Danny McAuliffe, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 38

Danny McAuliffe

Rick Scott says ‘unethical liberals’ are trying to steal Florida’s U.S. Senate race

After two days of watching his U.S. Senate lead slowly wane, Gov. Rick Scott is suggesting two South Florida counties are actively engaging in partisan-fueled election fraud.

The Governor has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate Broward and Palm Beach counties’ Supervisor of Elections, calling them a “rag-tag group of liberal activists.”

“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott said during a Thursday evening news conference at the Governor’s Mansion.

Scott’s comments came as his campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee filed a lawsuit against Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. The lawsuit, which seeks an immediate hearing, contends her office continues to withhold crucial voter information and has blocked access to the office.

The campaign also filed a separate lawsuit against Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, accusing her of refusing to allow Scott’s representatives to personally witness the ballot counting. The suit, filed in Palm Beach County, also accuses Bucher of keeping the county canvassing board from performing its duties.

Scott noted that counsel hired by his opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, is an election lawyer with a history of working for the Democratic Party. He accused Nelson’s attorney of being willing to break laws to win the election.

Marc Elias, Nelson’s attorney, said Wednesday that the campaign is pursuing a recount “not just because it’s automatic, but we’re doing it to win.”

Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said Thursday that Scott’s newly announced investigation and comments appear “to be politically motivated and borne out of desperation.”

“The goal here is to see that all the votes in Florida are counted and counted accurately,” he added.

Scott said every voter should be concerned of “rampant fraud” in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

Snipes has “a history of acting in bad faith,” Scott said. He listed a series of problems in years past with elections — all under Snipes’ tenure. Scott noted that earlier this year a judge found Snipes had engaged in unlawful ballot destruction during the 2016 Democratic primary.

“Every day since the election, the left-wing activists in Broward County have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere,” Scott said.

Out of Florida’s 67 counties, only Broward and Palm Beach were “mysteriously” finding more ballots, he added.

Florida Politics reported an influx of ballots from Suwannee County were posted to the state Division of Elections website earlier Thursday.

Scott did not rule out “incompetence” as a causal factor of ballots adding up after Tuesday’s election. He said he is confident in FDLE’s ability to determine whether any intentional wrongdoing occurred.

“I am considering every single legal option available,” Scott added.

Overall, Scott’s criticism echoed tweets from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday. The Florida Republican has already congratulated Scott on a victory.

“Florida law requires counties report early voting and vote-by-mail within 30 minutes after polls close,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. “Forty-three hours after polls closed two Democrat strongholds Broward County and Palm Beach County are still counting and refusing to disclose how many ballots they have left to count.”

“The people of Florida deserve fairness and transparency,” Scott said. “The supervisors are failing to give it to us.”

Currently, Scott leads Nelson by just more than 15,000 votes, or 0.17 percent. A hand recount in Florida is triggered when the difference reaches one-quarter of 1 percent of the vote, or about 20,413 ballots in this contest.

If the contest’s spread remains below that level, the hand recount would be announced on Saturday by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and hand recounting would start on Monday and run through Nov. 18.

There still are more ballots to be counted, including provisional ballots and other ballots that were set aside because of anomalies on Tuesday. They are now being counted by the election canvassing boards in each of Florida’s 67 counties.

President Donald Trump, who supported Scott during the election, weighed in late Thursday.

Florida Politics Orlando correspondent Scott Powers and the News Service of Florida contributed reporting. 

Andrew Gillum closes gap with Ron DeSantis ahead of expected recount

On Friday, nearly three days after ballots began to be counted, we still lack clarity in who the next Governor will be.

We do know there will be a machine recount.

With a vote lead of 36,211 with over 8.2 million ballots counted (rounding up to a 0.46 percent edge) Republican Ron DeSantis, the 40-year-old former three-term Congressman who took the nomination with the President’s blessing has seemingly defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum to become the next Governor of Florida.

Seemingly being the key word.

