With Tuesday night’s victory by Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum in the headlines – and changing the landscape of politics in the state – the Florida Phoenix today offers an expansive picture of how Gillum could re-shape Florida’s state policies and how those ideas could affect every Floridian.
The Phoenix got an inside view of Gillum’s perspective – a very progressive one – when we posed three questions in the run-up to the August 28 primary election for Florida governor. We asked all seven candidates three questions on topics of interest to voters: The environment, education, health care, gambling, LGBTQ issues, affordable housing, women’s issues, and topics of concern to workers and labor unions.
The two Republicans running for governor, Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis, declined to answer. We’ve reached out again to the Republican nominee, Ron DeSantis, and asked him if he’d like to answer the same questions. We expect his response next week.
Now that the crowded Democratic field has winnowed to just one candidate for governor – Andrew Gillum – we’re publishing Gillum’s answers in full. His comments offer readers a glimpse into the man who now heads the Democratic ticket in the face-off for the Governor’s Mansion.
Three questions from Florida Phoenix Editor-in-Chief Julie Hauserman on the environment:
- What did you like to do outside when you were a kid, and how about now?
I consider myself blessed to be a native Floridian, and to have grown up enjoying the natural beauty of our state. My six siblings and I spent many hours occupying ourselves outside; today, when not on the campaign trail, I enjoy walks and playtime with my wife and kids on any of Tallahassee’s historic trails, and summer days in Cascades Park.
- Would you change the laws so that agriculture is required to clean up its pollution at the source to prevent algae outbreaks in lakes, rivers, springs, and the coasts?
Yes. We’ve got to start holding corporate polluters accountable for agricultural byproducts at their source, and we’ve got to review the ways we discharge excess water and strictly limit sources of nutrient runoff. We need to have a serious conversation about ensuring Florida’s agricultural business interests are the kind of responsible corporate citizens we need them to be, through whichever means are necessary.
- What would you do to promote cleaner energy sources like solar and wind?
Florida is the Sunshine State — we should be the world leader in creating jobs and opportunity through solar energy production. Instead, we rank behind places like New Jersey and Germany. As Governor, I’ll prioritize the development of clean, renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and biomass — creating a business climate for good, clean energy jobs that can’t be outsourced. I’ll establish a renewable portfolio standard, re-initiate the solar rebate program so popular under Governor Crist, and put scientists in charge of our state’s energy and climate policies. In Tallahassee I’ve led on this issue — the same week that Donald Trump was pulling us out of the Paris Climate Accord, I was breaking ground on a new 120-acre solar farm.
Three questions from Florida Phoenix Deputy Editor Diane Rado on education:
- Where adults went to school growing up impacts their views on education. In that light, please let us know where you attended public or private K-12 school/schools; what you liked and disliked about your school/schools and if you thought you got a good, bad or mediocre education at your school/schools?
As the son of a school bus driver and a construction worker, and the first in my family to graduate high school and college, I’ve seen first-hand how intergenerational poverty can be interrupted at the hands of a good public education. While matriculating through Miami-Dade and Alachua County public schools, I believe our teachers had the freedom to teach and recognize the unique potential and challenges of their students — before the current high-stakes testing obsession took over. As Governor, I’ll end that obsessive focus on tests that don’t measure what our children our learning, but how well they take a test.
2. The debate over traditional and charter schools continues to grow in Florida, particularly since a Constitutional amendment was placed on the ballot relating to who can and can’t control public schools. Should charter schools continue to grow in Florida and should traditional public schools get more money, particularly for teachers whose salaries are very low compared to the national average?
Republicans for decades have criminally underfunded public education — failing to pay teachers their worth, failing to invest in public school facilities, and failing to provide our children with a well-rounded education that creates good citizens prepared for a global future. That’s why I’m the only candidate with a plan to invest $1 billion into public schools, pay new teachers a $50,000 starting salary, and raise veteran educators’ salaries. Diverting public funds to unaccountable, for-profit alternatives only makes it harder to fulfill our constitutional requirement to provide a world-class education for all — not just some.
- Few public schools in Florida get D and F grades and even A, B and C grades for public schools do not necessarily reflect a school’s performance. That’s because a key part of grading schools has to do with kids passing state exams – even though the state allows kids to pass when they’re not proficient in key subjects. Do you think Florida should eliminate or change the A through F grading system in order to accurately reflect how schools are doing in the state?
