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Danny McAuliffe

#FlaPol in Review: A weekend roundup

With primary victories behind them, candidates are gearing up for the next two months — or the home stretch — ahead of Election Day.

Gov. Rick Scott launched his post-primary weekend with an endorsement from Puerto Rico Congresswoman Jenniffer Gonzalez:

Incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, who’s being challenged by Scott, spent Labor Day alongside workers in Orlando:

From the campaign of Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, on Labor Day:

Andrew Gillum, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, spent the holiday in Jacksonville at a Jumbo Shrimp baseball game:

Democratic Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw posted on Friday this photo of him alongside the Democratic ticket for governor and cabinet:

CFO hopeful Jeremy Ring attended the Florida Democratic Party’s African American Summit on Saturday:

Incumbent Republican CFO Jimmy Patronis released this campaign art:

Orlando Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy joined labor unions in Orlando on Monday:

Congressman Darren Soto, also of Orlando, attended as well:

State Rep. Janet Cruz, who’s challenging state Sen. Dana Young, has her yard signs ready:

But Young, who appears to have given her campaign workers a day off, isn’t slowing down:

State Rep. Manny Diaz’ campaign had a Saturday canvassing event ahead of college football games:

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith also joined labor union workers in Orlando:

State Rep. Holly Raschein honored lives lost in Islamorada during the 1935 hurricane:

State Rep. Chris Latvala gave a Labor-Day shout out to his campaign:

State Rep. Bob Cortes spent Sunday working a shuttle service from Orlando to the coast:

Savour restaurant to replace Avenue Eat & Drink

A new restaurant is expected to set up shop at the former Avenue Eat & Drink location in downtown Tallahassee.

Renovations for Savour “Taste and See,” reports UrbanTallahassee, are underway. Boasting a bar, classic foods and local “flair,” the restaurant expects to open its doors Oct. 8.

According to Urban Tallahassee, Savour is spearheaded by restauranter Drew McLeod and Chef Brian Knepper.

Florida Politics has reached out to McLeod for comment on the new enterprise.

Located on East Park Avenue just blocks from the Capitol, Savour will be situated to cater to the hustlers and bustlers of the Tallahassee’s downtown district.

But eateries in the area, despite having proximity to an affluent base of customers, have recently struggled.

Avenue Eat & Drink quietly shuttered earlier this summer. The owner, Chris Clark, had filed bankruptcy on the business, according to court records. Nearby restaurants Fat Noodle and The Southern Public House closed their doors around the same time. Brew’d Awakening, a now-closed coffee shop, also couldn’t make the cut downtown.

Clark told Florida Politics in June that he anticipated another restaurant would replace Avenue. Then, he cited some of the obstacles for restaurants seeking to serve customers in the area. Among them: inconsistency in legislative session dates and downtown revitalization projects.

He did not provide a comment on news of Savour.  

Ongoing construction at the DoubleTree Hotel that’s forced the closure of a popular block of Adams Street is expected to continue through December, according to the city of Tallahassee.

Governor: Another $3M available to battle red tide

Gov. Rick Scott announced on Friday an additional $3 million in grant funding for communities impacted by red tide.

Over the past few months, Scott and the Department of Environmental Protection have rolled out algae-targeting grants in $3 million batches. The grand total to date: $9 million. That sum includes the $3 million announced in July to target blue-green algae outbreaks, along with $3 million announced last week for Gulf coast counties to battle red tide, a near-annual toxic species that has garnered national attention this season.

“We are using every resource available to support our communities impacted by red tide,” Scott said. “This $9 million in grant funding that DEP is providing to Southwest Florida counties will help get businesses and families back to work as they continue to recover from this year’s red tide.”

The money behind the red tide grants was unlocked after Scott declared a state of emergency over the issue earlier this month. The order enlists state assistance for Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

The breakdown of money in each county so far, according to Scott’s office: $750,000 for Manatee County; more than $190,000 for Collier; $1.1 million for Sarasota; $3.17 million for Lee; and $700,000 for Martin.

Amid worry that this year’s algae outbreaks — both blue-green and red tide — could affect small businesses, Scott also approved an emergency loan program overseen by the Department of Economic Opportunity. Enterprises in areas plagued by blue-green algae have until Sept. 7 to apply for the loans. Those affected by red tide have until Oct. 12.

