From His HQ In Jacksonville, Reform Party Candidate Darcy Richardson Aims For The Governor’s Mansion

Aug 30, 2018

Gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis will likely dominate the airways up until the November election, but there are other options, including Jacksonville’s own Darcy Richardson.

Richardson, 62, was born and raised in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pa. He was one of 10 children and his father was a career Air Force officer. The family lived in Germany for six years and various states throughout the U.S. before his parents settled back in Pennsylvania in 1968, during the Vietnam War.

Richardson graduated from Norristown High School in the suburbs of Philadelphia after his family moved there in 1971.

He went to Temple University in Philadelphia, where he majored in business and economics.

Richardson has been a longtime third party activist and historian. He managed former U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign in 1988 and served as a senior consultant to McCarthy’s 1992 bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

Richardson has written a multi-volume history of third parties, beginning with the nation’s founding and up to the present day.

“Third parties have been the catalyst for new ideas in the American political system,” said Richardson.” In an interview with WJCT News, Richardson referenced several prominent third parties including the Liberty and Free Soil parties, which started the anti slavery movement prior to the Civil War; the Greenback Labor party, which had 14 candidates elected to Congress in the 1870s; the Populist Party, which had a strong foothold in the Midwest for decades; “and of course everyone knows about Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose progressive party of 1912 when he actually finished ahead of a sitting President of his own party, William Howard Taft.”

“In all of these efforts, third parties have injected new ideas,” said Richardson. “And that’s something we’re not getting from the Democratic or Republican parties, and haven’t, really, for most of my lifetime.”

Richardson moved to Jacksonville in the summer of 1993, and he’s been here ever since.

He ran for Lieutenant Governor with the Iranian born economist Farid Khavari in 2010 and he even made a bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2012, challenging incumbent Barack Obama in a handful of Democratic primaries.

Richardson launched his current campaign to become Florida’s next Governor in early June.

When Richardson stopped by WJCT on Thursday, he made a major campaign announcement: “Today we’re happy to announce that former State Senator and former Public Service Commission Chair Nancy Argenziano is joining my ticket as my candidate for Lieutenant Governor.”

“Given the state of our democracy, is there any question we need to make major reforms? I am certain Darcy is up to the task,” said Argenziano. “When Darcy asked me if I wouldn’t mind getting back in the trenches, given the state of America and Florida in particular, I said yes, of course.”

Argenziano was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1996, where she served until she was elected to the Florida Senate in 2002. In 2007 she was appointed by Governor Charlie Crist to a seat on the Public Service Commission.

Health Care

“Thirty-Nine percent of the [state] budget goes to health care. That’s the biggest item,” said Richardson. You can’t really reduce that. If anything we probably should increase that a little bit and provide affordable healthcare for every Floridian. That’s one of the big criticisms I’ve had of Governor Rick Scott, the current incumbent, was his refusal to provide Medicaid expansion here in Florida. Which denied 600,000 to 700,000 Floridians - these are working people, they have jobs. It denied them any access to health care.”

“I’m not promising that we can do this, but I would like to try to provide some sort of basic health care coverage for every Floridian,” Richardson said.

However, his views on health care don’t line up with Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum or Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders. In fact, Richardson believes their plan for universal health care would bankrupt the nation in two to three years.

Richardson says he and his running mate are both pro-choice.

He’s also all in for medical and recreational marijuana.

“With medical marijuana, Florida has been really slow in following up on the will of the voters,” said Richardson. “It was overwhelmingly passed by the citizenry. And as far as recreational marijuana, I don’t think it’s harmful. It obviously does have some medical benefits. I just think it should be totally decriminalized or legalized.”

The Economy

“Andrew Gillum is saying ‘I’m going to pay for all these programs by raising the corporate income tax.’” said Richardson. “And that sounds good, but I don’t want to, as governor, drive businesses, whether it’s a medium size business or a large corporation, away from Florida. We need industry here and we need good paying jobs.”

“We can’t legislate that companies pay employees more,” said Richardson. “They’re going to pay what the market will bear. I would say we want to attract the kind of employers that do pay good salaries and provide decent benefits. We can do that with a low corporate tax.”

Speaking of Gillum and Sander’s push for a $15 minimum wage, Richardson said: “Small employers, little mom and pop operations here in Florida, cannot afford to be paying $15 an hour. I do believe that we should incrementally increase it, but as the economy grows. I would like to see, soon, a $10 minimum wage here in Florida. But 15 is kind of an astronomical jump and I think it would wreak havoc on our economy if we implemented something like that overnight.”

The Environment

“We have to clean up our environment,” said Richardson. “Because the environment is affecting everything. Companies aren’t going to want to relocate to Florida when our waterways are infested with toxic algae bloom, and of course we have the red tide problem.”

If he’s elected, Richardson said he would make cleaning up Florida’s waterways one of his priorities.

“We have to restore the Everglades, we have to clean up all of our rivers, lakes, streams and watersheds and make this a beautiful attractive place again,” Richardson said. “Companies will come here if we’re a low tax state and we have a beautiful environment. People will come.”