The Governor’s race, like the U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner races, has margins under the 0.50 percent threshold that triggers a recount. The world’s eyes again are on Florida elections, and this one especially as provisional ballot verification (a typically Democratic stronghold) comes into play.

The Gillum campaign wants every vote counted: “On Tuesday night, the Gillum for Governor campaign operated with the best information available about the number of outstanding ballots left to count. Since that time, it has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported.

“Our campaign, along with our attorney Barry Richard, is monitoring the situation closely and is ready for any outcome, including a state-mandated recount. Mayor Gillum started his campaign for the people, and we are committed to ensuring every single vote in Florida is counted,” asserted a campaign spokesperson.

Gillum, addressing supporters during a Facebook Live appearance Thursday, noted that he’s still trailing DeSantis.

“I want you to know that in spite of the fact that we’re a little bit down in the numbers, we’re hopeful that every single vote will be counted in this race,” Gillum said.

The narrative has changed from Election Night when Gillum called DeSantis and conceded victory, before the margin dwindled from what was a more than 1 percentage point lead.

DeSantis thumped his chest in victory at the time, delighting his base.

“The pundit class gave us no chance … the political and media class seemed eager to write our obituary … On Election Day, it’s the voice of the people that rules,” DeSantis said.

And based on available information, he was right. His base prevailed.

But with something less than a mandate, DeSantis even then extended a rhetorical olive branch to opponents.

“I don’t care if you were against me in the campaign,” DeSantis added, saying that his goal was to work together for the state.

An ameliorating coda to an explosive campaign.

And a campaign that may not be officially over if yet another recount scenario comes into play here.

DeSantis isn’t worried about that, though.

“I was honored Tuesday night to be elected 46th Governor of the State of Florida.  The results of the election were clear.  I am now focused on the transition effort and will allow the legal efforts regarding the election to proceed, as is necessary, as the process unfolds,” he told us Thursday afternoon.

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This razor’s edge outcome is fitting for a battle of the bases, and a referendum both on President Donald Trump and the burgeoning progressive movement, that unlikely nominee Gillum has become a national leader of in recent months.

DeSantis, thus far, is the “apparent winner.” Though that doesn’t mean things will be predictable if he is inaugurated as expected.

While DeSantis has promised continuity with the Rick Scott era, those who have covered state government throughout Scott’s eight years know that some of the harshest battles were between the populist right in the state House and the more pragmatic Senate.

On the campaign trail and in outreach, DeSantis contrasted himself with Gillum, suggesting the Tallahassee Mayor’s policies are too far left for Florida.

The Ponte Vedra Republican pledged to veto any and all tax increases for the next four years, contending that a state’s low-tax environment is its greatest asset for expanding the economy. In contrast, Gillum in part ran on a corporate tax rate hike.

DeSantis, who has described himself as a “Teddy Roosevelt-Republican,” is outspoken on environmental concerns.

He railed against his primary opponent Adam Putnam for not faulting the state’s massive sugar industry for the proliferation of toxic algae blooms plaguing the Treasure Coast. He has promised to expedite the construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, expected to help ease the amount of toxic overflow into nearby estuaries.

Adding weight to his environmental policy platform was support from The Everglades Trust.

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But ultimately, the issues of the day didn’t define Florida’s race for Governor.

Republicans put forth a candidate hand-picked by President Trump.

Democrats selected a candidate who was once considered a long shot, arguably the most progressive to ever run for statewide office and the only African-American gubernatorial candidate in the state’s history.

Accordingly, Trump and race occupied the mind of nearly every voter in the most polarized statewide campaign in the modern era.

DeSantis kicked off his post-primary campaign by claiming that electing Gillum would “monkey this up,” before dealing with a number of racial controversies regarding supporters that culminated with Gillum saying in a debate, “I’m not saying you’re a racist, but the racists think you’re racist.”

Identity politics factored into this campaign in a way few expected before the August primary.

