2018 Florida Governor's Race Begins

May 12, 2017

With Governor Rick Scott termed out of office in 2018, there’s beginning to be a lot of jockeying for position in both parties for that race.

Two aspirants, each from high-profile Florida families, announced their intentions this week. Republican Adam Putnam currently is Agriculture Commissioner.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam.
Credit State of Florida

“It has been an honor to serve my community, to serve my friends and neighbors, to serve my state, and to serve my nation,” said Putnam at a rally in his hometown of Bartow. “But make no mistake; for me, it’s always been ‘Florida first.’ And it’s why I am running for governor.”

On the Democratic side, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham announced in Miami Gardens.

“With my experience as a working mom, a PTA president, as a public school official and finally serving Florida in Congress, I am so proud to announce that I am running to serve as Florida’s next governor,” said Graham.

Charles Zelden – a political scientist at Nova Southeastern University – says they’re going for an open seat in a state, which is balanced in terms of razor-thin voter preference.

“[Donald] Trump only won [Florida] by about 100,000 votes; Obama won four years earlier by a small margin,” said Zelden. “This state is truly purple.”

One question to be answered is how much clout a Rick Scott endorsement could wield for Adam Putnam and other Republican candidates. Zelden believes, not that much.

“If you had asked me before the presidential election, I would have said Scott was going to play a big role,” Zelden said. “But given the national scene, I’ve a feeling that Scott’s almost irrelevant at this point. It’s going to be Trump that’s going to be the ‘thousand pound gorilla’ on the ballot.”

Putnam is the only major Republican to announce for governor so far. Other possible GOP candidates include state House Speaker Richard Corcoran and state Sen. Jack Latvala.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham.
Credit wlrn.org

For Gwen Graham, a run for governor is carrying on the family tradition, so to speak. Her father is Bob Graham, Florida’s 38th Governor. He was on hand for his daughter’s announcement.

“[It] couldn’t be any more thrilling,” said the former governor. “Any parent likes to see their children succeed, and when they succeed in the same path that you’ve spent much of your life on, it’s that much more.”

“A lot of people remember [Bob] Graham with great fondness, because he was an effective governor,” said Nova Southeastern’s Charles Zelden. “It gives her that little first-step advantage; [and] makes it easier for her to introduce herself to the voting public.

Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King are also seeking the Democratic nomination. Another possibility is John Morgan – an attorney who pushed for the state constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana.

At this point, whoever’s thinking about seeking the governor’s chair has more than a year to make that decision. The 2018 election cycle schedule has qualifying in June; primaries in August, and the general election in November.