February 13, 2018

In testy debate, Corcoran, Gillum clash on immigration


image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-02-14/d67d7e99-9c5e-4377-b8d4-04bb160f8794.png
Andrew Gillum, left, and Richard Corcoran, right, with debate moderators Troy Kinsey of BayNews 9 and Gary Fineout of AP.

 The fight of the century? It was more like the hype of the century.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum staged their highly-promoted debate over illegal immigration in Tallahassee on Tuesday night.

Gillum, 38, is an announced Democratic candidate for governor and would be the first African-American to hold the state's highest office. Corcoran, 52, is a Republican state lawmaker from Land O'Lakes who's expected to run and who challenged Gillum to a faceoff three weeks ago.

Corcoran repeatedly called illegal immigrants a threat to public safety, and Gillum accused Corcoran of exploiting the issue in a TV ad to stir racial and ethnic divisions, and demanded Corcoran take the ad off the air.

"Richard's Corcoran's Florida? I don't want my kids to grow up in it," Gillum said in his closing statement. "We're bigger than that. We're better than that."

In his closing, Corcoran knocked on a wooden lectern to suggest a police officer knocking on a door and telling parents that a child has been killed by an illegal immigrant.

"A completely and utterly needless and unnecessary death. Nobody should experience that," Corcoran said.

Throughout the debate, Corcoran defended his support for a law that banned so-called sanctuary cities. But after passing the House, the bill (HB 9) quickly stalled in the Senate.

Their 45-minute debate, live-streamed on the candidates' Facebook pages, took place in a sterile TV studio in Tallahassee with no live broadcast and no studio audience.

Both men stuck to talking points and played to base supporters. Their encounter touched on Jim Crow laws, Trayvon Martin, and Japanese internment camps and deaths of multiple women in cases involving undocumented immigrants.

It was a theatrical warm-up act for a pair of ambitious politicians who have never run for statewide office. It drew a crowd of two dozen reporters and gave both men what they crave the most: free media coverage.

Corcoran and Gillum don't have very much in common, but they are mired deep in political obscurity. A recent poll by the University of North Florida found that 78 percent of voters have not heard of Corcoran and 81 percent have not heard of Gillum.

Gillum repeatedly criticized Corcoran's TV ad that shows a teenage girl stalked and shot by a hoodie-wearing male attacker. Corcoran did not respond and instead accused Gillum of refusing to take a position on a "sanctuary state" bill in the House.

The debate was mostly about a Corcoran priority, HB 9, that sought to prohibit so-called "sanctuary cities" in Florida that refuse requests by federal authorities to detain undocumented immigrants who otherwise would be released.

After passing the House, the bill headed to a disinterested Senate, where two Miami-area Republicans, both Hispanics, blocked a committee vote.

Gillum called America a nation of immigrants and noted that Corcoran himself was born in Toronto where his father worked for the U.S. State Department).

"I don't have anything against Canadians, by the way," Gillum said.

"I'm not an immigrant. I'm a natural born American citizen," replied Corcoran, whose parents were World War II veterans. "To say I'm an immigrant is you playing politics and using perjoratives in the worst possible way."

They battled over words. Corcoran chided Gillum for using the term "undocumented immigrants" and said they should be called "illegal aliens."

"Illegals is not a noun," Gillum shot back, accusing Corcoran of trying to "dehumanize" immigrants.

— With reporting by Elizabeth Koh and Emily L. Mahoney

Immigration showdown: First debate of 2018 Florida governor's race Tuesday night

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-02-12/35a2848c-7a84-4a88-8a51-145e555c470a.png
A screen grab from a video Richard Corcoran tweeted in preparation for the debate

Surely Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, intended to generate buzz with his explosive first campaign ad last month, but he's getting extra bang for his buck with a debate scheduled for Tuesday night with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

After Corcoran released an incendiary TV ad in late January that depicted a white woman being shot in a suburban Florida neighborhood by an "illegal immigrant," Gillum, who is running for governor as a Democrat, criticized him via Twitter. Corcoran then challenged him to a debate over the issue. Corcoran has repeatedly called Tallahassee a "sanctuary city" and has made this issue a centerpiece of the 2018 session in a classic Trump-era appeal to Republican base voters.

But this debate is anything but typical, as Corcoran technically isn't running for governor yet because he has not announced his candidacy. What's more, the debate will center around "sanctuary cities," which the Florida House tried to ban in a bill that has severely stalled the Senate anyway.