Before Tuesday, Trump would visit the state three times to rally for DeSantis. The President would periodically commend DeSantis via his Twitter account, and in the final weeks made a point of condemning Gillum’s leadership skills, calling Tallahassee “the most corrupt city” in the country — even suggesting Gillum “is a stone-cold thief.”

DeSantis defended Trump as the campaign closed.

“From an economic perspective and a results perspective,” DeSantis said, Trump’s message is a “good message for folks.”

“You people have to decide: if you’re more concerned about tweeting than results, I respect that. That’s your vote, you can do what you want. To me, it’s all about results,” DeSantis added.

In the backdrop, ethics scandals involving both candidates drove campaign narrative, though Gillum’s was more affected.

A two-year-long investigation into corruption in Tallahassee plagued Gillum’s candidacy. The Mayor had vehemently denied being a “target.” But DeSantis made it stick, even though Gillum has yet to be subpoenaed by the FBI, and the agency hasn’t commented on his vulnerability as a leader.

But eleventh-hour developments in a state ethics investigation separate from the FBI’s suggested Gillum is more implicated than previously thought.

A series of records released in late October linked Gillum to the FBI, showing in part that the Mayor may have accepted a ticket to the Broadway musical “Hamilton” from an undercover agent posing as a developer wanting to do deals in the city.

Republicans used the news as attack fodder, while the left countered with questions about $145,000 of taxpayer-funded travel by DeSantis, which included trips to Fox News studios to boost his candidacy.

The election, however, came down to those quintessential Florida constants: Base turnout and the disposition of the No-Party-Affiliated voters.

And in outreach, neither had a tangible advantage.

Fueling each candidate’s appeal to voters was a near-even cash race, which ended in excess of $106 million. Each candidate would surpass the $50 million mark in fundraising before Tuesday’s showdown.

In trackable money, DeSantis led by just $1 million, meaning cash ultimately wouldn’t decide who prevailed.

But if the primary election’s principles were any indication, money meant little, to begin with.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, DeSantis’ primary opponent, put more than $30 million into his race but lost to DeSantis, who spent around $16 million.

Gillum doled out less than $7 million ahead of the Aug. 28 primary and won against the other four Democratic hopefuls — all of which had outspent him.

Because DeSantis and Gillum bucked traditional political wisdom by beating the better-funded establishment favorites in the primary, the race was essentially impossible to forecast. The gubernatorial finalists in 2018 weren’t supposed to be there in the first place.

And while polls almost entirely showed Gillum ahead by some margin, even he dismissed them as junk science.

In this case, that appears to be right. But the recount may (repeat, may) change things.

Check back for updates.

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Tallahassee correspondent Danny McAuliffe and The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva names committee chairs

With the election behind them, the Republican-led state House is swiftly organizing.

On Wednesday, incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva, a Hialeah Republican, unveiled the committee structure for the 2019 and 2020 Legislative Sessions.

Filling in as Speaker Pro-Tempore is Rep. MaryLynn Magar, a Hobe Sound Republican. She replaces state Rep. Jeannette Nunez, who was elected Lieutenant Governor alongside Governor-elect Ron DeSantis on Tuesday.

The Republican Majority Leader is Rep. Dane Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican. Eagle replaces Estero Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues. Rodrigues will instead head the Health and Human Services Committee.

Chairing the powerful Appropriations Committee is state Republican Rep. Travis Cummings, of Orange Park. He replaces former House budget chair Carlos Trujillo, who left the Legislature after being appointed Ambassador to the Organization of American States.

Cummings, elected to the Legislature in 2012, has served through six regular lawmaking sessions. During the 2018 Legislative Session, Cummings was among the 67 other legislators to pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act as a standalone bill. At the time, it came with an estimated $400 million price tag. He has yet to file any bills ahead of the 2019 Session.

Cummings received his masters in business administration from the University of North Florida. Before being elected to the Legislature, he served in a variety of roles at the local level in Orange Park, including a stint as Mayor of the town.

