September 12, 2018

Republican-leaning poll: Andrew Gillum leads Ron DeSantis by 4 in Florida governor’s race

Gillum-DeSantis (1)

via @kirbywtweets

A new Florida Chamber of Commerce poll shows Democrat Andrew Gillum leading Republican Ron DeSantis among likely voters in the Florida governor's race.

The poll, which was conducted from Sept. 6 through Sept. 9, asked 514 likely voters who they would vote for in the November gubernatorial election. 47 percent said Gillum, and 43 percent said DeSantis, with eight percent undecided.

The poll's margin of error is plus/minus 4.4 percent, so even though he's down by four points, DeSantis is technically statistically tied with Gillum.

The poll's relatively small number of respondents also means you should take it with a grain of salt. Still, it's noteworthy that the Chamber, which leans Republican, put out a poll that shows the Democrat, Gillum, ahead.

It's not the only recent poll that's shown Gillum with a slight lead. A Democratic polling firm had Gillum up five points two weeks ago, and a Quinnipiac poll last week had the Tallahassee mayor ahead by three points.

September 11, 2018

Bill Nelson not on board with Andrew Gillum’s progressive proposals


via @scontorno

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is excited about the energy that Andrew Gillum brings to the Democratic ticket as the party's nominee for governor.

He is less enthusiastic about some of the ideas Gillum ran on to win his primary.

Take Gillum's call to abolish the agency known as ICE, or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "in its current form." Nelson isn't on board.

"I don't want to abolish ICE. I want to abolish Trump," Nelson said in a sit-down Monday with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board. "ICE is merely the administrative agency. It's the policies in that agency that is problem."

What about Gillum's support for universal healthcare, often called Medicare for all? "I've got enough trouble just trying to save Obamacare," Nelson said. "I'm into results."

A $15 minimum wage?

"I have supported a $12 minimum wage," Nelson said, "but I am certainly open to suggesting anything that will improve the lot of the average working man."

Nelson has staked his political career — and, perhaps, the Democratic Party's chances at winning the U.S. Senate — on the assumption that a purple state prefers a moderate politician with a penchant for crossing the aisle. "One of America's most independent senators," a recent ad touted.

But his party received a jolt last month when Democratic voters picked Gillum in the gubernatorial primary over a more moderate choice, Gwen Graham, and three others. Suddenly, Nelson, 75, is sharing the spotlight with a 39-year-old, African American mayor backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders who ran and won on an unapologetically progressive agenda.

After his stunning victory, Gillum declared a "political revolution" was afoot.

The coming months will determine: Is Nelson out of step with this movement?

"He's bringing a lot of new energy to the table and I think it's going to produce more African Americans, I think it's going to produce more young people," Nelson said. "And hopefully I might have some value that I bring to the ballot as well."

Gillum has advocated for many of the liberal policies en vogue among new age Democrats — some of which Nelson has tried to disassociate himself from as he battles for Florida's middle.

Gillum contends he has given Democratic voters a reason to show up on election day.

"Some of the people in this race for governor believe we've got to run as Republican flight in order to win Florida," Gillum said at an August rally with Sanders. "Our voters are going to stay home if they have choose between someone pretending to be a Republican and someone who is a real Republican."

Nelson's opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, has already tried to lump the two together. Scott, like Gillum opponent Ron DeSantis, has thrown around the word "socialist" around a lot to describe the Democratic ticket.

"This election offers Floridians a clear choice: continue the success of the last 8 years, or embrace the job-killing socialist policies of Senator Nelson and Andrew Gillum," Scott tweeted last week.

Independent fact-checking website PolitiFact deemed it False to call Gillum's agenda socialist.

For his part, Nelson has certainly embraced Gillum while maintaining his distance on contentious issues. Marijuana is one of them. Gillum wants to legalize marijuana, still considered a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Nelson backs medical marijuana, including in smokable form. This week he unveiled a bill that allows the Department of Veteran Affairs to prescribe marijuana for its patients. But he doesn't support full legalization.

Gillum has also advocated for Trump's impeachment. Nelson won't go that far.

Nelson rightfully points out that nearly all these topics are federal in nature, meaning likely outside of the next governor's purview. When it comes to areas Gillum could affect, Nelson said he thinks they are more closely aligned.

