voting, vote-by-mail ballot and in person on Election Day.
If you are planning to vote early, click the links below to find the list of open early voting locations.
Early voting ends in both counties on Sunday August 26.
The primary is Tuesday August 28.
It’s best to know who you are going to vote for before you fill out your ballot, so why not give the ballot a once over before you head to the polls.
For more on Campaign 2018, click here.
For more voter information, FAQ’s and helpful links, click here.
To see candidate interviews on CBSMiami.com, click here.