Much of Cummings’ sponsored bills have sought to benefit the Northeast portion of Florida he inhabits. And this will be the second year in a row in which that part of the state has direct representation in a powerful post in the Legislature. Fleming Island Republican state Sen. Rob Bradley chaired the Senate’s budget committee in 2018, helping to secure millions for nearby restoration projects in the St. Johns River and Keystone Heights areas.

Generally well-liked by legislators in both chambers, Sachs Media Group’s Public Affairs Director Herbie Thiele, a longtime observer of the Tallahassee’s political process, said Cummings “is a great appointment,” from Oliva.

And a close relationship with Bradley could mean that Cummings is better-equipped — almost like a quarterback understudy — to handle the budget negotiations in the later days of the upcoming session, Thiele added.

Eustis Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan will take the reins of the Education Committee.

By vote, Sullivan has shown a demonstrated willingness to further expand school choice and charter schools in Florida. In 2017, Sullivan voted in favor of the “Schools of Hope” plan. The eventual law provided for “hope operators,” who could set up charter schools within five miles of “persistently” low-performing public schools. It also provided money for traditional low-performing public schools.

In 2018, Sullivan successfully championed two education-reform bills. Among those were HB 731, which provided greater flexibility to family-administered homeschooling programs. Another, HB 1279, changed accountability and transparency mandates for schools, requiring school districts to post financial summaries to their websites, among other things.

Sullivan also supported the House’s “Hope Scholarship” plan, a tax-credit funded program that allows students who are victims of bullying or other violence to receive public funding to move to private schools or other public schools.

The next two House Speakers in line also received committee chair appointments from Oliva.

Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls, in line to preside over the House beginning 2021, will chair the Rules Committee. Palm Coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner, set to become Speaker in 2022, will chair the Judiciary Committee. Renner is a former Assistant State Attorney.

St. Cloud Rep. Mike La Rosa will chair the Commerce Committee under Oliva’s leadership. In the past, LaRosa has sought to change the state’s alcoholic beverage laws, including allowing “cooperative” advertising in theme parks. That measure, however, failed to pass in 2018 after reaching the House floor. LaRosa also has championed legislation that would pre-empt local regulation of vacation rentals, though that measure too died after reaching the House floor.

Overall, Oliva commended the talent of lawmakers now leading the chamber’s committees.

“I am blessed by a deep bench of talent to pull from when it comes to leading our committees and working with the Senate and Governor-elect DeSantis,” Oliva said in a statement. “The chairs named today are men and women of principle, integrity, and an unrelenting desire to serve the people of Florida.”

The remaining, all-Republican committee chairs: Hialeah Rep. Bryan Avila, Economic Affairs Committee; Daytona Beach Rep. Tom Leek, Public Integrity & Ethics Committee; Spring Hill Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, State Affairs Committee; and Monticello Rep. Halsey Beshears, Ways & Means Committee.

Background provided by Florida Politics Senior Editor Jim Rosica and the News Service of Florida.

Florida approves automatic restoration of voting rights to felons

Floridians have passed Amendment 4, which provides for the automatic restoration of voting rights to nonviolent felons who’ve completed their sentences.

The margin of victory as of 9 p.m. Tuesday was 64 percent-36 percent, with at least 60 percent needed to pass.

Currently, Florida is one of just three states with a “lifetime voting ban for people with felony convictions,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. 

The Center estimates Florida’s disenfranchised felon population exceeds 1.6 million.

Amendment 4 will apply to felons who have completed all aspects of their sentence, including probation and compensating victims, if required.

It does not apply to those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses. The Governor and Cabinet will continue to review those on a case-by-case basis. 

Notably, Amendment 4 was one of just two statewide measures to be placed on the 2018 ballot through citizen initiatives. It reached the required signature threshold — 766,200 — in January.

In the following months, groups like Floridians for a Fair Democracy, Second Chances and the Florida Restoration of Rights Coalition would wage an enormous outreach effort, including several statewide television spots.

Before Tuesday, Floridians for a Fair Democracy spent $19.3 million in the Sunshine State, according to the state Division of Elections.

The issue of race suffuses Florida’s disenfranchisement policy.

