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: McGlockton shooting pushes limits on ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense

The Rev. Al Sharpton led Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidates in a rally at a Clearwater church on Sunday calling for the repeal of Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law.

Is it right for someone who initiates a confrontation to then hide behind “Stand Your Ground” as a defense when they shoot and kill the other person?

That’s the basic question that seems to be coming out of the latest high-profile shooting of an unarmed back man in Clearwater, Fla.

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You’ve heard the story or seen the dramatic video by now: On July 19, Michael Drejka, 47, shot and killed Markeis McGlockton, 28, in a convenience store parking lot. According to Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies, Drejka confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, about parking in a handicap space without a permit.

McGlockton went up to Drejka and “slammed him to the ground,” the sheriff’s office said. Drejka, seconds later while still on the ground, pulled out his handgun and shot McGlockton in the chest. The father of three was pronounced dead soon after.

It should come as no surprise, with all of the national attention on such shootings, that debate over the incident has entered the realm of politics. To be sure, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri first lit that debate fire by announcing the day after the shooting that he would not charge Drejka because the changes in the stand your ground law signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2017 muddied the waters too much.

But lawmakers and candidates on both sides of the political aisle disagree. Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidates joined the Rev. Al Sharpton at a Clearwater church on Sunday to call for the repeal of the state’s controversial stand your ground law. And on Friday, Democrats in the Florida Legislature reached the 20 percent goal to force a poll of members on the question of an unusual election-year special session to change the “stand your ground” self-defense law.

Meanwhile, the Republican frontrunner for governor, Rep. Ron DeSantis, is joining Democratic and Republican critics alike in believing that Drejka should not have Stand Your Ground immunity: “I support the right of Floridians to defend themselves by standing their ground against aggressors. That said, it doesn’t seem to me that the law is even applicable in the case of Markeis McGlockton, and I don’t think the Pinellas County sheriff analyzed the law properly.”

Markeis MCGlockton

Jacobs, 25, has called McGlockton’s shooting a wrongful death, and has hired civil rights attorney Benjamin L. Crump Jr., who also represented the family of Travyon Martin after he was shot and killed by wanna-be cop George Zimmerman.

While Zimmerman didn’t end up using stand your ground as a defense, police didn’t arrest him at first because of it.

At a recent news conference, Crump pointed out that, like Drejka, whom he labeled a “self-appointed, wannabe cop,” Zimmerman pursued Martin instead of letting law enforcement take over.

“It’s still ludicrous how you can claim that you have fear of your life but yet you approach and start the confrontation with the individual,” he told reporters.

Closer to home, you may remember that Crump also represents the family of Corey Jones Jr., the Delray Beach drummer who was gunned down in October 2015 by then-undercover Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja. Raja has been charged in Jones death, and is attempting to use a stand your ground defense.

Jacobs says McGlockton was her high-school sweetheart. The pair had been together since 2009, when she met him at a friend’s house while attending Dunedin High School.

They stopped at the Circle A Food Store at 1201 Sunset Point Road on the way home from picking Jacobs up from her job as a certified nursing assistant to grab chips and drinks. Jacobs parked in the handicap spot, she said, because the parking lot was busy and they were just stopping for a minute.

The couple’s 4-month-old and 3-year-old were in the car. Their 5-year-old, named after McGlockton, was in the store.

Drejka then shot McGlockton, later telling Pinellas deputies he was in fear of further attack.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri discuss the controversial shooting of Markeis McGlockton during a news conference discussing the Stand Your Ground Law at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Administration Building in Largo on July 31. (Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)

According to legal experts, it generally doesn’t apply when the confrontation is just verbal, barring any threats of violence.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who again has said the stand your ground law precludes his agency from arresting Drejka, has taken a similar stance. At a recent news conference, the sheriff, who is a lawyer, said what was “merely a discussion about why she’s parked there … didn’t provoke the attack.” His agency has forwarded the case to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office to decide whether to press charges.

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Christie: Does Sanders, Bondi harassment mean our incivility has finally gone too far?

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi voices her support for then-candidate Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (Damon Winter/The New York Times)

Not unlike a lot of opinion journalists, for years I’ve been harping on the lack of civility that increasingly permeates our public discourse.

Immigration, NFL protests, gun rights, you name it, we are somehow unable to have a civil debate about it. From a South Carolina congressman yelling, “You lie!” at then-President Barack Obama during a State of the Union address to this past weekend’s heckling of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi at a movie theater.

We’ve got to find a way to get past this. For our own sanity. And Thanksgiving dinners. And kids’ soccer games. And movie openings.

On Friday night, a group of protesters accosted Bondi outside the screening of the new documentary about Mister Rogers at the Tampa Theatre, questioning her about her recent actions on health care policy and her stance on immigration.

RELATED: Pam Bondi confronted by protesters outside Mister Rogers movie

A video of the confrontation, taken by progressive activist Timothy Heberlein of Organize Florida, shows several people shouting down Bondi as she leaves the theater escorted by law enforcement after seeing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”

This followed news, of course, of the most infamous incident of the weekend: senior White House spokeswoman Sara Huckabee Sanders being tossed out of a Virginia restaurant by the owners.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, speaks during a press conference on June 14 the White House briefing room in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Sanders, who has not engendered the most support from the liberal side of the political spectrum as a lightning rod for the ire of Trump haters, said over the weekend that she had been asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant because she worked in the Trump administration. She added that she “politely left” after the request.

The restaurant’s co-owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, later told The Washington Post that her staff had called her to report Sanders was at the restaurant on Saturday night. Wilkinson said several restaurant employees are gay and knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military.

RELATED: The owner of the Red Hen explains why she asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave

Sanders’ tweet created a firestorm on Twitter, with many conservatives and Trump supporters, including her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, chiming in with criticism of the restaurant.

