May 02, 2019

Democrats are coming to Broward as part of a national voting rights effort

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Broward County was ground zero for claims of election fraud, blown deadlines, lawsuits and incompetence during the 2018 election.

Now, Democrats are coming from Washington to hold hearings in Fort Lauderdale as part of a national effort to examine voting rights and election administration issues.

On Monday, four members of the Committee on House Administration, along with local Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alcee Hastings, will hold an official field hearing at the Broward County Governmental Center. Former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, who is leading an effort to register one million new voters ahead of the 2020 election, is among the witnesses.

Since taking control of the House in November, House Democrats, led by Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, had or are planning hearings and listening sessions in Brownsville, Texas, Atlanta, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Alabama and Washington, D.C. The Atlanta hearing included former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and Gillum ally Stacey Abrams, and Republicans argued that her testimony was being used to raise her political profile.

Democrats are using the hearings to build evidence for future legislation that would require certain states to obtain federal pre-clearance before changing any voting laws or practices. In a landmark 2013 case, the Supreme Court ruled that a provision in the Voting Rights Act designed to prevent laws or policies that deny people the right to vote based on race was unconstitutional. Since the decision, certain states have tried to pass voter ID laws or revived voter ID laws that were declared invalid by the federal government.

More here.

February 19, 2019

Andrew Gillum, United Teachers of Dade's pick for governor, featured on robocall endorsing union leadership


Back when the Florida gubernatorial primaries were in full swing last fall, Miami's teacher's union went out on a limb for Andrew Gillum -- against its Tallahassee union leadership's pick of Gwen Graham.

Gillum appears to have returned the favor. The former Democratic nominee for governor sent a robocall to Miami-Dade County Public Schools teachers on President's Day endorsing the incumbent leadership of UTD in Wednesday's union election.

"Hi, this Mayor Andrew Gillum calling on the behalf of UTD's Frontline Caucus," Gillum said in the message, praising the "incredible leadership" of president Karla Hernandez-Mats, vice president Tony White and secretary treasurer Mindy Grimes-Festge.

"When Karla and Tony and Mindy told me they had a bold plan to campaign for the largest teacher pay raise in Miami-Dade history, I said, 'Count me in,' because you all deserve it," he said. "And wow, the Frontline Caucus delivered."

Gillum went on to call the base 12.5 percent supplement that came out of a four-year, voter-approved referendum, which he endorsed on the campaign trial, a "pay increase." In annual pay raise negotiations, UTD and the school district agreed to a raise this year that yielded 0.8 percent to 1.1 percent more for teachers.

UTD's political action committee, Teachers for Public School Excellence, donated $40,000 to Gillum's committee Forward Florida just before the November election. UTD also hosted Gillum's election night watch party in Miami.

Only UTD members can vote in Wednesday's leadership election. Member teachers vote on ballots at their school site, which will be taken to Firefighter's Memorial Building, 8000 NW 21st St in Doral, for the tally around 3 p.m. Candidates run for three-year terms.

The Frontline caucus faces opposition from UTD's Progressive caucus, which has named Mari Corugedo, Harold Ford and David Moss to its executive board slate. Candidates Ricardo Ocampo and Joseph Howard are also running for president.

The Miami Herald has reached out to Hernandez-Mats for comment.

January 29, 2019

Andrew Gillum joins CNN as a political commentator


@alextdaugherty @elizabethrkoh

The election may be over, but Andrew Gillum isn’t leaving your television screen.

The former Florida gubernatorial candidate announced Tuesday he is joining CNN as a political commentator, the latest 2018 also-ran to snag a television gig.

“Thrilled to be joining CNN as a political commentator,” Gillum tweeted.

Gillum, whose recent meetings with Barack Obama and big-time Democratic donors fueled speculation about a 2020 bid for president, is still facing political trouble from his time as mayor of Tallahassee.

The CNN announcement comes on the heels of an advancing ethics complaint alleging Gillum flouted ethics laws on two trips in 2016. The trips, to Costa Rica and New York City, were taken with a lobbyist and former friend who is believed to be a center of an FBI investigation into public corruption in Tallahassee, and the second trip also included two undercover agents who were part of the investigation.

More here.

November 02, 2018

Independents will decide Florida’s statewide elections, but polling them is tricky



Independent voters are the white whale of Florida elections.