Even still, Tuesday night will be an opportunity for both candidates, neither of whom are early front-runners, to get their messages out and highlight their firmly held ideologies — which are essentially complete opposites.

The debate is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. and last 45 minutes. It's being held in Tallahassee and will be broadcast on Facebook Live at both Corcoran's and Gillum's Facebook pages.

Follow the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau's coverage for related stories and analysis during and after the debate.

November 09, 2017

Levine touts fundraising in month before entering Florida governor's race


Philip Levine, the newest entrant into Florida's Democratic race for governor, collected more than $1 million for his political committee in October, according to his campaign.

Levine, a multi-millionaire who formally launched his candidacy last week, raised a little less than $900,000 and donated a little more than $100,000 to his All About Florida committee, his campaign said Thursday, touting his total haul so far: about $5.8 million. 

None of the candidates' monthly financial reports, either for their campaign or committee accounts, have yet to be posted by to the Florida Division of Elections' website, because they're not due until Monday. Levine didn't have a campaign account yet because he wasn't officially in the race.

"In the year ahead -- as more Floridians learn about Philip and his progressive vision for our state -- we believe voters will continue to provide us with the necessary resources to take our message to every corner of the state, from the Panhandle down to the Keys," Christian Ulvert, a Levine senior adviser, said in a statement.

The only other Democratic candidate who has announced his October fundraising, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, said Tuesday that he drew about $80,000. Gillum brought in a new finance director last month after losing his campaign manager and deputy campaign manager. Gillum's fundraising languished over the summer after an FBI investigation into City Hall became public.

"With under one year until Election Day 2018, Mayor Gillum and our entire team around the state are thrilled about our grassroots fundraising momentum," Gillum's campaign said in a statement. "Everyday Floridians are giving us the resources we need to communicate with our voters through the primary and general election next fall, and we're excited for the road ahead."

Gillum, who has said he's not the target of the investigation, took in a single contribution in October, for $2,500, to his Forward Florida committee, according to its website.

Last month, former Tallahassee Rep. Gwen Graham brought in more than $180,000 for her campaign and about $165,000 for her committee, Our Florida, her campaign said Thursday, bringing her total raised thus far to more than $4 million.

"From Pensacola to Key West, Floridians are fed up with Trump-style politics and they are engaged like never before," Graham said in a statement that added she has received contributions from more than 10,000 individuals, a "milestone." "Our campaign is building a coalition of Floridians from every part of this state and every community. That's how we won in 2014 and that's how we're going to turn Florida blue in 2018."

Orlando entrepreneur Chris King's campaign said it raised nearly $152,000 in October. His committee, Rise and Lead, Florida, raked in about $55,000 during the month, for a total of about $2.7 million since launching the campaign. The committee has about $1.6 million cash on hand, the campaign said.

This post has been updated to include Graham's and King's campaign fundraising.

October 03, 2017

Gillum campaign names new finance director after summer shake-up



Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has brought in a new finance director in an effort to revitalize his campaign's fundraising, which languished over the summer.

Gillum's campaign announced Tuesday it had hired Akilah Ensley, a Democratic political advocate who is also a lifestyle coach. Ensley's political resume includes work on President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign and on the U.S. Senate campaigns for Kay Hagan and Erskine Bowles in North Carolina, Gillum's campaign said.

"She brings a wealth of knowledge to the Gillum campaign, including numerous statewide campaigns in the Southeast," Gillum campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan said in a statement. "With the Democratic primary under a year away, her addition comes at a critical time, and we’re thrilled that she’ll be leading the charge as we run a strong people-powered campaign to take back Florida.”

The hire comes three months after Gillum's campaign was left leaderless when both campaign manager Phillip Thompson and deputy campaign manager and finance director Brice Barnes left.

No formal replacement has yet been hired for Thompson. Burgan has taken on more day-to-day work in the interim.

The Gillum campaign explained the shake-up as a typical "reset" in the year prior to the primary election; however, Thompson's and Barnes' departures came after Gillum saw weeks of relatively low fundraising totals in May and June.

Continue reading "Gillum campaign names new finance director after summer shake-up" »

July 07, 2017

UPDATED: Andrew Gillum parts with his campaign manager, finance director

Gillum logo@ByKristenMClark

The top two people in charge of Democrat Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign are out, barely four months into Gillum’s run and following weeks of relatively low fundraising totals.

