ST. PETERSBURG — On a day when the Florida Chamber of Commerce endorsed the Republican ticket, Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor Chris King made a case Thursday for St. Petersburg businesses to support them instead.
"We believe that there are false choices when people say you can either be for the growth of the economy or taking care of people," King said. "Our philosophy is you can do well by doing good. You can both lift up families … and grow business."
The remarks at a St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce event came just hours after the state Chamber of Commerce endorsed Republican Ron DeSantis for governor. The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce is an independent organization and doesn't endorse candidates.
The Florida Chamber had previously endorsed DeSantis' opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, as did most of Florida's largest businesses, and DeSantis' campaign had written off the backing as more "special interest" support. But the Republican-aligned group shifted gears Thursday and picked DeSantis over Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
King seemingly acknowledged the uphill battle Democrats face winning over business owners and corporate interests who traditionally have skewed Republican here. But he vowed that in a Gillum administration, "the business community across the state of Florida, even if you've got questions or skepticism right now, is going to have a major seat at that table."
"We're going to be both pro-growth and pro-people," he said.
DeSantis was invited to speak as well but could not attend the event, held at the Florida Holocaust Museum in downtown St. Petersburg. Instead, Pinellas County Commissioner Jay Beyrouti appeared as a surrogate.
Beyrouti touted the day's chamber endorsement and quipped that DeSantis is "not under FBI investigation," a reference to the ongoing federal inquiry into Tallahassee government. He also referred to the Republican nominee as "Don DeSantis" and didn't mention to the St. Petersburg crowd that DeSantis was a local product who grew up in nearby Dunedin.
Meanwhile, King flexed the kind of retail politicking that won him many smiles (but not many votes) when he ran in the Democratic primary for governor.
King said he was asked during the campaign if he could live anywhere but his home Orlando area, where would he go.
"This is something you can use in Chamber literature," King said, "I would choose St. Pete."
This article has been updated to clarify that the Florida Chamber of Commerce, not the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, previously endorsed Adam Putnam for governor.