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2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidates to speak in St. Petersburg Saturday

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Four potential or actual Democratic candidates running for governor next year will speak in St. Petersburg on Saturday night.

Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, Central Florida businessman Chris King, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former Tallahassee Congresswoman Gwen Graham will speak at the Democratic County Chairs Association (DCCA) weekend-long retreat kicking off at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park.

Gillum and King are officially in the race. Levine is testing the waters, while Graham continues to inch closer to an announcement.

The weekend will also feature Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel and a panel of fellow Democrats distributing $100,000 in grants to various small- and medium-sized Democratic executive committees, as well as some Democratic caucuses and clubs.

Shortly after taking office in January, Bittel announced he was rolling out what he calls the $100,000 Janet Reno Challenge Grant.

Our goal is to ensure that Democratic organizations across the state have the freedom to implement new and creative ideas for organizing their communities and then receive the resources to implement those strategies,” Bittel said. “The new Florida Democratic Party must organize year-round regardless of election cycle, and the Janet Reno Challenge Grant will help kick-start our grassroots mobilization and put us on a path to victory in 2018.”

A total of 30 merit-based awards will be announced on Saturday – ten $5000 and twenty $2500 are to be awarded,  part of a competitive process.

The panel in charge of selecting grant winners includes Wakulla County Committeeman and DNC member Nikki Barnes, Osceola County DEC Chair Leah Carius, Miami-Dade County DEC Chair Juan Cuba, Duval County State Committeewoman Lisa King, Hillsborough County Committeeman Russ Patterson and Tampa’s Ian Whitney, a former Committeeman and Monroe County DEC Chair.


Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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