The practice, which dates back more than 150 years, was likened to Jim Crow-era policies, which describe post-Civil War laws passed with the goal of segregation.

The New York Times reported in 2016 that more than 20 percent of African-American men in Florida were ineligible to vote because of disenfranchisement.

It’s because of these tensions in the backdrop that news of the movement was covered nationally, drawing celebrity endorsements and support from high-profile commentators.

As well, Amendment 4 brought large and influential groups together from both sides the political aisle, like the ACLU and the Koch network.

Currently, Florida felon who have completed their sentence can restore their voting rights through the state’s clemency process involving the Governor and three Cabinet members.

That process, however, was deemed unconstitutional in February by U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker. In March, Walker followed up by ordering the Executive Clemency Board to devise a new method for restoring voting rights.

But in April, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet a stay for Walker’s mandated deadline, meaning no immediate changes would come to Florida’s clemency system. It was considered a win for the state’s clemency process.

Now, that will no longer shape the narrative of felon rights in Florida.

Voters reject homestead exemption-raising Amendment 1

Floridians failed to support Amendment 1, which would have increased the state’s homestead exemption by $25,000.

Thus far, the proposal is poised to receive less than 60 percent support, meaning it will not meet the threshold needed to pass. It was the only one out of 12 amendments on the ballot to not break the three-fifths threshold.

Amendment 1 would have added another $25,000 to the homestead exemption in Florida. Currently, the first and third $25,000 increment — as in the value between $50,000 and up to $75,000 of a home’s assessed value. Amendment 1 would have targeted the fifth $25,000 interval, or $100,000 and up to $125,000 in assessed value. The measure would not provide the same exemption for school district levies.

The Legislature passed a joint resolution in 2017 to put Amendment 1 on Tuesday’s ballot.

It met the required three-fifths majority threshold among lawmakers, finding support from both Democrats and Republicans alike, though many Democrats and some Republicans were outspoken against the measure, contending it would lead to decreases in local tax revenue.

In the state House, the measure was sponsored by Republican Rep. Mike LaRosa and Democratic Rep. Al Jacquet. In the Senate, it was carried by Republican Sen. Tom Lee.

Groups representing local governments opposed the measure.

Michael Sittig, executive director of the Florida League of Cities, in a recent op-ed criticized Amendment 1 for masquerading as a tax cut, arguing instead that it is a tax “shift.”

Sittig argued that the amendment’s passage would mean “properties owned by small-business owners, manufacturers and working families will carry a heavier load” as local tax governments would be forced to pick up the revenue elsewhere.

“Most of the tax breaks go to a handful of homeowners. Less than one-fourth of Florida’s properties fall into that narrow category. This means that more than three-fourths of the properties owned by small-business owners, manufacturers and working families will carry a heavier load. Shouldn’t Florida’s tax system work across the board for all of us who own property, not just a select few? Renters also are expected to carry an increased share of the property tax burden, passed on from their landlords,” he wrote.

An analysis from the Florida Association of Counties, which opposed the measure, found it “would have a negative fiscal impact on cities, counties and special districts of $752.7 million in the first year.”

Similarly, nonprofit government tax watchdog Florida TaxWatch encouraged voters to reject the proposal because it “will inevitably lead to higher taxes for nearly everyone, and it will further exacerbate the tax shift from homestead to non-homestead property.”

The Florida Chamber, meanwhile, took a neutral position on Amendment 1.

As of Wednesday morning, 4.52 million “Yes ” votes and 3.26 million “No” votes had been tallied for Amendment 1, putting it with 58 percent in favor and 42 percent opposed. No other ballot question dipped below 62 percent support.

Tallahassee winners: John Dailey elected Mayor; Dianne Williams-Cox, Jeremy Matlow take city commission seats

With 63 of 66 precincts reporting, John Dailey is the next Mayor of Tallahassee. Dailey just edged Dustin Daniels, with 51 percent of the vote so far Tuesday night.

