Democrats across the State of Florida gathered at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood

Democrats across the State of Florida gathered at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood for the annual Leadership Blue Dinner, an annual fundraising tradition to raise money and generate spirit for the upcoming 2018 election cycle and other upcoming elections. The weekend of panels and discussion concluded with the gala dinner, with the keynote speaker being former Vice President Joe Biden.
The gubernatorial panel at the Diplomat was packed with people overflowing into the hallway to hear what the three gubernatorial hopefuls had to say. It was a friendly forum, not a contentious debate, with the three candidates praising each other and at the end the three put their arms around into each other in comradery. Attendees at the forum included Congresswoman Val Demmings, Congressman Alcee Hastings, former gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, and also Gwen’s father, Bob Graham and his wife, Adele. The candidates shared the same views on fracking, school vouchers, and other issues.
Gillum spoke about his background and how he was the youngest person to serve on the Tallahassee commission at the age of 23. He spoke about his background, and how his parents came from humble beginnings, and they raised him to look after other people. He also said he never backed down from a fight, and when the NRA came calling, he fought them and won. He also supported marriage equality, and when the certain places refused to issue marriage certificates to gays and lesbians, he told them to come to Tallahassee to get married. Gillum also spoke about climate deniers, such as the president and the governor, and how important climate change and sea level rise were to the State of Florida. Gillum said that Republicans had done wrong by the State of Florida, and it was time for a Democratic governor to be in Tallahassee again.
“We need to send a governor to Tallahassee who’s a Democrat and win back the State,” he said, “for all working people again.”
Chris King spoke about challenges in the State of Florida, such as affordable housing and job creation, and how wages have not kept up with the economy. King said that the State was “in the back of the pack” of other states. King also noted that poverty had gone up and the rate of uninsured had gone up as well. King said that the raids on the housing trust fund must end, and that it was possible for everyone to do well. He also spoke about the need for public education, and how ninety percent of Florida’s students were in public schools. He also said he would not take money from the sugar industry. He spoke about integrity and the “big tent” philosophy that was necessary for the Democratic Party.
“That’s what this campaign is about,” said King. “We are people of integrity. Come to our tent. Think big with us in 2018.”
Graham spoke about the twenty years of Republican dominance in the state’s legislature and how it had damaged the state and its people. She also said that schools had been turned into big testing factories and kids didn’t want to go to school anymore. She also spoke about the environment and job creation, and about how the current governor was talking about jobs, jobs, and jobs. She wanted to talk about opportunities instead of jobs. Most people were barely hanging on in the state, she said, and she wanted to change that so people could have better job opportunities. Graham also said that she won her Congressional seat during a Red year, and she felt she could do it again in 2018, during a Blue wave.
“This is the election that will determine Florida’s future,” said Graham. “Let’s go out and make sure that 2018 is not a Red year, but a Blue year where we turn Florida blue.”
At the dinner that evening, speakers from the Florida Democratic Party included Sally Boynton Brown and State Party Chair Stephen Bittel. Bittel said that change was difficult and messy. Brown praised people for doing difficult and incredible work, calling people “change makers.” Senator Nelson spoke about how it was his honor to serve with public servants such as Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama, and many others. He spoke of the Nixon era where Nixon fired so many people and finally was forced to resign and felt that history was repeating itself. Nelson also spoke about the close relationship between Obama and Biden and how that relationship had been one of the closest in the country’s history.
Biden thanked people for the praise and praised Bittel for his service to the State of Florida, and for other people who had helped get him and President Obama elected. Biden spoke about the lack of civil public discourse that had become evident in today’s political environment and how people had used hate and angry rhetoric to get elected. Biden also spoke about the need to reach out to other people who did not vote for Democrats in the recent election to try to bring them into the fold. He spoke about the recent revolutions in technology and how many people had been left behind and were afraid of the future. He spoke about the fact that Hillary Clinton had gotten three million votes more than the current president and that a fraction of votes had cost the Democrats the presidency. Biden said that the party had to stand up for its Democratic values and include everyone. He spoke of the Hobson’s choice, a phony one in which Democrats had to choose progressive or mainstream values. Why not include it all, he said.
“Either we become less progressive and focus on working folks,” he said. “There is no need to choose. They voted for a black man named Barack Obama. In order to save my soul, I have to cut my heart out. We’re better than this.”
 Slide Show of the event HERE

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