One of the major Democratic candidates to enter the Florida governor’s race is hoping to parlay his run into becoming the first in his party to occupy that chair in two decades.
Thirty-nine-year-old Chris King is an Orlando native and entrepreneur. For the last dozen years, he’s been involved with an organization he founded -- Elevation Financial Group – which provides affordable housing to seniors and families.
That, in turn, led to his decision to run for governor.
“I saw in that work big issues, big pressing challenges in the state of Florida,” said King. “Particularly for people who were not wealthy and well-connected, but people in need of housing or health care, or access to higher education.”
It’s not enough to win elections, or to replace one Republican with one Democrat, King argues. The key word in his campaign is “transformational.”
“Which to me means, first, willing to bring fresh ideas to the table,” King says. “And number two, we have got to have the political courage – as a party and as a state – to take on some of the most powerful interests that in my view, have kept us from being all that we can be.”
Among those ideas is breaking the hold of large corporations and entities that King says is now on Florida politics; specifically, the powerful sugar lobby.
“I’ve argued that they have bought and paid for politicians on the left and right; in my party and the Republican Party to the detriment of our environment,” King says. “They have every right to right to advocate for their interests. I just believe the next governor of Florida should not be beholden to one interest.”
One of King’s “Big Ideas” involves higher education – which he says is gaining support from both sides of the aisle, as well as from independents and the non-political.
“Free community college and trade school, actually modeled after the state of Tennessee and implemented by a Republican governor and legislature,” King said. “That has been transformative for Tennessee in building the workforce, the future and lifting wages. And I think it can be very transformative for Florida.”
Another issue from the King campaign is criminal justice reform, after touring the prison system in May.
“I want to reduce mass incarceration for non-violent offenders by 50 percent over a decade; I want to end private prisons, and I want to dismantle what I call the ‘school-to-prison pipeline,’” King proposes.
In light of the Pulse Nightclub shooting and the massacre at Parkland, another one of King’s major issues is curbing gun violence. He’s proposing an “Every Kid Fund for Gun Violence Prevention,” which would also be a new revenue source.
“Through a tax or a ‘safety fee’ on ammunition put into this fund, and used for programs and initiatives, and school safety technology that is designed to be effective and impactful at stopping this epidemic.”
Some media outlets describe King – who studied religion and politics at Harvard -- as a “Christian liberal.” He says he’s trying to put a different face on what faith and public action can – and should – look like, versus what he calls “white evangelical Republicanism.”
“If you really want to be a person who can serve a state as diverse as Florida with excellence, you have to surround yourself with people of different faiths; and those with no faith at all,” King says. “I think that often is missed on the other side of the aisle.”
According to campaign finance records, Chris King has spent upwards of three million dollars on his campaign in the past year and a half. Recent polls show him trailing Gwen Graham and Philip Levine. Going into the home stretch of the August 28 primary race, he’s trying to make up another 10-15 percentage points get within striking range.
“How I’m doing that is the traditional television advertising across the state, and digital. I’m trying to get as many voters, in as many places like north Florida – where Democrats have not done very well – to look at my candidacy and say, ‘We see something different here.’”
Running for Governor in the state that’s home to America’s space program, Chris King says he wants to “shoot for the stars.”