Where does it end? We seem to have reached the point of no return when it comes to incivility among our citizens. And now, many folks are asking folks to pump the brakes.

Again, growing incivility in our discourse has been an issue for years — much of it racially charged for political purposes by Obama’s election, police shootings, etc. But we’ve apparently gone beyond vocal disagreements over abortion rights to not even sitting next to one another in a restaurant or movie theater, filling prescriptions at the same pharmacy or buying a wedding cake from the same baker.

A primary reason for things reaching this new level, whether some of us want to admit it or not, lies at the feet of President Trump and his almost daily divisive Twitter rants in the name of not being politically correct.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) at a news conference where House Democrats called for an end to separating immigrant families, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

The trouble is liberals or progressives are no longer content with turning the other cheek. Beyond the protests and calls to action on everything from Confederate monuments to women’s rights to gun rights, the left-wingers now seem as energized as their counterparts on the right under the Obama administration.

It’s now commonplace to hear Trump supporters and Republicans — who still approve of the job he’s doing — ask for folks to “just give him a chance.”

“Fat chance,” say an increasing number of liberals. “Like the chance you gave Barack Obama?” they reply.

If we’re not quite down the rabbit hole here, we’re getting uncomfortably close. And we don’t need folks pushing us even further.

Maxine Waters, the Democratic firebrand congresswoman from California, chided a crowd this weekend to “push back” against Trump supporters wherever you see them, “in a restaurant, in the department store, in a gas station.”

We don’t need that.

But Bondi wasn’t much better. She went on Fox News Sunday to boast of not backing down from protesters — with appropriate police backup of course — and suggested, “The next people are going to come with guns. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Yeah, real helpful.

RELATED: Trump attacks ‘filthy’ Red Hen, the Virginia restaurant that asked Sarah Sanders to leave

And then there’s the president himself, who once again took to Twitter to dis the restaurant that booted Sanders.

President Donald J. Trump (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

“The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders,” Trump tweeted Monday morning.

“I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!” he added.

It was unclear Monday whether Trump had ever visited the establishment — the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, which is 50 miles northeast of Roanoke near the Shenandoah Valley — or how he would have determined its level of cleanliness.

The Red Hen passed its latest state health inspection, in February, without any violations.

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He later also went to Twitter to take some sophomoric jabs at Waters.

As I said earlier, the president can shut a lot of this down or at least put us on a path back to civility with his own words and actions.

The question will he, or maybe we’ve already gone to far down that rabbit hole.

Christie: Yes, separating migrant children from parents at U.S.-Mexico border is child abuse

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Children wrap themselves up with Mylar blankets to ‘symbolically represent the thousands of children separated from families on the border, sleeping on floors and held in cages’, during a protest at the rotunda of Russell Senate Office Building on Thursday on Capitol Hill. Activists staged a demonstration to protest the Trump Administration’s policy to separate migrant families at the southern border. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

UPDATE: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson will be in Homestead today at noon meeting with federal officials and getting a firsthand look at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children. Nelson, a Democrat, filed legislation in the Senate earlier this month to prohibit the Dept. of Homeland Security from continuing the blanket policy of separating children from their parents at the border. According to recent reports, there are roughly 1,000 migrant children currently being held at the Homestead shelter – some of whom were separated from their families at the border, and others who were unaccompanied minors when they crossed the border.

***

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it now has 11,785 migrants in custody. That includes 1,995 children who have been separated from their parents. And of those, more than 100 are four years old and younger.

This is just inhumane. I don’t care what Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says.

How does a four, three or two-year-old even process being separated from their mother? According to Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, they can’t. They just cry.

“These children have been traumatized on their trip up to the border, and the first thing that happens is we take away the one constant in their life that helps them buffer all these horrible experiences,” she said of the nearly 2,000 children affected by the crackdown. “That’s child abuse.”

This tragic build-up at the U.S.-Mexico border has been happening for some time. It’s only within the last several months that it has grown to a number that led President Donald J. Trump to feel that it was untenable.

But in fact, now we know that the Trump administration intentionally began separating migrant children from their parents specifically to discourage them from crossing the border.

According to The Associated Press, the policy, which started last month, “sought to maximize criminal prosecutions of people caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally,” leading to more adults in jail, separated from their children.

But remember, the vast majority of these people — from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and others — are attempting to escape violence in their own countries. And it is not illegal to seek asylum in this country.

It is illegal to come into the United States illegally. But the U.S. immigration system had been broken for decades; largely because of the lack of political will to fix it. As a result, the strictness of policy has depended on the administration.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting of the National Space Council in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, on Monday. At the event, Trump remained resistant in the face of growing public outcry over his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

But it’s very safe to say, no administration has gone this far.

“The United States will not be a migrant camp,” Trump said in remarks Monday where he doubled down by defending and deflecting on the migrant separations, “… and it will not be a refugee holding facility.”

Trump also continued to blame Democrats — despite the fact that Republicans control the House, Senate and White House — for his implementing this part of a zero tolerance policy. Worse, the president and his administration continued to put forth lie that they are following law. There is no law requiring migrant children be separated from their parents.

As we are bombarded with pictures and audio recordings of children wailing in what look like dog kennels, however, the mutual disgust is crossing partisan lines. The pundits argue that Trump is playing to his base of support, but a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday  showed that Americans, 3-1, want this policy ended.

Even Melania Trump, one of the most reticent first ladies in memory, came out on Twitter against the the child separations. And former first lady Laura Bush criticized the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration as “cruel” in a Washington Post op-ed Sunday likening it to Japanese internment camps.

“I live in a border state,” Bush wrote. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

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