June 22, 2018

St. Petersburg mayor blasts attack ads on Gwen Graham, calls them "dirty Republican tricks"

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Four of the Democratic candidates for governor, clockwise from top left: Philip Levine, Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and Chris King.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman blasted attack ads on Gwen Graham funded by a secret money group that supports one of her opponents.

Taking to Twitter and Facebook, Kriseman called the ads "dirty Republican tricks and tactics."

"It is disappointing to see an out-of-state secret money Super PAC come in to our city and attack a fellow progressive Democrat," Kriseman wrote. "St. Petersburg Democrats will reject smear campaigns. They want something to vote for - not against."

The Collective, a group that works to elect black candidates around the country and supports Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, is airing a new round of ads accusing Graham of not being liberal enough. They're airing this week on network and cable channels in Tampa Bay.

Collective SuperPAC, an arm of The Collective, has chosen not to divulge its donors.

St. Petersburg was the first city in the nation to limit how much money someone can give to PACs involved in local elections.

Kriseman has not endorsed anyone in the governor's race. Both Graham and Gillum stumped for him last year.
 
Geoff Burgan, a Gillum spokesman, has said the campaign welcomes the Collective’s help.
 
“They’re working to level the financial playing field between us and our multi-millionaire and billionaire opponents - one of whom has a net worth 11,000 times that of Andrew’s, and another whose income comes from her family’s stock holdings,” Burgan told the Times/Herald Thursday morning.
 

May 24, 2018

The Republican Governors Association has a target in Florida: Gwen Graham

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A screenshot of the Republican Governors Association website from Wednesday, May 23, 2018.

If there is a candidate for Florida Governor that the Republican Governors Association doesn't seem to like, it's Gwen Graham.

Nine of the association's latest news releases from Florida take aim at the the former Congresswoman, who is considered a front-runner but slightly behind in polls to former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

The releases, all in the month of May, have the typical headlines you'd expect from members of the opposite party, calling Graham "desperate" or "phony" or having been "caught misleading voters." 

The association, whose stated purpose is "electing and supporting Republican governors," apparently has someone surreptitiously recording the candidate. Its latest release features a video by someone secretly recording while asking Graham a question about taxes at a campaign event.

The RGA hasn't focused solely on Graham, though. The last time they did a press release that targeted another candidate was back in March, when they did a post mentioning that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is "catching fire" among Democrats. (They previously noted that Gillum is "surging" among Democrats.)

Why the focus on Graham? The RGA didn't respond to a request for comment. The current chairman of the RGA is Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for senate, was vice chairman of the organization last year.

As for Graham's camp, they're brushing it off:

"Focusing so many of their attacks on Democrat Gwen Graham, seems like 'R.G.A.' really stands for 'Republican Graham Anxiety,'" Graham campaign manager Julia Woodward said in a statement. "The Republican Governor’s Association fears 20 years of one-party rule is coming to an end in Florida, and they clearly know Gwen is the one who’s going to end the Republican lock on the governor’s office in November."

May 11, 2018

Former Florida Democratic Party chairs denounce attack ad aimed at Graham

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Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who is running for governor.

Three former leaders of the Florida Democratic Party denounced a new attack ad against Gwen Graham from a group that supports one of her rivals in the governor's race, Andrew Gillum.

"This is the type of unethical, disgusting trick we’ve come to expect from Republicans in Tallahassee," former party Chairman Rod Smith said in a statement, sent to the media by Graham's campaign. "To see Andrew Gillum embrace secret-money attacks is disappointing and disqualifies him from earning my support.

"If he is truly the progressive Democrat he claims to be, Gillum should immediately call for his secret-money allies to immediately take this ad off the air."

Smith was referring to a $782,000 ad buy by The Collective, an organization that supports black candidates running for office around the country. The largest donors to its SuperPac are George Soros and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

The ad paints Graham, a former Congresswoman from Tallahassee, as not liberal enough to be governor. It's scheduled to run on network TV in West Palm Beach and in cable markets across the state starting Thursday, according to Politico.

