Christie: Waiting for his Florida Democratic primary rivals to begin campaigning for Gillum

Democratic gubernatorial candidates, from left: Andrew Gillum, Jeff Greene, Chris King, Philip Levine, and Gwen Graham participated in an hour-long debate at WPBF television studios in Palm Beach Gardens on August 2. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Has anyone seen former Congresswoman Gwen Graham?

How about former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine?

Where has West Palm Beach developer Jeff Greene been since Aug. 28?

Not since a big Kumbaya “unity” rally in Orlando days after Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s historic victory in the Democratic primary for Florida governor (minus Greene), has anyone heard from three of Gillum’s primary opponents on the campaign trail.

RELATED: Watch Editorial Board interviews of the 5 Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

I mean, one can kind of understand why Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is not out stumping for Republican primary winner Ron DeSantis. Putnam was practically measuring the drapes in the Governor’s Mansion before the Parkland shooting and President Donald Trump reared his ugly head.

But the Dems always gave off this vibe of being respectful, if not friendly adversaries.

So are they low-key campaigning? Maybe recording robo-calls? Or saving themselves — and their money — for the home stretch?

Gillum, the first African-American to secure a major party gubernatorial nomination in the state’s history, picked Orlando businessman Chris King to be his running mate as lieutenant governor. The two apparently clicked and became “bros” while campaigning during the primary race.

There was less “clicking” with Graham, as the consensus front-runner became the focal point of attacks from her all-male competition. Less so by Gillum’s campaign, but more so by a PAC that supported the mayor and whose negative message he refused to publicly disavow.

Graham, the Post Editorial Board‘s pick to win the Democratic primary because it was felt she had the best shot of winning in the general, may still be smarting too much from those attacks to drop everything and campaign for her former rival. Or maybe Gillum just hasn’t asked.

Levine wasn’t heard from until a few weeks ago, when he stepped forward with a statement defending the Gillum campaign after Republicans looked to paint Gillum as an anti-Semite for bringing on King, who had made anti-Jewish comments when he was a college student. This was first dredged up during the primary campaign and King apologized then.

As for Greene, the question is not whether or not he should be out campaigning but whether he is writing any checks to the Gillum campaign, or any other Florida Democratic election efforts. If he has, it hasn’t been substantial enough to be publicized, a’ la fellow billionaire Tom Steyer. But we should remember that during the primary campaign, Greene — who wanted to radically improve public school education in Florida — did promise to financially support the primary winner and other Democrats.

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So, with time to campaign in a tight gubernatorial race coming down to the wire, one has to wonder whether Florida voters — especially those on her home turf of North Florida — will see Graham out stumping for Gillum to help give the party the best chance it’s had of taking back the Governor’s Mansion in 20 years.

It’s tough to see Gillum pulling off the victory without Graham enthusiastically campaigning for him. The same can be asked about Levine, and Greene’s ample checkbook.

But then, no political expert saw Gillum pulling off the primary upset either.

Take our poll here, and tell us what you think they should do.

Christie: Voters questioning Florida’s closed primary elections — again

Even municipal elections, which are non-party races, can be affected by closed primaries on the same ballot. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

It never fails.

Every Florida primary election, thousands of voters from Milton to Marathon vent frustration about heading to the polls (or filling out a mail-in ballot) and once again not being able to vote for the major party candidate.

I understand their frustration. As a registered independent or No Party Affiliation (NPA) voter myself, it’s a little rough feeling like a player who keeps getting left out of the game. But that’s the system we all signed up for here in the Sunshine State.

Florida is one of just 11 states that have strictly “closed primaries” — that is, primaries in which only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican primary, and only registered Democrats in the Democratic primary.

A growing number of Floridians believe state lawmakers should think seriously about joining the 11 states that allow open primaries, in which any voter can cast a ballot in either party’s primary. Or the 24 states that have a mix of rules, with some allowing voters to cross party lines to vote, others that allow unaffiliated voters to participate.