With both campaign manager Phillip Thompson and deputy campaign manager and finance director Brice Barnes leaving, it’s unclear who’s now in charge of Gillum’s campaign.

A person familiar with the campaign described Barnes’ departure as an “amicable” one and told the Herald/Times Thursday evening she “remains a trusted friend and ally to both the mayor and the campaign team.”

Gillum’s campaign on Friday publicly confirmed Barnes was leaving and also announced Thompson was out the door, too.

“Both have been instrumental to our campaign’s early success, including raising $1.2 million in the first three months, earning more than two dozen endorsements around the state, and putting Mayor Gillum on the path to success,” campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan said in a statement. “We wish them both the best in their next pursuits.”

Burgan declined to comment further on why specifically Thompson was leaving and who would replace him to manage the campaign.


It’s not uncommon for political campaigns to shake up their staff from time to time, but the simultaneous loss of Thompson and Barnes — who was in charge of raising money for the campaign — is striking and comes at a critical juncture.

Full story here.

*originally posted 10:26 a.m.

June 27, 2017

Graham, Gillum and King push for rejection and alternatives to Senate health care bill

Graham petitionsAs Gov. Rick Scott and other Florida Republicans scramble in D.C. today to try to understand the impact of the proposed Senate healthcare bill on the state, three Democratic candidates for governor offered their own feedback Tuesday. 

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham delivered a three-foot stack of petitions to the Tallahassee office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, signed by 4,000 people, urging him to reject the proposal because it will hurt more Floridians than it will help.

"This bill is heartless,'' Graham said, urging Rubio to transcend the partisanship surrounding the issue and reject it for Florida. "He doesn't represent the Republican Party. he doesn't represent Donald J. Trump. He represents the people of Florida and that's why he should vote against this bill."

She was joined by Dr. Louis St. Petery, a Tallahassee pediatrician, who feared that the Medicaid cuts and restructuring in the Senate bill will leave thousands of children in the state without care.

"Don't forget, 52 percent of live births in Florida are paid for by Medicaid,'' he said. "We are not talking about an insignificant number of kids. Over one-third of Florida's children are on Medicaid and pulling the rug out from under that many kids and that many families will be devastating to not only the child but the rest of us in society who have to pay for their health care costs."

Graham said she was "very concerned" about the block grants proposed in the Senate health care bill because they are "not good for Florida" because she has no confidence that Republicans in Washington or Tallahassee will use them "in the best interests of the people of Florida." 

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum suggested the answer is a statewide constitutional amendment declaring healthcare a right. 

"It's time for Florida to finally enshrine healthcare as a right for all,'' he said a statement. "There is a public trust for the government to care for its citizens, and our state can no longer be ambiguous about that moral obligation. When healthcare is under attack in Washington, we're going to lean into the challenge of healthcare in the Sunshine State and live our values."

Gillum's communications director Geoff Burgan said that if elected, Gillum will "push the Legislature to put this on the ballot in 2019, and if they fail to do so he'll campaign for it as well."

"There's an added onus on the Legislature to make sure that health care is actually affordable and accessible,'' he said. "This is a long conversation about health care and it's being brought to the forefront."

He said that Gillum supports the idea because "Floridians have a right to make their voices heard, and he's committed to raising the funds necessary to do that,'' Burgan said. "We'll also be submitting it to the [Constitution Revision Commission.]"

Graham dismissed the constitutional amendment as a practical way to effect change. "I think healthcare is a right but I want to make sure the way we go about it as doable." 

Democrat candidate Chris King called the Senate healthcare proposal unacceptable   and Tuesday condemned the Medicaid cuts and the treatment of older Floridians. If the Senate plan becomes law, he has pledged not to seek waivers allow health insurers to discriminate against people with existing conditions or to exclude coverage of contraceptive care, said King spokesman Hari Sevugan.     

Graham blasted Gov. Rick Scott for failing to take Medicaid expansion while he is now complaining that the state is not getting enough Medicaid money. She said that has resulted in the Affordable Care Act not working as well as it was intended. Graham supported changes to the Affordable Care Act as a member of Congress and said Congress should continue to pursue fixes, not repeal.

"Congress has not done its job,'' she said. "Why? It's the politics. I will never let politics get in the way of doing what's right for the people of Florida." 

