Danny McAuliffe, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 29

Danny McAuliffe

An energized Andrew Gillum circles campaign back to Tallahassee

Andrew Gillum is gearing up for what could be a photo finish in the five-way Democratic gubernatorial race.

Some recent polls show Gillum in or tied at third. Some show him trailing worse. A poll released Monday had him second behind Gwen Graham. And an internal poll released by the Gillum camp last week suggested he was ahead big.

Statistical projections aside, Gillum on Monday evening reminded a crowd of students and supporters at Florida A&M, a historically black university in Tallahassee, that time is on their side on Tuesday — whatever the outcome may be.

Noted Gillum (accurately): On August 28, 1955, two white men in Mississippi killed Emmett Till. On the same day in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 2008, it was the last day of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president.

“You can imagine where I’m going with this,” he said to cheers. 

It’s coincidental. But superstition fits the bill for Gillum’s candidacy.

A mayor at the helm of a city beset by an ongoing FBI investigation and facing opponents with name recognition and deep pockets, Gillum had been considered a long shot.

But good news came in the eleventh hour for the Tallahassee mayor. Billionaire Tom Steyer’s progressive NextGen announced it would be dumping cash into and providing ground support for Gillum’s bid.

Then came Bernie Sanders, the U.S. Senator from Vermont, with an endorsement and two rallies meant to help Gillum win over progressive hearts in the Sunshine State.

Meanwhile, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene was rising in the polls. He unloaded on Philip Levine and Gwen Graham with television attack ads, forcing both to strike back on cable as well.

Greene’s campaign has since waned and he announced Monday that he’d watch the election results privately with his family. The attacks, meant to boost Greene, thwarted him and likely left wounds on Graham and Levine.

Gillum had come under criticism earlier this year for ties to dark money donations and negative ads targeting Graham from a PAC supporting his candidacy, but the Greene-Levine-Graham spats are fresher.

At his alma mater, Gillum avoided criticism of his closest opponents. But a surrogate — national Democratic strategist Angela Rye  addressed Graham directly.

While both candidates represent opportunities for history — the first black man or the first woman to be elected Governor of Florida — Rye suggested the former congresswoman’s legacy ties to the state shouldn’t “supersede” Gillum’s minority status, and by extension the interests of people of color everywhere. Graham’s father Bob Graham is a former U.S. Senator and Governor. 

“It might be her turn,” Rye said in reference to Gwen Graham. “But understand that it is Andrew Gillum’s time, because it’s our time.”  

She added: “We’ve suffered enough, we’ve bled enough, we’ve died enough, we’ve been hurt enough, we’ve been wounded enough — it is our time.”

Gillum was accompanied by his wife, R. Jai, with whom he attended FAMU. Also in attendance were black state Reps. Kamia Brown and Ramon Alexander, along with prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump and researcher and author Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.

Parked nearby was Gillum’s bus, boasting the “Bring It Home” campaign slogan. 

During the weekend, Gillum was corralling votes in South Florida, including at his birthplace Richmond Heights. Earlier Monday, he was in Alachua County, where he grew up.

He’ll participate in a march to the polls in the capital city on Tuesday morning and will later watch the election results unfold at Hotel Duval in downtown Tallahassee.

“It’s a homecoming,” Gillum said. “It’s bring it home. That’s what the bus says: ‘Bring It Home.'”

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Early vote totals exceed prior primaries for GOP and Dems

More than 1.86 million Floridians have cast their votes for Tuesday’s primary election, an early turnout total exceeding that of the 2016 primary election and 2014 midterm.

Republicans hold the early edge over Democrats heading into the closed-party election.

The tally so far: 855,847 Republicans have cast their ballots compared to 810,629 Democrats as of Monday morning, according to the Division of Elections.

But Democrats have exceeded their 2014 and 2016 numbers, driving up the total number of ballots already cast.

Nearly 77,000 more Democrats voted early in person or returned mail ballots by Monday morning than the 2016 early primary turnout of 733,631. Republicans trail their 2016 early numbers by roughly 25,000.

As Democrats approached 2016 primary thresholds on Saturday, party spokesperson Caroline Rowland called the turnout “unheard of in a midterm election.”

More Democrats voted early last week, with 318,570 going to the polls by Monday, compared to 298,281 GOP voters.

Republicans returned more mail-in ballots, 557,566, than Democrats, 492,059.

Nearly 200,000 third-party or nonparty affiliated voters cast their ballots through the same period.

Meanwhile, 1,384,187 vote-by-mail ballots have yet to be returned. Florida has 13 million registered voters.

Philip Levine talks home stretch in Gwen Graham and Andrew Gillum territory

Philip Levine believes his primary bid for Governor will come down to the wire on Tuesday, and the winner will undoubtedly face Republican candidate Ron DeSantis.

