Help Flor­ida. Elect Gil­lum as gover­nor

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Opinion - By Sun Sen­tinel Ed­i­to­rial Board

To un­der­stand why vot­ers should choose Demo­crat An­drew Gil­lum over Repub­li­can Ron DeSan­tis for gover­nor, com­pare the can­di­dates’ po­si­tions on is­sues im­por­tant to Flor­ida.

Ed­u­ca­tion: Gil­lum wants the state to spend more on tra­di­tional pub­lic schools, es­pe­cially on teacher salaries. That would help Flor­ida.

DeSan­tis wants to con­tinue fa­vor­ing char­ter schools, which ed­u­cate just 10 per­cent of pub­lic school stu­dents. Be­cause of Tal­la­has­see’s decade-long trend of short­ing tra­di­tional pub­lic schools, 19 coun­ties this fall are ask­ing vot­ers to ap­prove lo­cal tax in­creases to give teach­ers raises and make schools safer. Con­tin­ued cuts to tra­di­tional pub­lic schools would hurt Flor­ida.

Health care: Gil­lum wants the Leg­is­la­ture to ex­pand Med­i­caid un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act. Do­ing so would give about 400,000 poor peo­ple ac­cess to health care, al­most half of them in work­ing fam­i­lies. It would also mean we’re no longer pay­ing for ex­panded ac­cess in 33 other states with­out any ben­e­fit to our­selves. A 2015 Flor­ida Se­nate study said ex­pan­sion would boost the state’s econ­omy. That would help Flor­ida.

DeSan­tis op­poses Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion. And if Congress had re­pealed Oba­macare, as he re­peat­edly voted to do, nearly two mil­lion Florid­i­ans would have lost health care cov­er­age through the ex­changes. Plus, in­sur­ance com­pa­nies would have been able to deny cov­er­age to peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions — which in­cludes most of us. DeSan­tis would bring the same at­ti­tude to the Gover­nor’s Man­sion. That would hurt Flor­ida.

The en­vi­ron­ment: Gil­lum calls cli­mate change an “ur­gent threat.” He un­der­stands the eco­nomic im­per­a­tive we face as in­sur­ance com­pa­nies pre­pare to build risk into pre­mi­ums. Gil­lum would make the state’s re­sponse a pri­or­ity. The Sun Sen­tinel en­dorses Demo­crat An­drew Gil­lum for gover­nor be­cause his po­si­tions would bet­ter serve Flor­ida. And af­ter 20 years of Repub­li­can rule, our state needs more mod­er­a­tion and a bet­ter sense of bal­ance.

That would help Flor­ida.

DeSan­tis says cli­mate change is not a prob­lem state gov­ern­ment can ad­dress. He calls him­self “not a global warm­ing per­son” and says vaguely that the an­swer is “fed­eral fund­ing.” DeSan­tis would con­tinue Gov. Rick Scott’s headin-the-sand de­nial. That would hurt Flor­ida.

Pub­lic safety: Gil­lum sup­ported the Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas Pub­lic Safety Act and wants the state to pass com­mon­sense gun laws. That would help Flor­ida.

DeSan­tis said he would have ve­toed the bill that raised the age for firearms sales to 21, banned bump stocks and im­posed a three-day wait­ing pe­riod. He also fa­vors let­ting peo­ple openly carry guns. That would hurt Flor­ida.

Crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form: Gil­lum sup­ports the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment that would re­store the rights of ex-felons (ex­cept those who com­mit­ted mur­der or sex­ual as­sault) once they com­plete their sen­tence. Flor­ida is the most re­stric­tive state for ex-felons, a pol­icy that re­duces their earn­ing po­ten­tial. Groups across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum fa­vor this change. This re­form would help Flor­ida.

DeSan­tis op­poses the amend­ment. As gover­nor and head of the clemency board, he could un­der­cut the will of vot­ers if the amend­ment passed. His re­sis­tance would hurt Flor­ida.

In the Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can pri­maries, we en­dorsed in­vestor Jeff Greene and Agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sioner Adam Put­nam, so to­day’s en­dorse­ment is a se­cond choice. Gil­lum, how­ever, is a much eas­ier se­cond choice, even af­ter a hard look at one of his main ideas.

Gil­lum wants to raise the cor­po­rate in­come tax from 5.5 per­cent to 7.5 per­cent, which he says would raise $1 bil­lion for ed­u­ca­tion. He pro­poses a statewide start­ing teacher salary of $50,000.

Even if Gil­lum got what al­most cer­tainly will be a Repub­li­can-led Leg­is­la­ture to go along, the in­crease might not raise as much as he be­lieves. And set­ting a statewide num­ber could un­fairly af­fect teach­ers in South Flor­ida, where the cost of liv­ing is high­est.

Still, Gil­lum rec­og­nizes that schools need more money. That’s a start. And he could stop some of the worst ideas the Leg­is­la­ture pro­duces, if enough Democrats are elected to at least one cham­ber to up­hold a veto.

Gil­lum said he would have blocked the bill that shifted money from tra­di­tional pub­lic schools to char­ter schools last year. He also would have blocked the bill that al­lowed sugar grow­ers to pay less to­ward the Ever­glades cleanup.