"We must stand together and unite the Democratic Party," former Chairman Karen Thurman said in the same statement put out by the Graham campaign. "After 20 years of Republican rule in Tallahassee, there’s too much on the line for Democrats to attack each other."

Former Chairman Terrie Brady said in the statement that Democrats running for governor "should be running on their ideas for Florida's future."

"They should not be attacking other Democratic candidates," she said. "I hope that Mr. Gillum and the other contenders will take a positive approach going forward."

Gillum's communications director on Thursday brushed off the criticism.

"In this race no candidate will be able to run from their voting record, but if we had a choice in this ad, we'd want Mayor Gillum's progressive record to be the focus," Geoff Burgan said. "The Graham campaign seems to be uncomfortable with her own voting record."

May 10, 2018

Gwen Graham fires back at negative ad by group that supports Andrew Gillum

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Democratic candidates for governor of Florida, clockwise from upper left: Philip Levine, Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, Chris King.

Gwen Graham's campaign is fighting back against a negative ad hitting Florida airwaves that's sponsored by a super PAC that supports opponent Andrew Gillum.

“I am disgusted that Andrew Gillum would allow a secret-money group to run a false attack against a fellow Democrat,” Graham said in response to the ad.

The ad was paid for by The Collective, a PAC that supports black candidates. It will air in West Pam Beach and in cable markets throughout the state, according to Politico.

According to Politico, the PAC is spending $782,000 for the 30-second spot. But the PAC's Federal Elections Commission reports show it's only taken in $167,000

The spot criticizes Graham, a former Congresswoman from Tallahassee, for not being liberal enough to be governor.

"Gwen Graham says she is the progressive Democrat for governor," the ad says. "But while in Congress she voted against President Obama 52 percent of the time. Graham trashed Obamacare. Voted with the big banks. And she voted for the Keystone XL pipeline - twice. Graham stood with Republican leaders over President Obama and Florida Democrats. Gwen Graham is not the progressive she claims to be."

That's been a consistent theme for Gillum, who is trailing in the polls but hopes to gain traction among the four Democratic candidates for governor by appearing the most liberal. 

The Graham campaign shot back by noting that Gillum denounced "dark money flowing into Florida" in a February tweet.

The Gillum camp responded to the ad by doubling down on their criticism:

"In this race no candidate will be able to run from their voting record, but if we had a choice in this ad, we’d want Mayor Gillum’s progressive record to be the focus," communications director Geoff Burgan said. "The Graham campaign seems to be uncomfortable with her own voting record."

April 16, 2018

Philip Levine, Gwen Graham say Trump should be impeached if he fires Mueller (Updated)

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@alextdaugherty

Florida governor hopeful and former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine joined the Democratic pile-on of Donald Trump on Monday, calling for the president's impeachment if he fires special counsel Robert Mueller

"As Donald Trump heads to Miami today, we need to send a clear message that his efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation from continuing will be met with full force from Floridians," Levine advisor Christian Ulvert said in a fundraising email. "The GOP-controlled Congress likely won't do it and we need Democratic Governors in states like Florida to stand up to the D.C. insiders." 

Levine's stance on potential impeachment for Trump puts him between the two other Democrats running in the primary. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum called for Trump's immediate impeachment last year while former Rep. Gwen Graham called Trump a bully in a digital ad released earlier this month, though she stopped short of calling for impeachment at the time. 

Calling for Trump's impeachment could energize the base in contested Democratic primaries around the country, though an attempt to impeach Trump late last year garnered just 58 votes in the 435 member House of Representatives. 

UPDATE 4:50pm: Graham also said Trump should be impeached if he fires Mueller. 

"The House should start impeachment proceedings within 60 seconds of Trump firing Mueller," Graham said in an email.

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

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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

@PatriciaMazzei

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

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@ByKristenMClark

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.