Levine spoke briefly with reporters Wednesday in the capital city, where he’ll reside if he’s victorious in the Aug. 28 primary and the following general election. Tallahassee is home to Democratic opponent Gwen Graham, who’s slightly ahead and in some cases behind Levine in most public polls. It’s also the stomping grounds of the city’s Mayor, Andrew Gillum.

“I understand myself and Gwen are right at the top,” Levine said shortly before a new poll gave him a one-point lead over the former Congresswoman. He’s aware the race could be a photo finish but believes his enormous investment in ground efforts — including 14 satellite campaign offices peppered across the state — will help him prevail. He spoke to supporters at Florida State University earlier on Wednesday and plans to hit the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida before the day’s end.

While confident but ultimately uncertain in his own race, Levine offered no wiggle room in the Republican primary: DeSantis, the Donald Trump-backed Ponte Vedra Congressman, will be the nominee.

A matchup against DeSantis, Levine said, means a fight against the President.

“I believe I’m the right one to go toe-to-toe,” the former Mayor of Miami Beach said. “This is going to be a fight between the Democratic nominee and the White House.”

He was asked whether his anti-Trump messaging was influenced by Democratic opponent Jeff Greene’s self-depiction of being Trump’s adversary, especially through television ads.

Not so. He said he began to bring up Trump “when the Donald got more involved in Florida.”

The President intervened in late June when he formally backed DeSantis on Twitter. Trump followed that endorsement with a campaign rally alongside DeSantis in late July.

Levine, who has had recent beef with Greene via battling television ads, also took a shot at the Palm Beach billionaire’s latest dip in the polls.

“We don’t have to worry about him too much anymore,” Levine said. “Based on the recent polls, I don’t think he’s too relevant anymore.”

Greene on Monday pledged to spend $5 million to get Democrats elected down the ballot, including those in hotly contested races to take back the state Senate.

Levine dismissed that as a political strategy and questioned whether Greene would still spend big on the party if he doesn’t get past the primary. He also contrasted himself with Greene, saying that before the race he spent “millions” to get Democrats elected.

“People talk about all of the things they’re going to do in the future,” Levine said. “They never talk about the things they’ve actually done.”

We asked Levine what he thinks of the Gillum campaign’s claim that their candidate is surging. Most recent polls have Gillum at third, an indubious jump that followed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ recent endorsement of and two rallies alongside Gillum. And Gillum’s campaign released results of an internal survey on Tuesday showing the Tallahassee Mayor leading both Graham and Levine by 10 points.

“I can’t comment on someone’s internal poll,” Levine said. But noted the results are an outlier from his constant internal polling and public polls.

He added: “We’ll know Tuesday night how accurate they are.”  

Donald Trump: Ron DeSantis called me, asked for endorsement

At a campaign rally in West Virginia on Tuesday, President Donald Trump told the crowd that Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis called him and asked for his support.

“I don’t want to brag about it, but man do I have a good record of endorsements,” Trump told attendees. “In Florida, we have a great candidate, his name is Ron DeSantis, and he called me, and asked whether or not I could endorse him.”

The context: Trump was telling West Virginians just how powerful his endorsements are. He came to the state partially to tout U.S. Sen. hopeful Patrick Morrisey, who is attempting to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in November.

“I said ‘let me check it out,’” Trump said he told DeSantis. “ … This was a few months ago. He was at three, and I gave him a nice shot, and a nice little tweet — bing bing — and he went from three to like twenty something.”

Trump was referencing DeSantis’ surge in the polls after the President tweeted in June his endorsement for the Ponte Vedra Congressman and held a rally for him in Tampa late July. In December, the President tweeted a pro-DeSantis message, saying he “would make a great governor of Florida.”

Trump overexaggerated his influence if he intended to say DeSantis was polling at 3 percent. A Fox News poll earlier in June put DeSantis at 17 percent, Putnam 32.

Before the June tweet, DeSantis was trailing Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican primary.

Added Trump: “I gave him my full and total endorsement. And now he’s leading by like 19 points.”

Shortly after the tweet, some polls showed DeSantis skyrocketing in favorability. A St. Pete Polls survey in July gave DeSantis a 20 point edge, a Mason-Dixon survey later that month gave DeSantis a 12 point lead.

Some new polling, however, suggests a bit of that lead has declined. A survey from Florida Atlantic University released on Tuesday gave DeSantis a single point lead, meaning the primary race is in a dead heat.

Looming over Trump’s Tuesday night rally was news that his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight financial crime charges. Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen also plead guilty on Tuesday to violating campaign finance laws, at the request of a “candidate for federal office.”

Watch the clip below.

Vote ‘no’ on all CRC amendments, group urges

Saying the Constitution Revision Commission was infiltrated by special interests and proposed amendments that will deceive voters, former elected officials Tuesday encouraged Floridians to reject the panel’s eight proposed changes this November.

The all-Republican group, “Save My Constitution,” said voting against Amendments 6-13 will help resolve “serious objections” about the CRC process. Members said that could pave the way to “significantly reform” – even “abolish”– the panel itself, which convenes every 20 years to make changes to the state’s chief governing document.