Andrew Gillum releases behind-the-scenes footage of election night

An upset win from the victor’s perspective is depicted in a new video released by the Andrew Gillum campaign on Thursday.

The quick turnaround — Gillum won Tuesday evening — makes the short worthy of a watch; those who followed the primary election results pile in know the Tallahassee mayor looked ill-fated early on, trailing perceived frontrunner Gwen Graham before precincts really began reporting their results.

The video’s story arc is a microcosm of Gillum’s campaign thus far: the longshot underdog who overcame doubt to prevail.

Slow pans of the video show Gillum awaiting the results in an intimate setting, joined only by family, friends and his closest campaign advisors, like consultant Kevin Cate.  

Skeptical day-of media clips are on the audio track, with journalists saying things like, “The … average of recent polls shows Graham leading by 7 points over Philip Levine and by 12 points over Jeff Greene, with Andrew Gillum and Chris King running fourth and fifth.”

And: “Gwen Graham leading the way, she’s been leading in the polls pretty much all along, and she’s up with 36 percent…”

Then the video pivots. Gillum, seen pacing around the room, is optimistic. At one point he was trailing Graham by 2 points, with Broward County’s results yet to unfold.

“The Holy Grail of votes,” Gillum says in the video.

When Gillum takes the lead, his face says it all: disbelief, bliss and pride. He goes on to deliver a fiery acceptance speech as the nominee.

Rick Scott: Leftover guardian funds ‘cannot go to waste in Tallahassee’

Gov. Rick Scott is again asking the Legislature to reconvene and redistribute unused funds from a program that arms non-educator faculty members and security guards in Florida’s schools.

Scott publicly asked members of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission to meet and unlock the money last week. Shortly afterward, Bill Galvano, incoming Senate President, and Jose Oliva, incoming House Speaker, told The Associated Press they would reject the suggestion. 

Scott penned a letter on Thursday to the commission — which includes Oliva and Galvano — pleading for reconsideration.

If convened, the panel could use leftover money from the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, provided in the comprehensive Parkland school safety bill signed into law in March following the February massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead.

In the letter, Scott cites a Department of Education survey that found just $9 million of the $67 appropriation for the guardian program will be used by the few school districts that chose implement it.

“This means that $58 million will be stuck in Tallahassee, unable to be used for any purpose,” Scott writes.  

Scott said he signed the bill, known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Act, with the understanding that any residual money could be used by other districts that are coordinating with law enforcement to continually staff officers at every school.

“I made it clear that any unused funding from the voluntary guardian program should be redirected to hire additional safe-school officers this school year,” writes Scott.

He adds: “Schools in your community can directly benefit from the redirection of this important funding. We cannot let this money go to waste in Tallahassee.”

Joining Scott in calling on the commission is Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. He noted districts are struggling to keep up with the costs of staffing police officers at each campus.

“These dollars should go to our schools so they can implement safety measures including hiring more school police officers,” Patronis said in a statement. “Our school districts, many of which are short on public safety resources, can make the quickest use of this money with the school year having already started.”

Media Matters: Ron DeSantis’ ‘monkey’ defense is false

A spokesperson for Ron DeSantis said the newly anointed Republican gubernatorial nominee frequently uses the phrase “monkey this up” to describe something messed up.

That’s bogus, according to Media Matters, a nonprofit that routinely fact-checks and criticizes conservative outlets.

Using a Nexis search of DeSantis’ public media appearances, Media Matters discovered Wednesday that “there is no record of DeSantis having used the phrase publicly.”

DeSantis has drawn national criticism and attention for using the term “monkey” while discussing on Fox News his upcoming campaign fight against Andrew Gillum, the state’s first African-American gubernatorial nominee.

The full context of DeSantis’ remarks: “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.”

According to Ali Vitali, a reporter for NBC, a DeSantis spokesperson told her that the candidate uses the expression frequently and without racist intentions.

Media Matters found that DeSantis did use the term “monkey” on air during an August 2017 Fox News appearance, when he said Democrats were trying to “throw a monkey wrench” into the Trump administration’s agenda.