Elected to City Commission Seat 3 is Jeremy Matlow, who claimed victory late Tuesday. And Dianne WilliamsCox handily won the race for Seat 5. The races are nonpartisan.

Dailey, 45, is a longtime Leon County commissioner, having served the residents of District 3 since 2006. Dailey announced his bid in late March. In the Aug. 28 primary, he advanced to the mayoral runoff with 40 percent of the vote, making him an early favorite among the local electorate.

Daniels, 29, is Gillum’s former chief of staff. He announced his candidacy shortly after Dailey, promising to appeal to the younger, more progressive voters who reside part-time in the city at nearby Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. He advanced to the runoff with 25 percent of the vote in August.

Both candidates messaged on reducing the area’s high rate of violent crime and sought to distinguish themselves as the right candidate to do the trick. Each played to the largely Democratic electorate in Leon County, where Republicans are outnumbered nearly 2-1 in voter registration.

Daniels at one point attempted to brand Dailey as a conservative. Meanwhile, Dailey’s promised policy platforms include enacting a local ordinance to protect women’s reproductive health care rights. Ultimately, Dailey had the winning strategy.

Matlow will soon begin representing the city of Tallahassee’s District 3. Matlow, 33, is a local restaurateur. He grew up in the capital, and in 2014 launched local pizza shop Gaines Street Pies, an enterprise that has since expanded to other locations.

Opponent Lisa Brown, 42, is a credit union CEO. She advanced to Tuesday’s runoff with 32 percent of the vote. She has promised to parlay experience from her professional career to develop the city’s economy. Brown lost narrowly.

“I’m honored and humbled by the incredible support our community has shown this campaign,” Matlow said. “Our clear victory, combined with the high levels of turnout, shows a clear mandate for our platform. Our win tonight sends a clear message that Tallahassee wants bold leadership led by everyday people.”

WilliamsCox, 55, will represent the city of Tallahassee’s District 5. She overwhelmingly beat her opponent, Bob Lotane, capturing more than 60 percent of the vote. She touts more than 30 years of experience in the public and private sector. She grew up in nearby Quincy and is a graduate of FAMU.

Lotane, 60, is a former reporter and communications executive, with experience working with local charities. Notably, Lotane was paralyzed after he contracted an extremely strong case of West Nile virus.

Amendment 2—the measure ‘for everybody’—passes

Floridians have successfully passed a permanent extension to an already existing yearly tax increase cap on properties that don’t have a homestead exemption.

Amendment 2 was passed by a margin of 66 percent-34 percent as of 8:45 p.m. Tuesday. The proposal needed but 60 percent voter approval to pass. 

Voters approved over a decade ago the same cap that limited property assessment increases to 10 percent a year, but that is set to expire in 2019.

With the approval now of Amendment 2, voters made that extension permanent. 

The measure was one of three to be placed on the ballot by state lawmakers. During the 2017 Legislative Session, the Legislature overwhelmingly backed the joint resolution providing for the permanent non-homestead tax cap extension. Just three legislators voted against the proposal.

Florida Realtors, the state’s largest professional association, funneled more than $11 million behind the measure in 2018. It was the sole financier of Amendment 2.

The group championed the proposal as one “for everybody.” Private-industry tax experts hailed the ballot item as something that would benefit the economy as a whole, from businesses to consumers to schools to renters — especially those seeking affordable housing.

Robert Weissert, executive vice president at nonprofit government watchdog Florida TaxWatch, said in June if voters approved Amendment 2, then the state would maintain an economically healthy status quo.

While careful not to pitch the proposal as a “tax cut,” Weissert said failure to pass the amendment could result in a $700 million tax increase.

Amendment 2 did see opposition from influential groups. Namely, the League of Women Voters of Florida encouraged voters to reject the measure, contending that “no tax sources or revenue should be specified, limited, exempted, or prohibited in the Constitution.”

In the end, the amendment “for everybody” prevailed. 