RELATED: Primary election day should be independents’ day as well

Thought Florida Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam would be the best gubernatorial candidate for the Republican Party? Tough.

Thought former Congresswoman Gwen Graham would be the best standard-bearer for the Democrats in the same gubernatorial contest? Too bad.

Or how about voting for your choice of which Democrat or Republican would best represent you in the state House or Senate? Sorry, you’ll have to wait until November.

Not surprising then that an increasing number of Florida voters are losing patience with this current “closed” system that shuts out some 27 percent of registered voters — read that, taxpayers.

That’s more than a quarter of Florida voters who are now choosing to identify as NPA. Why? Because they are tired of major party politics that produce lawmakers doing a poor job of lawmaking. And that’s a trend that many political observers say needs to be addressed.

A small crowd of voters streams into the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office on S. Military Trail in West Palm Beach as the doors open for early voting. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

A couple other factors: the number of registered voters, both Democrat and Republican, who regularly cross party lines during general elections; and the remaining “Dixiecrats” in the state who haven’t voted for a Democrat since Harry S. Truman but don’t bother to change their party affiliation.

Post readers have weighed in this over the past couple of weeks.

From Allen Smith of Port St. Lucie:

Open primaries can lead to shenanigans

In a situation where one party has an incumbent running while the other party has four or five folks contending for the right to represent their party, it is possible and very likely that people registered with the established candidate’s party will cross over and vote for the least likely candidate of the opposing party.

In Michigan, where there are open primaries, this cross-party voting has taken place on numerous occasions; when there are a number of candidates running for a position, just a few votes can make the difference in who wins the opportunity to represent the party.

By swaying the election in the primary, the opposing party can assure victory in the general election. This is called political shenanigans and has prevented many good candidates from being the choice of their own party…

From Ann Malachowski of Tequesta:

Primaries should be open to all

I felt the pain of the letter writer who attempted to vote in the recently held primaries. I also attempted to vote 20 years ago, as a newly transplanted Florida resident, as an independent. Such an archaic, nonsensical law.

There is good news, however. The organization Florida Fair and Open Primaries is trying to add a constitutional amendment to the election ballot to change Florida primary elections from a closed political party system to a voter-nominated top-two open primary system.

I suggest that you look them up sign their petition then get everyone you know to do the same.

From Wayne Whitson of Lake Clarke Shores:

Nonpartisans should not get say in primary

I highly disagree with the letter “NPA voters shut out of primaries” (Tuesday).

Primary elections are “partisan business matters” conducted by the members of Republican and Democratic parties. This is how the main political parties select their slate of candidates for a general election.

If you choose not to be a member of either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, why do you feel entitled to vote in Republican or Democratic primary elections?

Using religion as an example, why should a rabbi or ordained minister (of any faith) be allowed to have a say as to who will become the next pope of the Roman Catholic Church? The obvious answer is: They can’t; they’re not members of the Roman Catholic Church…

And from Leslie Shenkel of Greenacres:

Independent, non-affiliated should not vote in primaries

Many independents and many non-affiliated voters feel they should have the right to vote in the Democratic and Republican primaries. Let me tell them why they don’t and shouldn’t have.

These two organizations are semi-private clubs. Anyone can join the club, but you have to join. I live in Palm Beach County. I can not vote in Miami-Dade County. If I wanted to vote in Miami-Dade, I just have to move to Miami-Dade. No one could stop me, but I would have to move.

Move to where you want to vote. New York, California, Florida, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade or Democratic Party or Republican Party.

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Clearly, this debate isn’t going away.

The two major parties are not going to do anything that dilutes their power and influence. But why should they? As mentioned above, opening their primary makes the process susceptible to bad actors.

Still, as the rolls of NPA voters continues to grow, so do their own power and influence — especially as taxpayers.

And it gets harder for state lawmakers to ignore the cries of, “I want in!”

Tell us what you think by taking our poll, and leaving a comment here.

Christie: 2018 election: Florida’s environment don’t get no respect, no respect at all

Although Florida’s economy is heavily dependent on the environment, most political candidates are loathe to put, and keep those issues out front during a campaign.