Any single metric — a letter grade for a school, a high-stakes test that captures a snapshot of how a student tests on a single day — shouldn’t be the sole, punitive determinant of how we fund our schools, how we measure their performance, and how we compensate our teachers, who are already chronically underpaid. As Governor, I would direct our Department of Education to explore a variety of metrics with which to measure the performance of our educational institutions.
Three questions from Reporter CD Davidson-Hiers on health care:
1.How do you plan to address health insurance coverage for people in Florida who are still not covered?
I believe that healthcare is a fundamental right — not a privilege. As Governor, I’ll expand Medicaid and make accessible healthcare for 1 million working-age Floridians. I believe we must push further than expanding Medicaid and defending the Affordable Care Act — that’s why I’m proud to be the first candidate in this race to support Sen. Sanders’ Medicare for All bill.
- What are your plans for controlling healthcare coverage costs incurred by small businesses?
The Republicans have tried to destroy health care coverage for Floridians — and as Governor, I plan to fight back against these attacks. Destroying the exchanges, weakening the insurance market, and making health care more difficult to get for people and small businesses is counter to who we are as a people. I’ll convene small business leaders to discuss access and affordability in my first year as Governor.
- Gwen Graham is the only one to introduce a public option for healthcare. Based on what you know about that proposal, do you support that?
I’m proud to be the only candidate to introduce a comprehensive series of healthcare proposals to defend Floridians’ care — protecting coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, ensuring continued access to no-cost contraception for women, and requiring that women won’t pay more than men for coverage. A public option doesn’t go far enough to ensure coverage for everyone — it’s just another plan for people to buy out of pocket, and falls short of our moral imperative to make healthcare a right, which is why I support Medicare for All.
Three questions from Reporter Mitch Perry on gambling:
- Do you support Amendment 3, which would give voters the exclusive right to authorize expansions of casino gambling in Florida?
I am always in favor of the voters having a say on momentous issues in our state — casino gambling and its revenue potential is certainly worthy of that ideal.
- Regarding sports gambling: the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that is now legal, and leaders in neighboring states have said they will advocate for its inclusion. What do you say about this new development?
While the ruling was a big decision, it’s unclear what impact it will have on Floridians between now and Election Day when Amendment 3 will be decided. We need to make sure all stakeholders are part of the conversation during session, including the Seminole Tribe and pari-mutuels, and public education must be a beneficiary of the new revenue — because our schools are chronically underfunded and our teachers and staff are criminally underpaid.
- Negotiations that would address the state’s agreement with the Seminole Tribe and allow for some expansion of casinos have gone nowhere in the Legislature in recent years. If you’re in charge, where would you stand on this issue?
Again, it’s critical that we bring all stakeholders to the table for meaningful, productive conversations that yield casino gambling results that are in the best interests of Floridians and all parties.
Three questions from Reporter CD Davidson-Hiers on LGBT issues:
- Florida currently has no state leave law which permits leave for a same-sex spouse or partner. Do you think that’s an issue? How would you address it?
It’s absolutely an issue.
While I certainly support extending same-sex partner leave laws across our state, we must also stop legislators from preempting local leave laws, along with other local non-discrimination ordinances.
- Many local governments in Florida have banned conversion therapy but there is no statewide ban. Should Florida have a statewide ban? If so, how would you support it? If not, why not?
Conversion therapy is a cruel, inhumane practice that denies our people the right to live free from fear of persecution for who they are. As Governor, I would support a statewide ban, and would work with our state’s leading equality organizations like Equality Florida to advance such legislation.
3. The Florida Competitive Workforce Act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of groups protected against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, but has always died in committee. Do you think the act is important and if so, what would you do to support it?
The Florida Competitive Workforce Act is common-sense, bipartisan legislation at its best. It’s the third most cosponsored bill in the legislature. It extends benefits that already cover 60% of Floridians and workers at 90% of Fortune 500 companies. It would have a $5 billion positive economic impact. Yet year after year, it fails to advance through our legislature. As Governor, I will work closely with lawmakers and legislative leaders across the aisle to get this bill to my desk, where I’ll proudly sign it. Floridians deserve to work in an environment where they’re respected, no matter whom they love.
Three questions from Reporter Mitch Perry on affordable housing:
- There is a shortfall of affordable housing in Florida. If funds were available, what would you specifically do with those dollars?