Seeking Democratic nod in 2020? Chances are, you’ve met Andrew Gillum

Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey came to the Sunshine State in April to help his colleague, Florida’s Bill Nelson, raise money to fight a newly announced but long-expected challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

At that time, Florida’s U.S. Senate race was shaping up to be the marquee midterm matchup, and the state’s crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary suggested any outside political support would be premature.

Democrats Philip Levine and Gwen Graham were trading places at the top of the few polls conducted by April. And Andrew Gillum, the Mayor of Tallahassee who had waged a relatively quiet bid so far, was probably the last person on Booker’s mind.

But things were different after the primary.

Gillum, the once-longshot candidate, went from relative obscurity to national fame in a matter of weeks after his upset victory in late August. 

Booker, an expected Democratic presidential candidate, had been canvassing the country to boost his party’s midterm chances. 

But by September his top concern wasn’t any member running for Congress.

“I’m going to tell you right now, [Gillum] is at the top of my list,” Booker declared alongside Gillum in a video posted to Gillum’s Twitter account in September.  

And late last month, Booker — who had undoubtedly increased his national profile during the contested confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — came to Jacksonville to campaign alongside Nelson at a parade hosted by Edward Waters College, a historically black institution that had welcomed the African-American Senator for its homecoming festivities.

Also in attendance: Gillum. The guy that every Democrat needs to meet. The guy who has so much buzz, even national Republicans anticipate a presidential run out of the 39-year-old Mayor.  

Booker’s rapidly developed and publicized relationship with Gillum is one of many to unfold in the months leading up to Tuesday.

Democrats weighing presidential bids in 2020 have flocked to Gillum’s side on the trail and in some cases have contributed to a boost in his fundraising.

Last month, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also a 2020 potential, accompanied Gillum through a series of political events in South Florida.

Before he left, he would chip in $250,000 to Gillum’s candidacy. The Every Town for Gun Safety PAC, largely financed by Bloomberg, had already put another $250,000 behind the Mayor’s bid.

California progressive billionaire Tom Steyer, who hasn’t ruled out a presidential bid, invested more than $8 million in the Sunshine State this cycle. 

Before Tuesday, Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden would hold three Florida rallies for Nelson, Gillum, and Democrats down the ballot. Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren had exerted influence in the Sunshine State for Gillum as early as September. Hillary Clinton would campaign for the Mayor in South Florida. 

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would similarly make the case for Gillum in Florida before Election Day. Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe made a few Sunshine State appearances on Gillum’s behalf in October. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who ran for President in 2016, rallied in Tampa for Gillum on Monday. 

The list goes on.

If Gillum hadn’t won the primary, the number of national cameos could’ve been the same. But Florida’s bruised welcome mat is a likely combination of both the national significance of the swing state, along with Gillum’s popularity.

“Politicians can detect star power a mile off,” said Rick Wilson, Republican strategist and author of “Everything Trump Touches Dies.”

“Gillum has it.”

As far as the candidates who have made the trek south to Florida, Wilson said “they made a bet on the Governor of the third-largest state in the country who will be building a massive political and financial operation. 

“In short they have every reason to be here.”

And in a few hours, we’ll know if that investment paid off.

Down ballot: Mayoral, city commission races face Tallahassee voters

Attention usually goes to the candidates vying to take the Governor’s Mansion, or to the three Cabinet offices lining the halls of the Capitol’s plaza level.

But in Florida’s capital, there are a series of down-ballot offices and two local charter amendments on the ballot.

Here’s a brief rundown:

Mayor

Most voters are aware that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is the Mayor of Tallahassee. But only the locals are likely familiar with the two men competing to replace him. 

First, a caveat from veteran Tallahassee Democrat politics reporter Jeff Burlew: “Tallahassee and Leon County local races are nonpartisan, so voters won’t see an R or D next to any candidate names.

“But party affiliation matters to a lot of people, especially in the capital, where politics dominate and registered Democrats make up the majority of voters.”