The news accuracy group also criticized conservatives in media for coming to DeSantis’ defense after the comments. Conservative influencer Ben Shapiro and conservative radio show host Mark Levin — who endorsed DeSantis — have dismissed claims that the Republican nominee’s marks were racist.

DeSantis “was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses,” campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said in a statement.

“To characterize it as anything else is absurd. Florida’s economy has been on the move for the last eight years and the last thing we need is a far-left Democrat trying to stop our success.”

Fox News host Sandra Smith, in a follow-up later on Wednesday, said, “We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement.”

Ron DeSantis handily wins Republican primary for Florida governor

Ron DeSantis won the Republican primary election for Governor on Tuesday.

With results from just a few counties remaining, it’s clear Republican voters backed DeSantis over his opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. DeSantis, so far, holds a near-20 percent lead over Putnam, with 56 percent of GOP voters choosing DeSantis.

DeSantis appeared with his wife, Casey Black DeSantis, at 8:51 p.m. on a stage at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando to declare victory. He said Putnam called him shortly after the last polls closed in the Panhandle’s Central time zone to offer support.

He also got a call from President Donald Trump, whom DeSantis credited for helping him win the primary.

“I want to thank him for viewing me as someone who could be a great leader for Florida,” DeSantis told the crowd gathered at his election-night viewing party. “So, thank you Mr. President.”

Trump’s support for the Ponte Vedra congressman ultimately helped him prevail against Putnam, who had outraised and outspent DeSantis and had at one point been considered the front-runner and establishment favorite.

The President’s intervention in the Florida Republican primary predates DeSantis entrance into the race. In December, Trump tweeted a pro-DeSantis message, saying he “would make a great governor of Florida.”

Trump, however, was silent as DeSantis launched his campaign the next month. A graduate of Yale with a law degree from Harvard, DeSantis unveiled an early list of wealthy backers but could not match Putnam’s fundraising prowess in the beginning months of his campaign. Putnam, a former state and federal lawmaker, enjoyed seven months of formal campaigning and fundraising before DeSantis’ entrance into the race.

While Putnam spent big on early television ads to build name recognition with his voters, DeSantis found a much cheaper avenue through public appearances on Fox News, where he frequently appeared in defense of Trump amid special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation over potential Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election.

DeSantis’ unwithering defense of the President likely fostered other national friendships that helped boost his campaign. Prominent Fox News host Sean Hannity and conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin both backed DeSantis and campaigned alongside him.

In June, Trump once again announced his support for DeSantis via Twitter. The tweet prefaced a Fox News debate between DeSantis and Putnam, and polls after the endorsement suggest it was pivotal for the Republican gubernatorial primary. A Fox News poll conducted in the middle of June gave Putnam a 32-17 margin over DeSantis. But that was the last time Putnam led in a public poll tracked by Real Clear Politics, and some polls after the Trump endorsement showed DeSantis up by more than 20 points.

In late July, Trump gave DeSantis the kicker: A televised Tampa rally hosted by the Trump campaign that saw the President hail DeSantis as the clear choice for Florida Republicans in August. On Monday, Florida Republicans received a robocall with an automated message from the President reminding them to vote for DeSantis on Tuesday.

While a bit of DeSantis’ lead waned in the weeks ahead of the election, Putnam was unable to bounce back from what will be remembered as Trump’s fatal strike against his campaign.

Still, Putnam held hopes of a comeback victory early on Tuesday, saying in an interview with Fox 35 News in Orlando that he remained convinced that his effort to build a vast “grassroots” organization across the state would propel him to victory in his contest with DeSantis, who was making his first bid for a statewide office.

“The grassroots energy and momentum you’re seeing out here, the sign wavers, the rallies, the barbecues we’ve been hosting, all the grassroots work that we’ve been doing for the last year is going to pay off tonight when the polls close,” Putnam said.

But in the end, all of Putnam’s relentless retail campaigning and his advertising advantage was not enough to overcome DeSantis’ greatest strength: his relationship with Trump.

In a final debate with DeSantis at Jacksonville University on Aug. 8, Putnam seemed to lament the considerable role that the president’s intervention in a Republican primary had played.