A safe, clean, affordable place to call home is fundamental — and out of reach for many Floridians. For years, Republican lawmakers have raided the Sadowski and other housing trust funds that make affordable housing possible. As Governor, I’ll veto any budget that sweeps these trust funds, and ensure the funding goes directly to affordable housing programs for low-income families, seniors, and the disabled. I’ll also fight to ensure our communities can enforce the impact fees and affordable housing set-asides they require of developers. In Tallahassee, we’ve fought for smart growth and to protect the local character of communities.
- Should there be more incentives for developers to create affordable housing? If so, what kind?
Incentives can be a reasonable tool to spur the right kind of development — if linked with enforceable, measurable accountability standards. Too often, the incentive check is written without any meaningful way to track and ensure accountability.
- Do you believe the state should invest in improving older, neglected multifamily assets and deem a portion of them affordable for those on the lower and moderate end of the economic spectrum?
Considering the way we slash funding and raid trust funds for existing affordable housing priorities, I would be open to a wide variety of mechanisms that ensure working Floridians have an affordable, accessible place to call home.
Three questions from Editor-in-chief Julie Hauserman about women’s issues:
- Not including family members, tell us about a woman (or women) who influenced you?
Of course, my mother Frances has had a profound impact on my development as a young man, as a father and husband, and as a public servant. But I must also give credit to Linda Awbrey, my teacher at Gainesville High School who encouraged me to dream big and reach beyond what I believed was possible. I’ve also been deeply influenced by Dolores Huerta, a civil rights, labor, and women’s icon, whose commitment to inclusion and diversity I share, and whose endorsement I’m proud to have earned.
- Florida ranks 36th among states in a report that compares women’s earnings to men’s. White women earn 80 cents to every dollar a man earns, and women of color average 59 cents to a man’s dollar. What would you do about pay equity?
Because a rising tide raises all ships, as Governor I would support and fight for raising Florida’s minimum wage to $15 per hour — an effort that would immediately benefit millions of Florida workers. As a Mayor, I’ve also watched this state legislature run roughshod over the rights of local governments to close the pay gap through forward-thinking local wage policies; as Governor, I would push back on the corporate-backed preemption laws that suppress wages for women and workers of color, and let communities raise wages for their residents.
3. What are your plans for replacing the three outgoing justices on the Florida Supreme Court?
This is one of the most critical decisions our next Governor will face. The moment I become Governor-elect, I will immediately file an injunction to prevent Rick Scott from seating three radical, right-wing justices. And I will convene, as part of my transition team, a task force of Florida’s finest legal and Constitutional scholars to secure our right to seat three mainstream, respectable jurists who reflect the diversity of experience and opinion in our state.
Three questions from Deputy Editor Diane Rado on labor unions:
- The minimum wage stands at $8.25. Should it be $15, like some other states and cities? And when should that happen?
Nearly half of Florida families struggle to make ends meet, with too many people working two or three jobs. I’m proud to be the first candidate for Governor to pledge to see Florida’s minimum wage raised to $15 per hour. It should happen with all due haste. And as Governor, among the Executive Orders within my first 100 days will be one raising the minimum wage for state employees to $15 per hour.
- With colleges and universities increasingly relying on adjunct staffers, should adjuncts continue to try to unionize and do you support the unionization efforts? Or should college and universities be required to provide higher pay and better working conditions to the part-time staffers?
No educator, whether a K-12 teacher or a part-time college instructor, should have to rely on public assistance to make ends meet — they have one of the world’s most important jobs, in molding the young minds of our next generation. I fully support efforts of adjunct faculty to unionize, and to see their wages, benefits, and working conditions be commensurate with their task at hand.
- As Gov. Rick Scott touts a boost in new businesses and increases in private-sector employees in Florida, what is the reality? Do you think the private-sector employees are getting a living wage? What should be done to ensure employees have good, well-paying jobs?
Rick Scott’s austerity agenda has attracted plenty of low-paying, low-skill private sector jobs to Florida, while robbing public sector workers of more than $1 billion since 2011. Far too many Floridians are having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet — that’s not a sign of an economy that works for all. We not only have to raise wages, but we need to build a 21st century economy with good jobs that can’t be outsourced, like those in the renewable energy and technology sectors. And to prepare Floridians for these high-paying, high-skills jobs, we must invest unprecedented amounts into technical, vocational, SHOP 2.0, and STEM education. Rick Scott believes the way to bring jobs to Florida is by being a cheap date — I couldn’t disagree more.