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Dems Go After Educator Votes During Teacher Appreciation Week, GOP Nod Becomes Two-Man Race

(left to right) Orlando businessman Chris King, former North Florida Congresswoman Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum are seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination
Fox News 13 Screenshot

During this National Teacher Appreciation week, Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates in the wide-open primary tried to score points with educators. Meanwhile, the GOP race was solidified at two candidates who are just beginning to hone their criticisms of each other.

This week in Florida’s democratic gubernatorial race saw each candidate compete for the votes of Florida’s public school teachers, from tweets to television ads. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and his Miami Beach counterpart Philip Levine got specific with their dollar amounts. Gillum promised an additional billion in education funding is he's elected, while Levine is mulling a $10,000 raise for teachers. 

Gwen Graham dressed in red and lent her support to the #RedforEd movement. Orlando businessman and political novice Chris King, who has not yet cracked into the television ad market, tweeted he would look to give teachers the resources and pay they deserve.

Meanwhile, a feud has been developing between the race’s two North Florida candidates. Gillum launched an ad attacking Graham as a phony progressive, which Politico reported was bankrolled by a political action committee for nearly $800,000.  Graham responded by piling on criticism Gillum has been enduring this week regarding hundreds of thousands in dark money he’s received from committees that don’t have to disclose donors.

Then there’s the GOP race, now a solidly two-man contest.

"As I said for the last year or so, we would look to run for Governor or go home," Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran said during what was billed as a big announcement Wednesday. Corcoran revealed he will abstain from running for governor, instead putting his support behind Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

At a GOP candidate forum over the weekend that was devoid of attacks, Putnam and U.S. Congressman Ron DeSantis outlined their positions on a number of issues – education among them. DeSantis, asked about policy for interrupting generational poverty, championed scholarships that give parents control over their students’ funding allowing them to use it for private school tuition.

"I’d like to see education scholarship accounts for every student who’s on free and reduced lunch," DeSantis said. "Let’s give these folks the ability, these parents the ability, to make the most of their kids’ lives and I think they will make the better decisions."

Like DeSantis, Putnam focused on students rather than teachers in discussing his education priorities.

"My first act will be to restore technical and vocational training and put it back into our middle schools and back into our high schools," Putnam said.

Whatever goodwill was built at the weekend forum had seemingly worn off by midweek, when the DeSantis camp released a statement on Corcoran’s support of Putnam, calling it the “endorsement of a fellow career insider, one that will only matter to his fellow swamp dwellers.”

When asked for a response to the statement during his announcement, Corcoran took a jab at DeSantis’ frequent appearances and mentions on Fox News, asking, "Was it from a studio in New York?”

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.