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Gubernatorial Candidate Chris King Says He Plans To Stand Up To Big Sugar

Lily Oppenheimer
Chris King at the Florida Democratic Primary Gubernatorial Debate in June.

Chris King is a businessman, not a career politician. And he wants to be Florida’s next governor.

The Orlando native, entrepreneur and founder of Elevation Foundation Group, is basing his campaign on family values. His main issues include gun reform, affordable housing, raising the minimum wage and investing in Florida’s education system. He just finished a weeklong tour around South Florida where he talked to people about his efforts to help low-income students with free college access and mentorship and his gun reform efforts with the ‘Every Kid Fund,’ a program that would invest in technology and innovation to reduce gun violence.

With only eight weeks until primaries, King joined Sundial to talk about his candidacy.  

WLRN: Mr. King, why are you running for governor?

King: I have been very dissatisfied with the state of politics in the state of Florida and the Democratic Party. And so I have been the candidate to stand up to conventional politics and to bring fresh ideas. I have been so proud that we have been leading the debate on the major issues of the day. I've demonstrated -- whether it's affordable housing, free community college, trade school or taking on the sugar industry -- that my candidacy has been one that's brought new ideas and stood up to some very powerful political interests.

I want to start with gun control because it did take center stage this past legislative session after the Parkland shooting. You've come up with this idea called The Every Kid Fund. What is that?

I have been so proud that my campaign has introduced what's been called the most ambitious policy to date when it comes to addressing gun safety in Florida. I'm for a ban on assault weapons. I'm for universal background checks. And where I go one step further is what I call the Every Kid Fund For Gun Violence Prevention, which would be a dedicated revenue source that would invest in the very best programs, initiatives and technologies to prevent everyday and mass tragedy gun violence. It would do that by taking sales tax revenues from firearms and ammunition and it would add an additional 6 percent safety fee or what's been called a bullet tax to ammunition to create revenue.

I want to come back to affordable housing. As governor, explain to us how you would be able to help our community here with the issue of affordable housing.

I often say I'm going to be the nation's most innovative governor when it comes to housing issues. I say it's our number one economic challenge. I've pledged that simply by winning because I will have enough veto proof protections in the legislature that I will have the ability to invest nearly a billion dollars in public and private money in all sorts of housing programs. That would be felt in Miami-Dade County in a number of ways -- from first time homeownership to housing for seniors. I think that could be a game changer for your area.

You brought up the sugar industry -- that wasn't really a topic until you started talking about it. What is your fight with the sugar industry?

You know what I have argued is that if you care about rising seas, climate change, clean water or Everglades restoration a candidate who wants to be the next Democratic governor of Florida has to have the political courage to acknowledge that one industry -- the sugar industry -- has often stood in the way of environmental progress in the state of Florida. And I have argued I think successfully that they currently have a vice grip on our politics in this state.

I was the first candidate that came out and said I'm not going to take money from the sugar industry and I'm not going to be beholden when it comes to our environment. And so I would argue as we look out at the state of affairs in Florida today environmentally and we look at the discharges from Lake Okeechobee right now that are impacting the east or western coasts of the state of Florida … These are issues that have been exacerbated by Big Sugar's influence in not allowing us to get water south. One of my real concerns for South Florida from Miami Dade, Broward and the millions of people who live there is there future access to water and rising seas and without moving water south. Without moving clean water south and replenishing the Everglades in Florida Bay...this is currently the best bulwark we have to rising seas and to access to clean water. My belief is the sugar industry has stood in the way of that.