"Look at the things that we agree on and look at the things that he has jurisdiction on that we agree," Nelson said. "Take for example, health care. Andrew certainly agrees that we ought to expand Medicaid for the 800,000 (would-be eligible Floridians)."

Though Nelson won't get behind some of Gillum's proposals, he has already shown a willingness to cede where the future of the party may be headed. At last month's post-election unity rally in Orlando, the elder statesman offered to speak first, leaving the headlining slot for the fresh face of the Democratic Party.

"I'm entirely comfortable with Andrew," Nelson said Monday. "And he with me."

August 30, 2018

How race became the dominating theme of the campaign for Florida governor on Day One

Gillum-DeSantis (1)

@newsbysmiley @alextdaugherty

When Democrats made Andrew Gillum the first black candidate ever to win a major party nomination to seek the office of Florida governor, they all but guaranteed that race would be a factor in the coming campaign.

But who knew it would become a national storyline in less than 24 hours?

Before the final vote could be certified from Tuesday’s primary elections, Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis thrust issues of race to the fore Wednesday morning when he said on Fox News that voters would “monkey this up” if they embraced Gillum’s “far-left” platform. The comment, coming in a state where confederate monuments still litter the landscape, was widely slammed — and opened up a rift that isn’t likely to close until after November.

“He is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views. And he’s a charismatic candidate,” DeSantis said of Gillum. “I watched those Democratic debates. None of that is my cup of tea but he performed better than the other people there so we’ve got to work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction. Let’s build off the success we’ve had with Gov. [Rick] Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.”

Descriptions of black people as “articulate” have long been interpreted as a condescending reference to education in the black community, and the NAACP characterized the candidate’s “monkey this up” phrase as part of a history of “racist references to African Americans in our national folklore” as monkeys and apes.

“Its only equal in racial semantics [is] the “n-word,” the organization said, while calling on the Palm Coast congressman to apologize.

But DeSantis’ communications director, Stephen Lawson, says there was nothing racial about DeSantis’ interview. The comments were strictly about Gillum’s politics, he said, in contrast to DeSantis’ own conservative views on taxes and spending.

“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses. To characterize it as anything else is absurd,” Lawson said.

If DeSantis was hoping to highlight his ideological differences with Gillum, he instead seemed to ensure that racial tensions would overshadow them.

Read more here.

Curbelo says DeSantis should apologize

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Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo thinks GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis should apologize for his “monkey this up” comment made while talking about Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum.

“That was just a stupid comment to make, one that was offensive to a lot of people,” Curbelo said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. "I know Ron has clarified that it was no way intended to be racist but I think he should apologize.” 

Curbelo said he did not find the comment racist and that he’s never heard DeSantis say anything disparaging about any race during their time in Congress.

Democrats have jumped on DeSantis’ comment, made Wednesday morning on Fox News, arguing that it’s racist.

“He is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views. And he’s a charismatic candidate,” DeSantis said of Gillum. “I watched those debates. None of that is my cup of tea but, he performed better than the other people there so we’ve got to work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction. Let’s build off the success we’ve had with Gov. [Rick] Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That’s not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”

Curbelo is running for re-election against Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in a Miami-to-Key West district that both parties are trying to win in November. Mucarsel-Powell called on DeSantis to apologize yesterday.

Watch the video below:

August 29, 2018

Gillum says he’s ‘not getting into the gutter’ with DeSantis’ ‘monkey’ comment


@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum said he’s “not getting into the gutter” with Republican opponent Ron DeSantis hours after the Trump-supported GOP nominee said he hoped Florida voters would not “monkey this up” if they elect Gillum, who is black.

“That part wasn’t lost on me. It’s very clear that Mr. DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump,” Gillum said on Fox News on Wednesday afternoon, hours after DeSantis made the monkey comment on the same cable news network. “He thinks that in today’s day and age Florida’s voters are going to respond to that level of division. But I think he’s got another thing coming to him.”

Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, was pressed by host Shepard Smith to say if he thought DeSantis’ comments were explicitly racist. Gillum did not directly answer if he thought DeSantis' comments were racist, but he insinuated it.

“Well, in the handbook of Donald Trump they no longer do full whistle calls, they do full bullhorns,” Gillum said. “I’m not going to go down in the gutter.” 

Fox distanced themselves from DeSantis’ comment, made about 12 hours after Gillum pulled off a historic upset to become Florida’s first black major party gubernatorial nominee. Sandra Smith, the Fox host who conducted the interview with DeSantis, later said that the station does not condone his choice of words.