John Dailey, 45, is a longtime Leon County commissioner, having served the residents of District 3 since 2006. Dailey announced his bid in late March. In the Aug. 28 primary, he advanced to the mayoral runoff with 40 percent of the vote, making him an early favorite among the local electorate.

Dustin Daniels, 29, is Gillum’s former chief of staff. He announced his candidacy shortly after Dailey, promising to appeal to the younger, more progressive voters who reside part-time in the city at nearby Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. He advanced to the runoff with 25 percent of the vote.

Both candidates messaged on reducing the area’s high rate of violent crime and sought to distinguish themselves as the right candidate to do the trick.

Each candidate played to the largely Democratic electorate in Leon County, where Republicans are outnumbered nearly 2-1 in voter registration.

Daniels at one point attempted to brand Dailey as a conservative. Meanwhile, Dailey’s promised policy platforms include enacting a local ordinance to protect women’s reproductive health care rights.

City Commission, District 3

Jeremy Matlow, 33, is a local restaurateur. He grew up in Tallahassee, and in 2014 launched local pizza shop Gaines Street Pies, an enterprise that has since expanded to other locations. He advanced to the runoff with 38 percent of the vote.

Lisa Brown, 42, is a credit union CEO. She advanced to Tuesday’s runoff with 32 percent of the vote. She has promised to parlay experience from her professional career to develop the city’s economy.

City Commission, District 5

Dianne WilliamsCox, 55, touts more than 30 years of experience in the public and private sector. She grew up in nearby Quincy and is a graduate of FAMU.

Williams-Cox advanced to the general election after securing 48 percent of the vote, just shy of the threshold needed to clinch the election in August.

Bob Lotane, 60, is a former reporter and communications executive, with experience working with local charities. Notably, Lotane was paralyzed after he contracted an extremely virulent case of West Nile virus.

One highlight of his bid is this humbling ad. Lotane advanced to a general election runoff after securing 23 percent of the vote.

Code of Ethics

This countywide measure would, according to ballot language, “prescribe standards of conduct for members” of the Leon County Commission, county employees, and other committees and boards appointed or overseen by the commission.

“If approved by voters, the amendment would require the commission to pass an ordinance prescribing standards of conduct for county elected and appointed officials and employees by the first meeting in December 2019,” the Democrat explained.

Public Defender of the Second Judicial Circuit ethics appointee

This measure, on the ballot only for city voters, provides that Seat 2 on the City of Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board be appointed by the Public Defender for the Second Judicial Circuit.

The Democrat reports that the ethics panel should have an additional member, although it is currently barred by a “Florida Judicial Advisory Committee opinion that prohibits the Chief Circuit Judge from appointing a member.”

Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs endorses Andrew Gillum in new video

Sean Combs is known by many names — Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Brother Love, the list goes on — but he’s encouraging Floridians to cast a ballot for someone very specific in the race for Governor: Andrew Gillum.

“I am so proud to endorse Andrew Gillum, who will become the first black Governor of Florida,” Combs says in a video published Saturday by the campaign.

Combs, who is black, said he’s not just supporting Gillum “because he’s black, it’s because he’s the best man for the job.”

A music producer and entrepreneur — whose business endeavors have ranged from spirits to clothing and media — Combs is estimated to have a net worth of $820 million, according to Forbes.

Combs said he aligns with Gillum because of the Tallahassee Mayor’s stance on criminal justice reform. Combs also noted Gillum’s support for legalizing recreational marijuana, raising the minimum wage and expanding publicly funded health care.

Gillum, a Democrat, faces off against Republican Ron DeSantis on Nov. 6.

Combs’ endorsement isn’t new; he backed Gillum officially on Twitter on Aug. 28 before the crowded five-way Democratic primary unfolded. But the production of a video segment for the campaign — which is now being shared online by Gillum and Combs— is indicative of Combs’ increased involvement with the Mayor’s candidacy.

“He’s running a campaign for the people,” Combs said in the minute-long clip. “I’ve spoken to him at length. I believe in him — his focus, his ideas, what he stands for.”

The endorsement can be viewed online here, or by clicking the image below.

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