- Associated Press - Saturday, May 19, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida’s 2018 midterm election is one of the most important in years. The governor’s office and all three Cabinet seats are open, Republican Gov. Rick Scott is challenging three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, several congressional seats will be competitive and Floridians will vote on 13 proposed constitutional amendments, ranging from property tax cuts to banning greyhound racing. The following are items of political interest from the past week:

PUTNAM: IT’S OK TO SAY NO TO COLLEGE

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam released his second television ad to coincide with a tour of the state to promote his top campaign priority if elected governor: strengthening vocational and technical education in middle and high schools. Putnam released his proposal Tuesday with stops in Tampa and Panama City, then his political committee released the statewide ad on Thursday. In it, he walks through a steel company as welding sparks fly behind him and says, “Liberal elites look down on people who work with their hands, pressuring too many kids into student loan debt, leaving them with degrees they can’t use and bills they can’t pay.”

Putnam wants students who don’t want four-year degrees to be better prepared to enter the workforce when they graduate high school. The ad, called “Path to Success,” ends with him saying, “College is not the only path to success, and it’s OK to say it.”

MEANWHILE, OUTSIDE OF FLORIDA



U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis , Putnam’s competitor for the Republican nomination to replace Scott, was in Israel on Monday for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

That didn’t stop him from keeping up his near-constant presence on Fox News - a move that gets him free television time with Republican primary voters and one he’s used over and over and over again.

From Jerusalem, he was on Fox News criticizing the investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election. He was back in Washington on Tuesday, and back on Fox News three more times in two days with Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Lou Dobbs. The theme each time was the Russia investigation. During his appearance with Carlson, DeSantis speculated that someone working on President Donald Trump’s campaign could have been a spy for the FBI. DeSantis said, “I think that this would be somebody (who) potentially could have been paid by the FBI … We just need to answer that. Did they pay anybody? Yes or no? Did they direct anyone to go to the campaign? Yes or no?”

POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME? KING SAYS NO

Democratic candidate for governor Chris King is airing his first television ad. The Orlando-area businessman has been trailing in the polls after investing more than $2 million of his own money into the campaign. The ad began airing in several of the state’s media markets, but notably missing were a couple of the largest and most expensive - Miami-Fort Lauderdale and the Tampa area.

The ad is called “New Direction” and begins by attacking big sugar’s influence in Tallahassee. It shows a waiter approaching a man in a suit with a five-pound bag of sugar and asking, “More sugar, sir?” The man replies, “Yes, of course!” The waiter then pours the bag into an overflowing coffee cup as the man smiles in delight. King then stands across the room and says, “It’s the same old politics. Big sugar buys influence in Tallahassee and then pollutes our environment. I’m Chris King, and I won’t take a dime from them. I’ll take Florida in a new direction.”

SHALALA CHANGES HER MIND

Donna Shalala, who served as President Clinton’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, initially told Florida Young Democrats that she would skip at debate scheduled at the University of Miami.

But Shalala, who is one of the candidates hoping to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lethtinen, decided to attend the Saturday debate. The former UM president had skipped a debate earlier in the week and several of her Democratic rivals criticized her sharply for it.

MAST ATTACK

A group called Floridians for a Fair Shake is spending more than $100,000 in television ads targeting Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, airing now in his district that runs north of Palm Beach County. The group says Mast has taken $153,000 in contributions from insurance and pharmaceutical companies while voting to repeal former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Democrats are targeting Mast, whose seat was held by U.S. Rep. Democrat Patrick Murphy before he gave it up for an unsuccessful Senate bid.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Trial lawyer John Morgan on why he didn’t run for governor: “To run for governor you have to be done making money and I’m not done making money.”

___

AP writer Joe Reedy contributed to this report

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