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Republican DeSantis selects State Rep. Jeanette Nuñez; Democrat Gillum picks primary rival Chris King
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
ORLANDO (CFP) — The major party candidates for Florida governor have announced picks for their running mates for lieutenant governor.
The Republican nominee, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis from Ponte Vedra, has picked State Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, a Cuban-American legislator from Miami. The Democratic nominee, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, picked Chris King, an Orlando businessman who ran against him in the primary.
The selection of Nuñez is noteworthy because of her previous criticism of President Donald Trump, who has been a close ally of DeSantis.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, when she was supporting U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, she called Trump a “con man,” described herself as “never Trump” and accused him of supporting the Ku Klux Klan.
Asked about those critical comments while campaigning with DeSantis in Orlando after the running mate announcement, she said, “We’re here talking about moving forward. Elections are elections. It is what it is.”
“That election is done, and I’m looking forward to this election,” she said.
DeSantis, whose primary victory was fueled by supportive tweets from Trump, described her comments as part of a primary “tussle” in which she was supporting a hometown candidate.
“To support Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American, if I were in her shoes I probably would have been supporting Marco as well,” he said.
In a show of Republican unity, the man DeSantis defeated in the primary, State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, was on hand to campaign with the new ticket.
Nuñez, 46, was first elected to the Florida House in 2010, working her way up through the GOP leadership to become speaker pro tempore, the No. 2 position, in 2016.
As a legislator, she worked for passage of a bill that allows the children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Florida colleges and universities, a position contrary to the hard-line stance on illegal immigration embraced by both Trump and DeSantis.
If elected in November, she would become the first Cuban-American woman to serve as lieutenant governor. The current lieutenant governor, Carlos López-Cantera, is also Cuban-American, a community that has long been an important faction in Florida Republican politics.
On the Democratic side, Gillum picked King, who came in fifth place in the Democratic primary for governor that Gillum narrowly won.
The pairing was announced in a Facebook video in which both men said the personal relationship they developed on the campaign trail led to King’s selection.
“I developed a friendship with Andrew Gillum over 18 months as we were competing,” he said. “I came to care for him. I came to admire him.”
King, 39, is a lawyer and real estate investor whose run for governor was his first foray into the political arena.
In picking King, Gillum passed over the woman he narrowly defeated for the Democratic nomination, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, who had been considered the favorite in the race before Gillum’s surprise victory.
In Florida, the office of lieutenant governor is not independently elected, and candidates for governor pick running mates after the primary.
Though 17 states use the same system, running mates are uncommon in the South, with only Florida and Kentucky selecting lieutenant governors this way.
Mason-Dixon poll shows DeSantis up by double digits in GOP contest; Graham leads by 9 points among Democrats
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
JACKSONVILLE (CFP) — With a month to go before Florida’s primaries for governor, a new poll shows that Democrat Gwen Graham and Republican Ron DeSantis have opened up leads over their party rivals in the chase to be the Sunshine State’s next chief executive.
The Mason-Dixon poll released July 27 found that Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee and daughter of former U.S. Senator Bob Graham, was the choice of 27 percent of Democrats, leading former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at 18 percent and Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene at 12 percent.
The margin of error in the poll of 500 likely Democratic voters was plus or minus 4.5 percent, which means Graham’s lead over Levin is statistically significant. However, 25 percent of voters said they were still undecided, indicating that the race still remains fluid.
Because Florida does not have primary runoffs, Graham could win the nomination with a plurality in the crowded Democratic field.
On the Republican side, DeSantis, a congressman from metro Jacksonville, holds a more substantial lead over State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, 41 percent to 29 percent. However, 28 percent of likely Republicans in the poll said they were still undecided.
The margin of error in the poll of 500 likely Republican voters was also plus or minus 4.5 percent.
Putnam, a veteran of state politics from Polk County who served a decade in Congress before being elected agriculture commissioner in 2010, was considered the front-runner in the GOP race until DeSantis announced his run in January, backed with an endorsement from President Donald Trump.
A previous Mason-Dixon poll in February showed Putnam with a 4-point lead over DeSantis, indicating a shift of 16 points in the past five months.
Mason-Dixon did not pit the Republican and Democratic front-runners in a hypothetical matchup. However, the poll did find that among voters as a whole, Graham was viewed more favorably than DeSantis.
Among voters who recognized Graham, 35 percent had a favorable view of her, compared to just 5 percent who did not. For DeSantis, the figures were 32 percent approval and 21 percent disapproval.
The Florida primaries are August 28.