But he thinks the state needs federal help to get the job done.

“We need a federal commitment, we need a greater state commitment,” Richardson said. “Rick Scott cut, what, $700 million from our Environmental Protection Agency. We need to fully fund that. We need to fully fund our five Water Management Districts. The environment, because it affects business, industry, the health of our citizens, the health of our ecosystem and wildlife, our wading bird population, this needs to be our top priority.”

Richardson says climate change and global warming are real and man made, to an extent. And while it might not be an immediate threat, he said, it is a serious long term problem.

Richardson also believes that Florida should be working to completely transition to clean energy over the next 10 to 20 years.

Education

When it comes to teacher pay, Richardson agrees with Gillum that they aren’t paid enough. But the two don’t see eye to eye when it comes to addressing the issue.

“Unlike Andrew Gillum, I can’t promise that we’re going to be able to pay teachers $10,000 more overnight,” said Richardson. “That’s going to be a long process and it involves local communities because we’re talking about local property taxes there to fund the school districts.”

But Richardson definitely wants to put more money into public education.

“At this time education eats up about 18 percent of the $88.7 billion annual budget [in Florida],” Richardson said. “I would like to see that increased to maybe 20 or 21 percent in maybe the first four years of my administration. And with that increased funding we might be able to incrementally begin paying teachers more.”

Richardson also said increasing substitute teacher pay would be a priority for his administration.

“I think some of the problems that we’re facing immediately are the recent passage of HB 7055 and HB 7069, which are diverting funds that were intended for public schools to privately managed charter schools,” said Richardson. “Some of them are considered public charter schools, but they are privately managed. My priority would be first to adequately fund our public schools. I’m not opposed to the idea and the concept of charter schools, but as far as funding,  our first priority should be our public schools.”

When it comes to education funding, Richardson thinks dealing with Florida’s overcrowded prison system could be part of the solution.

“Probably 50 percent of the people serving time here in Florida now are doing so on non-violent charges,” said Richardson. “Maybe we need to begin releasing a lot of our prison population and using some of the money we save and divert that to education.”

Another priority for Richardson would be an investment in vocational training and education. “I would like to see a commitment of maybe even a billion dollars toward that,” he said.

Immigration

Richardson strongly disagrees with Gillum’s call to abolish the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“My position on immigration is I want a sane and humane policy. I don’t believe in putting kids in cages or separating children from their parents. I also don’t believe that we need a wall. That’s absolutely absurd,” Richardson said. “But the existing immigration laws that we have should be enforced and we need an arm to enforce those laws.”

Richardson says sanctuary cities aren’t an issue in the Sunshine State. “We don’t have them in Florida,” he said. “I mean that’s Republican rhetoric. There are no true sanctuary cities anywhere in Florida.”

Guns

Richardson said he’s not a gun owner, but he comes from a family of avid hunters and he’s a strong supporter of the second amendment.

“I believe that everybody has the right to protect themselves and everybody has the right to own firearms,” said Richardson. “Like I said, personally I don’t. I never have.”

But, Richardson does think the NRA has too much influence in politics these days.

Richardson opposes the use of bump stocks, and he says he’s open minded to the idea of an assault weapons ban. But, for Richardson, the best way to address the nation’s problem with gun violence is to improve our system of background checks.

“The whole gun issue with this country isn’t what kind of arms someone owns. It’s really about doing better background checks,” Richardson said. “More thorough background checks. Especially identifying people with mental illnesses. Every mass shooting in this country involves somebody with emotional and mental problems. And that’s probably where we need to do a better job of background checks for these individuals.”

Felon Voting Rights

Richardson strongly believes that former felons should be able to vote.

“Florida’s ridiculous policies allow the governor and other cabinet officers to decide who has the right,” said Richardson. “If you’ve served your time, you’ve paid your debt to society. You’re a full citizen again and you should have the right to vote.”

The Election

“This race isn’t about Bernie Sanders, it’s not about Donald Trump,” Richardson said. “This is about our future, Florida’s future.”

But Richardson believes Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis will probably make the election about the left versus the right and politicians in Washington.

“We can govern ourselves,” said Richardson. “We don’t need Donald Trump telling us who to vote for or Bernie Sanders coming down here with his Christmas wish list.”

“I think most people in Florida would describe themselves, they might be maybe a little center left or a little center right, but most people would probably describe themselves as moderate and pragmatic,” Richardson said. “That’s what the Richardson-Argenziano ticket is presenting. We want to be the centrist ticket for Florida’s future.”

“I would ask Floridians to take a look at myself and Nancy Argenziano,” said Richardson. “Although I’ve never been elected to public office, I have served on local township committees and things. We have more state experience on this Reform Party ticket than either major party at this point.”

Richardson said he probably won’t be able to compete with Gillum and DeSantis when it comes to raising money. But he plans to use the money he raises wisely. As of Thursday, August 30, he had raised $33,545.02, according to the Florida Division of Elections. But Richardson expects to raise as much as $200,000 by November.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.