They cannot vote in closed primaries, so they didn’t play a part in electing Andrew Gillum or Ron DeSantis in August, and typically turn out in lower numbers in years when a president isn’t on the ballot.

But a national environment dominated by President Donald Trump, combined with record-breaking spending in the U.S. Senate race between Bill Nelson and Rick Scott, have focused the political world’s attention on Florida. The intense interest is reflected in an uptick among all voters in early voting, including independents.

Statewide polls conducted in the past month show a massive variance among voters who are not affiliated with the Democratic or Republican Party. One poll conducted by the University of North Florida this week shows Gillum with a 25 percentage point lead over DeSantis among independents and Nelson leading Scott by 17 points. Another poll conducted by CBS/YouGov this week shows DeSantis and Scott both winning independents by 13 percentage points.

and Nelson with slight leads within the margin of error. For example, the UNF poll showed Gillum with a 6 percentage point lead and Nelson with a 1 percentage point lead, while the CBS poll showed Gillum up by 1 percentage point and Nelson in a tie with Scott.

Accurately polling voters who don’t identify or aren’t registered with either party is a tricky proposition.

“When you’re dealing with small samples like that, it gets really difficult to get a good sense of what they’re doing exactly as a group,” said Michael Binder, the director of the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Library. “The margin of error for that is relatively high. That’s just a problem you have.”

More here.

October 30, 2018

Andrew Gillum is a "stone cold thief," Trump said on Fox News last night

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President Donald Trump called Andrew Gillum a "stone cold thief" during an interview on Fox News on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.

President Donald Trump called Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum a "stone cold thief" during an interview on Fox News last night, telling host Laura Ingraham that the Democratic nominee shouldn't be allowed to run for governor.

"Here's a guy that, in my opinion, is a stone cold thief, and his city, Tallahassee, is known as the most corrupt in Florida, and one of the most corrupt in the nation," Trump said.

Trump justified calling him a "thief," which he first did on Twitter on Monday, by bringing up the Hamilton ticket that was likely given to Gillum by an undercover FBI agent.

"The FBI offered him tickets at $1800 a piece and he took 'em," Trump said. "He took a trip with the same FBI agent. I guess he was posing as a developer or something. The man stone cold took this stuff. I don't even think he should be allowed to continue on with the race."

Trump also wondered how Gillum could be polling so well, saying that Gillum would turn Florida into Venezuela and that Gillum's Trump-endosrsed opponent, Republican Ron Desantis, is a "very good person."

"He's a disaster, and how he's even close to being tied is hard to believe," Trump said of Gillum.

You can watch the interview here.

With just a week left until the election, and Gillum continuing to hold a narrow lead in the polls, the rhetoric from Trump and his supporters has been heating up.

During a Monday press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump's "thief" tweet by saying Gillum "is under FBI investigation."

And former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani took to Twitter at 2:22 a.m. today to bash Gillum and the "sickenly (sic) biased" press.

The Florida governor's race might be the biggest race of the midterms, but there's a special reason why Trump is so interested in the outcome.

DeSantis only made a name for himself by frequently appearing on Fox News to defend Trump, and DeSantis did little to win the Republican primary besides receive Trump's endorsement.

If DeSantis loses, the effect on the 2020 presidential race will be "big time, big time," Former White House political strategist Steve Bannon told the Times before a speech to Republicans in Tampa last week.

"If Rick Scott was not governor, it would have been very hard for us to win Florida" in 2016, Bannon said.

Bannon, a right-wing firebrand, respected how formidable Gillum has been as a candidate, saying that "DeSantis is in the fight of his life."

"I think it’s going to come down to the wire on the last day," Bannon said. "Gillum’s proven that he’s a very tough competitor. … They may have miscalculated at first how tough Gillum was going to be. Gillum at the top of the ticket has made the Senate race more competitive and I think it’s made some of these House races more competitive."

Times staff writer William March contributed to this report.

October 23, 2018

FBI agents gave Andrew Gillum tickets to 'Hamilton,' refuting what campaign has said

OCTAVIO JONES | Times Florida Gubernatorial Democratic Andrew Gillum gives a speech to a packed crowd during the Florida Democratic Party rally held at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida on Monday, October 22, 2018.

Undercover FBI agents were the ones who gave Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum a ticket to the Broadway show Hamilton during a trip to New York City in 2016, according to a trove of records given to the ethics commission and released to the public today.

