Arguably for the first time in decades, Florida Democrats are facing a wide-open primary for their party’s gubernatorial nominee.
The race currently features four major candidates, three of which are considered members of the political establishment – a favorite breed for moderate Democrats which prevail the state’s general electorate.
Over the last five years, elections in primaries have been very close, coming within a single point each time.
Because the mainstream media’s focus has generally been on Republicans, being the party in control, little regard has been given to the fact that Democrats are facing a major schism within their party.
Florida’s race exemplifies that.
For starters, you have Gwen Graham, who served as the U.S. Representative for Florida’s Second Congressional District in the Panhandle. Her conservative district forced her to the middle on a bevy of issues, making her a natural enemy of the newly emergent far-left wing of her party.
In the primary, we’ve seen Graham drift towards the left and become increasingly aggressive against Trump and his party. This has served her well thus far, as Trump is currently suffering a whopping 91% disapproval rating among Florida Democrats.
Nevertheless, she’ll have to face her party’s base when it comes to issues like universal healthcare and free college tuition for all students, both which she’s against.
Graham currently leads the field in name recognition, approval and fundraising.
Of course, all of this goes up into the air with the introduction of John Morgan into the race. While not officially a candidate, Florida political circles expect him to enter the race sometime next year. The infamous trail attorney of Morgan & Morgan trounces Graham in a runoff primary according to pollsters.
The match-up would be viewed as a Democratic replay of the Trump/Clinton election, where Morgan is the charming, bashful and unpredictable candidate against Graham’s cookie-cutter campaign.
Morgan entered the political spotlight in 2014 when he made a major push for Amendment 2, a pro-medical marijuana amendment to the Florida constitution. The issue was voted favorably by the Florida electorate, and passed by nearly 10 points.
He’s since gained fame from challenging the Legislature on their cumbersome interpretation and implementation of the state’s medical marijuana system through legal suits.
If her were to run, Morgan would also benefit from the fortune he’s amassed through his successful business ventures, including the most famous law firm in the United States, Morgan & Morgan. He would likely self-fund his race, which eliminates the perpetual and resource-draining struggle of fundraising. As a result, he’d have greater access to voters over Graham, who lacks in the ability to captivate an audience compared to the bold trial attorney.
Either Graham or Morgan would then have to face off against the winner of the Republican primary, which is also up in the air. But, the greater challenge will be getting Democratic voters to turn out in the general election, especially if the primary turns out to be as divisive as political scholars contend it will be.
With a state as purple as Florida, turning out members of your own party is the only key to success in races expected to be as close as a point.