“I wish he hadn’t put his thumb on the scale of Florida’s campaigns,” he said.

The Democratic field boasted five candidates, including Congresswoman Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, billionaire Jeff Greene and businessman Chris King.

Gillum ended up closing the gap with a late surge and will face off against DeSantis in the November general election.

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Andrew Gillum becomes Florida’s first African-American Democratic nominee for governor

Andrew Gillum made history Tuesday night, becoming the first black candidate to win the Democratic nomination for Governor in Florida.

He will face Republican Ron DeSantis in November. 

Gillum, the Tallahassee Mayor, had been considered a longshot in the five-way primary. He secured more than 30 percent of the vote. Gwen Graham finished at 31.4 percent.

The only known scientific prediction of a Gillum win was an internal poll released by his campaign last week, that projected he would cruise to victory with a 10-point lead. Most polls showed Graham and Levine at the top, with Gillum in third or fourth. A poll released by Florida Politics on Monday had him second behind Graham.

According to Gillum’s campaign, the candidate was witnessing a last-minute surge.

Predating the Gillum buzz was news that billionaire Tom Steyer’s progressive NextGen super PAC announced it would be dumping cash into and providing ground support for Gillum’s bid. That added to the support already coming in from progressive billionaire George Soros.

In August, Bernie Sanders, the U.S. Senator from Vermont and former presidential candidate, endorsed Gillum and followed up with two rallies alongside the Mayor to help him win over progressives in the Sunshine State.

Sanders chimed in again after the results were official.

“What has made Andrew’s campaign so powerful is that he’s not just working hard to win an election, he has laid out a vision for a new course for the state of Florida and our country,” Sanders said. “No one person can take on the economic and political elites on their own.”

Gillum told a crowd in Tallahassee following his victory that the race wasn’t about him.

“It never has been, and it never will be. This race is about every last single one of us,” he said. “Those of us inside this room. Those outside of this room. Those who voted for me. Those who didn’t vote at all. And those who didn’t vote for me because they are Republicans. But I want to be their governor, too.”

Graham, a former member of Congress and the lone woman in the race, entered the field in May 2017. A former Leon County school district lawyer and self-described “PTA mom,” she made an early campaign promise to fight for public education.

A key component of Graham’s strategy included the resurrection of “workdays,” an approach that proved successful for her father, former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham. She traveled across the state and completed day-to-day tasks alongside working Floridians, speaking to voters and hearing their concerns along the way.

“I was expecting to give a much different speech tonight,” she said Tuesday night after the election.

Graham urged her supporters to “put all of our efforts behind Andrew Gillum,” pledging to do whatever she could to help him defeat DeSantis.

“This election is about the future of Florida,” she said, reiterating a campaign theme. “That’s what we were fighting for. It was never about the candidate.”

Aiding Graham’s bid for the Governor’s Mansion was a slew of endorsements from respected party leaders in highly populated areas across the state. Helping to fund Graham’s campaign was support from the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, and other public education interests. She was also aided by women-focused groups Emily’s List, Ruth’s List and the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women. NARAL, one of the nation’s largest pro-choice political action committees, also endorsed Graham.

Levine, the successful businessman and former Mayor of Miami Beach, waged an enormous television and ground campaign in his bid for the Democratic nod. He attempted to establish himself early on with voters, launching a television ad in November — well before any candidate for either party went on air. His 14 satellite campaign offices helped his campaign access every region in the state.

Congratulating Gillum on his primary victory, Levine called the Tallahassee mayor “a fierce fighter who has what it takes to lead our state forward, and he can count on my help every step of the way.”

Levine touted support from celebrities, with endorsements and ads coming from Shaquille O’Neal, Ray Allen and musician Uncle Luke.

Outspoken on gun control like his party opponents, Levine secured support from parents of students killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. He launched ads ahead of the primary promising to increase gun control.

Notably, Levine spent a bit of time painting himself as an adversary to President Donald Trump. He described the statewide race for Governor as one for “the soul of the nation,” and reminded Floridians of his staunch support for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Levine’s targeting of climate change issues as Mayor also helped shape his platform for Governor.