Text messages between Gillum and former lobbyist Adam Corey, who arranged outings with undercover agents looking into city corruption, were among more than 100 pages of records Corey gave the ethics commission, which is investigating trips to Costa Rica and New York that Gillum took in 2016.

Corey's lawyer, Chris Kise, released the records today, just two weeks before the election, because the state ethics commission issued a subpoena for the records just last week.

The text messages show that, contrary to what his campaign has said, Gillum knew the tickets came from "Mike Miller," who was an FBI agent posing as a developer looking into city corruption.

"Mike Miller and the crew have tickets for us for Hamilton tonight at 8 p.m.," Corey texted Gillum on Aug. 10, 2016.

"Awesome news about Hamilton," Gillum replied, according to the records.

The texts appear to refute what Gillum's campaign said just days after his unlikely win in the Democratic primary for Florida governor.

The campaign said in a Sept. 4 press release that Gillum's brother, Marcus, gave him the ticket.

"After the trip, Mayor Gillum learned Marcus Gillum had obtained that ticket in a swap with Adam Corey for a concert ticket," the campaign said.

Gillum's campaign repeated today that the ticket came from his brother.

"These records vindicate and add more evidence that at every turn I was paying my own way or was with my family, for all trips, including picking up tickets from my brother, Marcus, who was with a group of his own friends," Gillum said in a statement. "But this isn't about a Broadway show, it's about a sideshow, because Ron DeSantis and his associates have no vision, no healthcare plan, and are running the most false, negative campaign in Florida history. Floridians deserve better."

Questions about Gillum's trip to New York have dogged the candidate since the primary, with his Republican opponent, former Congressman Ron DeSantis, repeatedly linking Gillum to the FBI probe.

During Sunday's debate, DeSantis asked Gillum about the tickets.

"Did you pay for the Hamilton tickets?" DeSantis asked.

Gillum avoided directly answering the question.

"First of all, I am a grown man," Gillum replied. "My wife and I take vacations and we pay for our own vacations ... I don't take free trips from anybody. I'm a hard-working person, I know that may not fit your description of what you think people like me do, but I've worked hard for everything that I've gotten in my life."

Gillum and Corey have known each other since college, and the two were friends until last year, when Gillum said he wasn't speaking to him any more.

Kise said Corey was issued a subpoena for records on Oct. 15. The ethics complaint was filed against Gillum in June, and Gillum met with investigators in early September.

Kise wrote that Corey was releasing the records today because they were going to become public anyway.

"As reflected by those records, no criminal activity took place," Kise wrote. "Mr. Corey seeks, as he has sought in the past, to remove himself from the center of rampant and untoward speculation. Hopefully, disclosure of the actual facts will now permit him to do so, and to move forward with his life and career."

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.

Times/Herald staff writer Steve Contorno contributed to this report.

October 15, 2018

Tallahassee sees 90% power recovery after Michael. Will it help Andrew Gillum?

Gillum FB Live
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum gives an update on Hurricane Michael recovery via Facebook Live on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. [Lawrence Mower | Times]

Tallahassee's electric utility said it restored power to 90 percent of its customers Sunday night, meeting its goal just four days after Hurricane Michael knocked out service to nearly everyone in the city.

Schools and universities were reopening in the city Monday morning, and the water and wastewater systems that failed during the storm are now working properly, according to the city.

Roughly 20,000 customers still didn't have power last night, however.

The city's recovery could be a boost for Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor who's been criticized for how the city recovered from Hurricane Hermine in 2016. Hermine, a Category 1 storm, knocked out power to 80 percent of city customers, and the city took four days to reach 90 percent recovery.

While Tallahassee's mayor doesn't manage the city or its utility — that's the job of its city manger — it hasn't stopped his Republican opponent Ron DeSantis from criticizing Gillum for Hermine.

The Republican Party of Florida has aired ads saying that Gillum "refused help" after that storm, which Politifact rated "mostly false."

October 08, 2018

Tallahassee has asked for hundreds more linemen for Hurricane Michael, Andrew Gillum says

Andrew Gillum EOC
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaks to the media in advance of Hurricane Michael on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. (Lawrence Mower - Tampa Bay Times)

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum says the city has asked for hundreds more linemen in advance of Hurricane Michael's landfall, addressing one of the chief criticisms in his campaign for governor.