“During the interview, he made what some are calling an inappropriate comment about his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum,” Smith said. “We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement.”

Stephen Lawson, communications director for the DeSantis campaign, said it was “absurd” to call DeSantis’ comments racist.

“He is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views. And he’s a charismatic candidate,” DeSantis said of Gillum on Wednesday morning. “I watched those Democratic debates. None of that is my cup of tea but he performed better than the other people there so we’ve got to work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction. Let’s build off the success we’ve had with Gov. [Rick] Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That’s not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”

DeSantis made the comment about 9:36 a.m. while appearing on Fox News following his victory in the Republican primary. He was speaking about Gillum, who won the Democratic primary after being endorsed by Democratic Socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. 

Read more here.

August 26, 2018

The man who would be Florida’s first black governor looks for a soul surge in Miami


@newsbysmiley @alextdaugherty @martinvassolo

At one of Miami’s best-known black churches, Pastor Arthur Jackson III delivered a message before the Sunday sermon.

“This is a critical election,” he said, speaking from the pulpit as the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church flock fluttered fans bearing the likeness of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. “We have to make it happen.”

The people nodded, and repeated his words. And Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign hoped that it was good.

If the only African American candidate in Florida’s Democratic primary for governor is going to make history, he’ll need the help of the state’s black community to get through Tuesday’s primary election. Significantly out-spent by his four opponents, Gillum’s ability to connect with a staunchly Democratic and somewhat disenfranchised voting population remains one of his biggest advantages.

And if his campaign’s talk of a last-minute “surge” from the middle of the pack is to become more than just hype, then Sunday was a likely tipping point for Gillum. The final day of early voting — known as “Souls to the Polls” due to the tradition of faith-based politicking in the black community — had the potential to make or break his upset bid, as black pastors around the state urged their parishioners to cast their ballots.

“We’re right where we want to be,” said Gillum spokesman Geoff Burgan, pegging the African American electorate at just shy of a quarter of the 700,000 votes cast so far by Democrats heading into Sunday morning..

Gillum, who is running for the Democratic nomination against Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King and Philip Levine, has made clear that his campaign is not tailored exclusively to black voters. His message as “the only non-millionaire” in the race is more appropriately described as a call to the lower and middle class.

But while most of the field spent the weekend in north and Central Florida, Gillum, 39, bounced around South Florida’s historically black neighborhoods, traveling from Deerfield Beach to Richmond Heights, where he grew up as a child. He attended Jackson’s church Sunday morning, and was given time to make a direct plea to parishioners.

“We can create more of that opportunity for all people. But we can’t do it, y’all, unless we vote. We can’t do it unless we get out there and let our voices be heard. We can’t do it unless we put some respect back on our vote and on our community by showing up and voting like our lives depend on it,” he said. “When we win, all of us are going to Tallahassee.”

Read more here.

August 01, 2018

Bernie Sanders endorses Andrew Gillum for governor


via @kirbywtweets

Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who's come to personify the left flank of mainstream American politics, has endorsed Andrew Gillum for governor.

In a statement Wednesday morning, Sanders said he is backing Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, because of Gillum's stances on health care, the minimum wage, immigration and the environment.

"Andrew has never backed down from a fight, including beating the NRA and standing up against xenophobic politicians," Sanders said in the statement. "Andrew Gillum will set a new course for Florida — a governor who represents all the people and not just powerful special interests."

Gillum already had the endorsement of Our Revolution, the group that spun off of Sanders' unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign, so it's not too surprising that Sanders would also throw his support behind Gillum. It's also unclear just how much Sanders' support will mean in Florida, where Sanders lost the 2016 Democratic presidential primary to Hillary Clinton by more than 30 points. (Gillum endorsed Clinton relatively early on in 2016.)

But Sanders remains a major figure in progressive politics. His support could make the difference in the wide open Democratic gubernatorial primary, which pits Gillum against Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Jeff Greene and Chris King.

"It's an honor to have Senator Bernie Sanders' endorsement in this campaign," Gillum said in a statement Wednesday. "He has been an unapologetic fighter for everyday working people standing up to the special interests. From Medicare-for-All, to a $15 minimum wage, his ideas and platform have become the Democratic Party's north star on economic justice for those who need it most."

June 22, 2018

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

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."