Billionaire Jeff Greene, the late entry into the race, had missed prior debates and months of campaigning for the election. Despite spending heavily on television and traveling across the state, his campaign appeared to falter in the week leading up to Tuesday. He pulled television ads for a brief period, then alerted media on Monday he would watch the election results unfold privately with his family — instead of hosting a pre-planned public event.

Greene had sought also to paint himself in an anti-Trump light, but was criticized every step of his campaign for his former cordiality with the President.

Businessman Chris King, of Winter Park, ultimately failed to gain support from the electorate, evidenced by his consistently low polling numbers. Despite this, King campaigned actively and helped shape the narratives of the campaign, at times being a trendsetting candidate. He was the first to publicly announce he would not accept contributions from sugar-related interests and was a loud voice for gun reform and affordable housing initiatives.

Some material from the News Service of Florida is used in this article, with permission.

Nikki Fried secures Democratic nomination for Agriculture Commissioner

Nikki Fried won the primary election for Agriculture Commissioner Tuesday night, defeating Democratic opponents Roy David Walker and Jeff Porter.

Fried, a Broward-based lawyer and medical marijuana lobbyist, entered the race relatively late in June but became a quick favorite who easily outraised Walker and Porter and stood out among their lackluster campaigns.

“I’m honored that Florida Democrats have put their faith in me to finally elect a Democrat to the office of Agriculture Commissioner,” Fried said in a news release. “Florida needs new leadership at the Department who will advocate for expanded patient access to medical marijuana, fix Adam Putnam’s failures in overseeing concealed weapons permits, and work to protect both consumers and our clean water, land and coasts.”

Her campaign to lead the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is distinct. While the Republican candidates emphasize the agency’s connection to Florida farmers, Fried focuses heavily on a relatively new agricultural frontier: marijuana. She has also made a point of criticizing the state’s gun policies, a merited strategy as her bid for the office coincided with news that the agency’s current head, Putnam, oversaw critical errors in the department’s issuing of concealed-weapons permits.

In a news release accompanying a candidate introduction video, Fried’s campaign stated she “intends to use the office to expand access to medical marijuana for sick and suffering Floridians, support the agriculture industry while protecting Florida’s land, water, and beaches, advocate for consumers, and be an independent, compassionate voice on the Florida Cabinet.”

Helping Fried’s campaign are former and current stars of the Florida Democratic Party. Among her endorsers: former Governor and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, U.S. Rep Lois Frankel, former U.S. Rep Patrick Murphy, former CFO Alex Sink, 25 state lawmakers, and 33 county and municipal leaders.

She also was the unanimous favorite of editorial boards across the state, including the Tampa Bay Times, Miami Heraldand Sun Sentinel.  Fried also received the backing of labor union SEIU, Ruth’s List, and the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

Fried will compete against Republican nominee Matt Caldwell in the Nov. 6 general election.

Bill Nelson launches first television ad

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson debuted his premier television ad on Tuesday, telling Floridians he has been proud to serve the country in the military and in Congress.

It’s the incumbent’s first television spot following a barrage of ads from his certain challenger, Gov. Rick Scott.

The well-financed Republican launched his campaign in early April. An ad later that month was backed by a $2 million statewide buy. Scott has since saturated television markets, running bilingual and sometimes-negative ads that have helped him secure a thin — 1.5 percentage point — lead over Nelson, according to Real Clear Politics’ poll tracker.

Nelson depicts himself as a lawmaker of integrity in the 30-second spot.

“I believe a public office is a public trust,” Nelson says in the ad. “You’re there to serve the people, not the special interests.”

The ad is wholly positive, with no mention of Scott.

Partly biographical in nature — Nelson informs viewers of his military and congressional tenures, along with his trip to space — the ad drew quick criticism from the National Republican Senate Committee.

“Bill Nelson has been in or running for public office for almost 50 years, yet his campaign still has to introduce him to Floridians,” NRSC spokeswoman Camille Gallo said. “Need I say more?”

Earlier on Tuesday, Scott, who has lead the state for almost eight years, also released a biographical ad, telling viewers of the financial struggles his family suffered when he was a child.

Nelson’s ad can be found online here, or below.

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