The state’s environment could use a little more respect from political candidates this election season.

For the past several weeks, candidates have been trying to figure what issues are most important to voters. With some individual races as tight as they are, every hopeful running — be it for county commission or state senate — knows hitting on that one topic that resonates with voters can move the needle just enough to eke out a win. (Well, that and spending a lot of money on the campaign in the last couple weeks.)

RELATED: Post endorsements for the 2018 primary elections

But what are those hot-button voter issues?

Is it education? We do have a flashpoint issue in school security. There’s is also the much bigger issue of our K-12 public schools being in the bottom fifth in the nation. And Florida’s horrendous teacher pay has actually resulted in a shortage of about 4,000 teachers statewide to begin the 2018-19 school year.

Is it the economy? We do have this issue that, despite all the jobs created the last several years, too many residents complain they need two or three of them to make ends meet. That’s what happens when most of the jobs created are minimum wage. Meanwhile, the cost of housing is going through the roof in many places like, well, Palm Beach County.

Is it the environment? Or as I call it, “the Rodney Dangerfield of primary ballot issues.” Voters are witnessing a red tide causing massive fish kills, and manatee and turtle deaths up and down the Southwest Florida coast. They are watching the ongoing green goo affectionately known as “toxic blue-green algae” find its way into the backyard waterways of Treasure Coast residents. And of course, there’s that long-term, existential threat to our very way of life that everyone fears but few want to talk about: sea level rise. (That’s right, I said it.)

RELATED: The Environmental Issues Facing Florida This Election Season

In a survey released by the USA Today Network and Florida Atlantic University in June, voters said the environment was their No. 3 concern after economy and school safety, respectively. But unlike these first two, environmental issues cannot seem to get and/or maintain traction on the campaign trail.

How can that be, one might ask, when dead manatees are floating into marinas? How can that be when water is submerging roads and parks during King tides? And how can that be when several Martin County beaches — Jensen, Stuart, Bathtub and Hobe Sound  — are the latest to close as blue-green algae and red tide continue to spread throughout the state of Florida.

Venting on social media by irate residents about red tide and blue-green algae has gotten so bad that law enforcement is on edge.

A 250-pound Goliath grouper floats in the water in Sanibel, where red tide is killing millions of fish in Sanibel. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

And on August 13, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency over the ongoing toxic red tide bloom.

“The red tide, which grows offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, has drifted toward the coast and is being blamed for killing scores of animals, including manatees, turtles, and thousands of fish,” reported Palm Beach Post staff writer Kimberly Miller.

But around that same time, when he had the opportunity to confront Treasure Coast residents about the blue-green goo that’s ruining their fishing and boating, Scott elected to do the equivalent of a boating flyover — leaving residents and their questions hanging.

Algae in the Caloosahatchee River beside the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam in Alva, Fla. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

The governor-turned-U.S. Senate candidate isn’t much different from his political brethren on this front; though most can seem to muster a bit more face-to-face compassion. Still, when Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phillip Levine tried to ride his sea-level-rise street cred to the top of the ticket, it didn’t work that well. Sure, voters like that stuff. But who can focus on an environmental threat when another candidate is accusing you of being a supporter of President Donald Trump, and guns are blazing at high school football games?

As a result, the environment gets pushed to the back-burner in a state that built its image off of sunshine and beautiful beaches. The state’s three-legged economy — tourism, agriculture and real estate — is so dependent on the environment that every storm season holds the potential to lay waste to all three. Witness: Hurricane Irma.

But so short is our attention span in this era of breaking news that environmental issues, even when they are staring us in the face daily — again, I mention toxic red tide and green algae — can’t keep a politician’s attention. Today, for example, in the wake of a mass shooting at a gaming tournament on Sunday in Jacksonville, gun control is the topic du jour.

Sigh… maybe it will be different in the general election campaign.

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What do you think?… Should the environment be a higher priority for Florida politicians?

Take our poll, and leave a comment.