Gillum said the city has asked for between 500 and 600 more linemen, six times what the city's electric utility normally has on staff. He said the city expects at least 100 linemen to be ready before Michael makes landfall Tuesday night.

The city manager is responsible for running the city, while the mayor's position is mostly ceremonial. But Gillum touted the efforts of the city following Hurricane Hermine in 2016, which left the vast majority of the city's residents without power for days.

Gillum has been criticized for not accepting help from Florida Power and Light utility crews after that storm.  The decision was made by the city's utilities director.

After Hermine, Gillum said the city started signing mutual aid agreements with private utility companies, something that he said did not exist in 2016.

"We broke that wall down following Hermine, where you now get much more quick coordination between the public and the private utilities," Gillum said following a Monday afternoon press conference.

He said that the city is still a second-tier priority to private utility companies like FPL.

"The privates (utilities) have to first respond to other privates," Gillum said. "Once those supports are exhausted ... they then become available to us. We're still secondary in support.

Michael appears to be a much more menacing storm than Hermine, which was a Category 1 when it made landfall in 2016, the first storm to hit the area in three decades. Michael is already a Category 1, with projections that it could become a Category 3 before it hits the Florida Panhandle.

October 03, 2018

New RGA ad again hits Gillum on $1 billion corporate tax hike, comparing it to a car wreck

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The Republican Governor's Association is again hitting Andrew Gillum on his proposed $1 billion corporate tax hike for to pay for education.

The Republican Governor's Association is out with another TV ad hitting Democrat Andrew Gillum on his proposed $1 billion corporate tax hike to pay for education, comparing it to a car wreck that would bring the state's economy "to a sudden stop."

"Florida’s economy is running at full speed," the ad says. "37% growth since 2010. But Andrew Gillum’s ideas would bring it to a sudden stop."

Politifact in September rated the claim that Gillum would raise taxes by $1 billion "mostly true," but noted it lacked context. That same context is also left out of this ad.

Gillum, who is running for governor, has said he wants to spend the money on raising the starting teacher salary to $50,000, increasing the pay for veteran teachers to the national average, and on early childhood education programs.

Here's what else Politifact said about the RGA's September ad:

The RGA's ad is running statewide on broadcast and cable as part of a $10 million ad effort. This ad is the third ad in the campaign, according to an RGA spokesman.

While tax hikes are clearly unpopular with Republicans, they're likely especially unpopular with the RGA.

A Wall Street Journal story last year found that the RGA (and its Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association) are mostly funded by corporations, who use the two associations as loopholes to get around state campaign finance laws.

October 02, 2018

Newest Obama endorsements highlight Gillum, snub downballot candidates



Former President Barack Obama had Twitter abuzz Monday as he rolled out dozens of endorsements in key state and federal races nationwide. 

Obama endorsed Andrew Gillum in the high-profile governor's race, emphasizing the importance Democrats are 

In Florida, Obama also endorsed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, congressional candidates Stephanie Murphy, Chris Hunter, Nancy Soderberg and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Florida Senate candidates Janet Cruz, Annette Taddeo and David Perez, and Florida House candidates Nick Duran, Fentrice Driskell and Javier Fernandez. 

Missing from the list? Democratic candidates for all three non-gubernatorial cabinet offices -- Nicole "Nikki" Fried for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Jeremy Ring for Chief Financial Officer and Sean Shaw for Attorney General. 

"The unfortunate reality is that our race likely isn't on his radar," said Anthony Pardal, a spokesman for the Jeremy Ring campaign.

Shaw's campaign said any Democratic campaign would love to have the president's endorsement, but they are hopeful Obama will make an announcement ahead of election day in November. 

Fried's campaign declined to comment. 

Kevin Donohoe, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party said it appears that Obama is focusing more on the gubernatorial and legislative seats, not the downballot statewide positions. 

He's right. In the latest round of endorsements, Obama only picked two state treasurers (Colorado and Ohio), one secretary of state (Nevada) and one attorney general (also Nevada).

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Lujan Ray told the Miami Herald Monday that he expects a third round or even a fourth round of endorsements from the former president.

“I know they are always strategic in their thinking with rolling out endorsements," he said then. 

Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for Obama's office, said Obama specifically focused on endorsing candidates in close races where his support would make a meaningful difference, in races with redistricting priorities and those who are alumni of Obama campaigns and adminstration. 

Hill said it's possible Obama will endorse additional individual candidates between now and Nov. 6.