The second Democratic gubernatorial debate is just a day away. Here are three things to look for when former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Orlando-area businessman Chris King, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine take the stage in Pinellas Park at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. (Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, who entered the race June 4, was also invited but declined to attend.)
1. Will Gwen Graham be treated like the candidate to beat?
Graham's opponents spent much of April's first Democratic debate grilling the former congresswoman on her record on guns, refugees and the environment. Some observers took the dynamic as a sign that the other candidates are the most threatened by Graham — despite Levine's appearance at the top of recent polls.
But it's also the opinion of many campaign observers that Graham's past statements and votes point to a less progressive candidate than she's painted herself to this point.
Both are probably true to some extent: Graham's opponents have real questions about her record, and they see her as a threat. The former congresswoman is finally airing TV ads, and she's the only woman in a crowded primary in what looks like the year of the female candidate. Whether Debate Two is another round of "Gwen and the men" will be something to watch Saturday.
2. Take note of policy specifics
Democrats have a much different approach to governing than what we've seen in Florida over the past two decades. In that time, Republican leaders have consistently cut down on public sector investment, doing their best to shrink government as much as possible.
Each Democratic candidate offers his or her own vision on how to reverse that trend. But whether a candidate is calling for a greater investment in education, criminal justice reform, more affordable housing or gun control, the proposals are going to require time and money.
Governors have broad authority to reorganize the state's priorities. But funding for prisons or teacher salaries or mental health programs is going to have to come from what will almost certainly be a Republican-led Legislature. Which candidates will let voters know — in as much detail as the timer will allow — how they plan on implementing their agenda?
3. Will candidates save their firepower?
Saturday's is the second of five primary debates this election cycle. If a candidate is sitting on a game-changing piece of opposition research or a magic bullet policy proposal, it's unlikely he or she will break it out on a Saturday night 50-plus days before anyone votes. Expect candidates to treat this debate more like another introduction to voters than an opportunity to attack.
On the other hand, despite over a year of campaigning, no candidate has truly grabbed the spotlight in this primary. The right moment could give a lesser known candidate like King or Gillum something to build on going into the next debate — Monday in Broward County.