NOTE: This post has been updated. 

June 23, 2017

Andrew Gillum: FBI says I'm 'not the focus of investigation' into city of Tallahassee

Gillum 050917


Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said in a formal statement Friday that he spoke with the FBI last week about its probe into redevelopment deals in the city, and he said FBI officials "assured me I was not the focus of an investigation."

Gillum's statement was distributed to media through a city of Tallahassee spokesman, not Gillum's 2018 Democratic campaign for governor.

His lengthy comments come a day after the Associated Press reported that the FBI had launched its investigation, which the AP said involves prominent business owners and developers in Tallahassee, including a former campaign treasurer for Gillum.

MORE: "Federal authorities launch probe into city of Tallahassee"

The AP said it received copies of federal grand jury subpoenas through a records request. The subpoenas seek documents from the city and a local redevelopment agency. Gillum was not named in the subpoenas, the AP reported, and the subpoenas did not reveal what potential wrongdoing federal authorities were specifically investigating.

Gillum's only comment Thursday had come through his gubernatorial campaign, when political spokesman Geoff Burgan said: "We expect the city to respond fully and completely to the subpoena, and we hope the situation is resolved quickly."

On Friday, Gillum himself offered more details in his official capacity as city mayor. Here's his complete statement:

“Last week the FBI approached me about several people and businesses here in Tallahassee. I spoke with them, and told them they could expect both the City and my personal cooperation with their investigation. They assured me I was not the focus of an investigation, and that they would be moving quickly with their work. 

“I take any allegation of corruption in the City of Tallahassee very seriously, and I am committed to rooting it out in its entirety. If corruption has taken place in our city, those parties must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. We will not tolerate, enable, or turn a blind eye to corruption.

“While no one likes the City being under the FBI’s scrutiny, in light of what is happening nationally, we must remember that the FBI is here to protect us and we must aid them in their work. They have my full support and cooperation as the Mayor, and the full cooperation of the City of Tallahassee.”

In responding to questions from the Herald/Times, a city spokesman added that Gillum was alone when he spoke with FBI officials last week and he has not retained a personal attorney.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

*This post has been updated with additional comment from the city.

June 22, 2017

Federal authorities launch probe into city of Tallahassee


From Gary Fineout at the Associated Press:

In a move that could shake-up next year's race for Florida governor, the FBI has launched an investigation into redevelopment deals involving prominent business owners and developers in the state capital.
Federal grand jury subpoenas this month seek five years of records from the city of Tallahassee and a local redevelopment agency that involve high profile projects and developers including an ally of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
Gillum, one of several Democrats in the 2018 governor's race, is not named in the subpoenas to the city and agency, which were provided Thursday to The Associated Press in response to a public records request.
"We expect the city to respond fully and completely to the subpoena and we hope the situation is resolved quickly," Geoff Burgan, a spokesman for Gillum's campaign, told the AP. 
The subpoenas ask for any documents and communications between the redevelopment agency, the city, their officials, and a list of people and corporations. The material is to be turned over to the grand jury in July. 
The companies cited have developed the Edison, an upscale restaurant frequented by lawmakers and lobbyists in a city-owned building; and Hotel Duval, which features a steakhouse and a rooftop bar blocks from the capitol. 
The Edison received financial assistance from both the city and the local Community Redevelopment Agency. Gillum sits on the agency board and one of the owners of the restaurant is a lobbyist who once served as his campaign treasurer. 
The list of individuals, corporations and entities in both subpoenas include donors to Gillum and a political committee backing his run for governor. One of them is the chief executive of a company that has been setting up medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. 
Amy Alexander, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office for the Northern District of Florida, said she had no public information about the investigation. 
Lewis Shelley, the Tallahassee city attorney, said by email that the FBI has requested records and "that other than the request for information by subpoena, the City has no further information on this matter. City staff is fully cooperating and has begun gathering the requested records." 
Gillum has been viewed as a rising star for Florida Democrats, and had a speaking slot at last year's Democratic National Convention. He was just 23 and still a student at Florida A&M when he became the youngest person elected to the Tallahassee city commission in 2003. He was elected mayor in 2014. 
But he has already weathered controversy during his bid for governor. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Gillum used $5,000 in city money to buy software from a Democratic Party vendor to aid in sending out campaign emails. He paid the city back and apologized after the report. 

