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South Florida Sun Sentinel endorses Mayor Andrew Gillum For Governor 

      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 And if Congress had repealed Obamacare, as he repeatedly voted to do, nearly two million Floridians would have lost health care coverage through the exchanges.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. 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 head-in-the-sand denial. That would hurt Florida.

Public safety. Gillum supported the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act and wants the state to pass common-sense 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 mid-September 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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