And be­cause Gil­lum un­der­stands lo­cal gov­ern­ment from hav­ing spent 15 years on the Tal­la­has­see City Com­mis­sion, he says he would block fur­ther at­tempts to pre-empt cities and coun­ties from en­act­ing or­di­nances that serve their com­mu­ni­ties.

Not so long ago, Repub­li­cans be­lieved gov­ern­ment clos­est to the peo­ple works best. But af­ter con­trol­ling state gov­ern­ment for far too long, Tal­la­has­see Repub­li­cans are prone to dic­tat­ing com­mu­nity stan­dards on a wide va­ri­ety of things, in­clud­ing tree or­di­nances, ride-shar­ing ser­vices and beach ac­cess.

We need a course cor­rec­tion, one that shoves fewer state dic­tates down our throats.

Dur­ing the pri­mary, both can­di­dates hit na­tional themes, hop­ing to boost turnout. DeSan­tis touted his en­dorse­ment by Pres­i­dent Trump. Gil­lum touted his be­lief that Trump should be im­peached.

Now, how­ever, Florid­i­ans want to hear about state is­sues.

Yet DeSan­tis con­tin­ues to spend more time on Fox News de­fend­ing Trump than he does with Flor­ida news or­ga­ni­za­tions and Florid­i­ans. He never re­sponded to an in­ter­view re­quest from the Sun Sen­tinel Ed­i­to­rial Board. And he can­celled a midSeptem­ber meet­ing with the Tampa Bay Times be­cause, ac­cord­ing to cam­paign staffers, he hadn’t fi­nal­ized his po­si­tions. He gave a Times re­porter a

25-minute in­ter­view two days later, but his an­swers lacked depth.

DeSan­tis rep­re­sented North­east Flor­ida in Congress from

2013 un­til he re­signed this year to fo­cus on the race for gover­nor. Dur­ing that time, he fol­lowed Tea Party po­si­tions. He voted to shut down the gov­ern­ment be­cause Congress hadn’t de­funded Oba­macare. His Flor­ida col­leagues say he barely par­tic­i­pated in the work of the state’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion. He has done lit­tle for the state he seeks to lead.

Per­haps his thin record ex­plains why, in his stump speech, DeSan­tis talks less about his plans for Flor­ida, and more about Gil­lum, who he calls a “so­cial­ist” too lib­eral for our state.

Ac­tu­ally, Gil­lum led the ef­fort to re­bate $5.6 mil­lion to Tal­la­has­see’s util­ity cus­tomers and to stream­line per­mit­ting. That se­cond item had been a pri­or­ity of the city’s busi­ness com­mu­nity.

We ac­knowl­edge that DeSan­tis has dif­fered with his party on some is­sues. He crit­i­cized Put­nam for his ties to the sugar in­dus­try and pledged to pri­or­i­tize wa­ter qual­ity. He also crit­i­cized Pinel­las County Sher­iff Bob Gualtieri af­ter he first failed to ar­rest Michael Dre­jka for shoot­ing un­armed Markeis McGlock­ton dur­ing a dis­pute over a park­ing spot and claim­ing “stand your ground.”

We also ac­knowl­edge that Gil­lum has had to deal with an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Tal­la­has­see gov­ern­ment. The com­mis­sion voted to spend $1.3 mil­lion ren­o­vat­ing a build­ing that would in­clude a restau­rant in which Gil­lum’s for­mer cam­paign trea­surer – also a lob­by­ist – was a part­ner. An ethics rul­ing said Gil­lum could vote. At this point, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion does not in­volve Gil­lum.

More prob­lem­atic, though, are DeSan­tis’ ap­pear­ances be­fore cer­tain right-wing groups and his fail­ure to dis­tance him­self from hate-mon­ger­ing sup­port­ers.

At one con­fer­ence, DeSan­tis ac­cepted co-billing with a speaker who ac­cused Jews of hav­ing a “para­noid-based fear of Nazis.” He has failed to dis­avow back­ing from the Proud Boys, a white na­tion­al­ist group whose founder is that anti-Semitic speaker. Then there was DeSan­tis’ warn­ing to vot­ers af­ter the pri­mary not to “mon­key this up” by elect­ing Gil­lum, who would be Flor­ida’s first African-Amer­i­can gover­nor. DeSan­tis claimed the re­mark was not racist. His ar­gu­ment is not per­sua­sive.

Flor­ida is an in­creas­ingly di­verse state in which Rick Scott’s poli­cies have left too many peo­ple be­hind and the state at risk.

Flor­ida needs a new at­ti­tude in Tal­la­has­see.

Help Flor­ida. Elect An­drew Gil­lum.

Ed­i­to­ri­als are the opin­ion of the Sun Sen­tinel Ed­i­to­rial Board and writ­ten by one of its mem­bers or a de­signee. The Ed­i­to­rial Board con­sists of Ed­i­to­rial Page Ed­i­tor Rose­mary O'Hara, Andy Reid and Ed­i­tor-in-Chief Julie An­der­son.


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