Photo credit: Tallahassee Democrat

*This post has been updated.

Gillum wants state law so women can maintain no-cost birth control if Obamacare is repealed

Gillum 050917


Criticizing President Donald Trump's administration for wanting to "turn back the clock and take essential healthcare away from women" by rolling back parts of Obamacare, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Thursday will propose protecting women's access to free birth control through a new state law instead.

“As governor, I'm going to stand with women and ensure that neither the government nor their employer stand between a woman and her doctor in making the critical health decisions that affect her life. This is an essential part of providing better quality care and economic security and stability to more Floridians," Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, said in a statement provided to the Herald/Times.

Enacting such a measure would require earning support from Florida's Republican-led Legislature, which would prove challenging -- particularly in the more conservative-minded House.

The proposal is an addition to a health care platform Gillum first unveiled last month in Tallahassee. At the time, he called for state protections to prohibit health insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, charging higher premiums for those conditions and charging higher premiums for women than men.

Such safeguards, along with the no-cost birth control coverage, are currently protected under the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare -- which congressional Republicans are seeking to dismantle and replace with their own plan. (The U.S. House has already passed its version; Senate Republicans are crafting theirs behind closed doors, which has drawn criticism and protests from Democrats.)

RELATED from PolitiFact: "7 questions about the Senate health care bill and transparency"

Meanwhile, three weeks ago, various national media reported that White House officials had drafted a rule to rollback the requirement under Obamacare that forces religious employers to cover birth control in health care plans -- which sparked Gillum to add the issue to his health care policy platform.

Two female doctors from Miami praised Gillum's idea in a statement provided by his campaign.

"Access to contraception is such an important part of a woman's health," said Dr. Annette Pelaez, an obstetrician who works at Miami MDs For Women. "This common-sense proposal would ensure that women in Florida can continue making responsible health decisions motivated by wellness, instead of by cost or coverage."

"There is no doubt that the women our practice sees would be harmed by Trump's proposal to reduce access to contraception," agreed Dr. Roselyn Bonilla, a gynecologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. "That makes Gillum's proposal all the more important. As a physician, I'm glad that someone is willing to put the medical rights of women first, above politics."

Gillum is among at least three Democratic contenders seeking to replace Republican Gov. Rick Scott after next year's election. The other candidates are former Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando businessman Chris King -- although Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando trial attorney John Morgan could also run.

Among Republicans, the only declared candidate so far is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, but he's likely to face a challenge from House Speaker Richard Corcoran, of Land O'Lakes; Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, of Clearwater; and/or U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, of Ponte Vedra Beach.

Photo credit: 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaks at a press conference in Tallahassee in May. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

June 14, 2017

Alcee Hastings endorses Andrew Gillum for Florida governor

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, has endorsed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in his 2018 race for Florida governor.
Hastings, who has served 13 terms, is the longest serving member of the Democratic Florida delegation and represents a heavily left-leaning Broward/Palm Beach district. Hastings chose Gillum over his former Congressional colleague, Gwen Graham, and Orlando businessman Chris King who are also running. This is the first endorsement by a sitting member of Congress from Florida in the race so far.
Here is Hastings' statement from the Gillum campaign press release:
“We live in historically troubling times, and last year's election result proved that the stakes are high. I feel it necessary to make my voice heard early in this process, so that Democrats and all Floridians understand what is at stake in the 2018 election. For the last 20 years, under Republican rule in Tallahassee, communities of color across the state have suffered from a lack of job opportunities, poor access to quality public education, and access to quality and affordable healthcare. As Democrats, we need to make significant changes, and in this spirit, I believe that Mayor Andrew Gillum is the right choice to lead our state.
“Mayor Gillum is an innovative pragmatic progressive leader that Florida desperately needs to confront our biggest challenges: attacking climate change, rebuilding our economy, protecting access to healthcare, and revitalizing public education. He has shown the courage to stand up for what he believes in, and he has never hesitated to give a voice to those who need one most. Floridians can trust Andrew Gillum to rebuild our state into one that works for everyone.
“There are outstanding Democrats that have announced or are mentioned as running for governor in our state.  My support of Andrew should not be construed as being against others.  I will vigorously support the Democratic nominee for governor and do all that I can to ensure that our state goes from Red to Blue in 2018."
This post was updated to reflect that Hastings is the Democratic dean of the Florida delegation.