“Our coalition will be earnestly working with our colleagues currently serving in the Florida House and Senate,” said former state Rep. Don BrownThe group also intends to spend money on advertising with its message ahead of November. 

Leading the group’s Capitol news conference was former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who served under former Gov. Charlie Crist. He was joined by 15 other former lawmakers, former Lieutenant Governors and former members of Congress as part of the coalition.

“We understand the game of politics, and the influence of special interest groups,” Kottkamp said, calling the CRC “an unelected body that frankly doesn’t represent anybody and is not accountable to anybody.”

Thirty-six members of the CRC are appointed by others in state government, the Governor, House Speaker, Senate President and Chief Justice. The sitting Attorney General, the only elected member of the panel, serves ex officio

Kottkamp said its proposed amendments represent work conducted “well beyond the scope” of its duties.

The group is primarily concerned with the issue of “bundling” issues in amendments, saying members were compromised by outside interests to “logroll” issues together in the hopes of sweetening the deal for voters to approve the changes. Amendments need at least 60 percent approval to pass. 

Amendment 9, for example, would prohibit offshore oil drilling and ban vaping in the workplace. But Amendment 6 is a less-overt example of bundling. It would establish a series of rights for crime victims, known as Marsy’s Law, but would also raise the mandatory retirement age of justices and judges. 

“The bottom line is the CRC and their proposals simply cannot be trusted,” former state Rep. Jim Kallinger said.

In a May letter, CRC member Brecht Heuchan, who led the panel’s style and drafting committee, defended the practice of lumping separate changes into one amendment.

“Grouping some ideas together keeps the ballot from becoming too lengthy to complete,” Heuchan wrote. “If all of the CRC proposals were left as single amendments, there would be 25 questions on the ballot instead of 13; and in some areas of our state, each of those measures would be translated into multiple languages.”

Kallinger said some instances of bundling indicate the use of “decoys, exploiting groups like our veterans and law enforcement … to hoodwink voters into supporting a more-controversial issue embedded in that same proposal.”

Take Amendment 7, which would extend benefits to survivors of military and law enforcement members killed while on duty, but would also make changes to the state’s higher education system, including a supermajority requirement to approve certain fees.

Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead also has challenged six amendments in a bundling claim. Attorney General Pam Bondi on Monday defended bundling as a necessary “filtering” process. 

One hot-button measure, a proposed ban on betting on live dog racing, is the sole change proposed in Amendment 13, however.

Coincidentally, Kottkamp also represents the Florida Greyhound Association, which won the first round in a legal battle over Amendment 13 by convincing a Tallahassee judge to order it knocked off the ballot. That’s now being appealed in the state Supreme Court. 

When asked why it’s encouraging voters to opt for a blanket ‘no’ to each amendment, instead of just the ones that are bundled, Kallinger said it’s because the process itself was “suspect”: “It’s been done so poorly that we can’t not suspect everything else being handled in a deceptive way.” 

He added: “The fact that we’re asking the questions, the fact that a lot of this stuff is blatant … I think we’re safe to say, ‘no on everything.’ ”

Jeff Greene pledges $5 million for down-ballot races

Jeff Greene announced late Monday that he’s putting $5 million into a committee to help Florida Democrats in other races.

The Palm Beach billionaire is following through with an earlier campaign promise. He announced publicly in a July gubernatorial debate that he’d help elect Democrats down the ballot.

The money will flow through the Florida Defense Fund PAC. The committee formed at the end of July, according to a state database.

While the $5 million has yet to show on weekly financial reports, they will soon reflect contributions to several state Senate races and at least two statewide races for Cabinet seats.

According to Greene, he’s already sent money to Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried, both Democrats who have lesser-funded opponents to beat on Aug. 28.

Among Democratic candidates for the state Senate who have received checks, according to Greene: Kayser Enneking, a candidate for SD 8; Amanda Murphy, SD 16; Janet Cruz, SD 18;  Bob Doyel, SD 22;  Lindsay Cross, SD 24;  Rob Levy, SD 25; and David Perez, SD 36.

Doyel, Enneking and Perez face primary battles against other Democrats. Each is a seat the party is attempting to take away from Republicans.

“I’m the only person in this race able to go toe-to-toe and dollar-for-dollar with the Republicans to win in November,” Greene said in a statement. “And I’m committed to taking the Senate with me.”

It’s unclear if Greene will help fund federal races, but in a statement accompanying news of the PAC, he said, “This is my vision for Florida: I will help Democrats take back the Senate, make a dent in the House, and defend Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat against Rick Scott.”

Nelson, a Democrat, is facing a tough challenge from Scott, the current Governor. We’ve reached out to Greene asking whether he’ll contribute to Nelson’s reelection bid.

Saying he’ll “make a dent in the House,” Greene also appears willing to contribute to close races in that chamber.

Greene, who joined late the other four Democratic candidates for Governor, has self-funded and spent around $29 million on his own race against Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Andrew Gillum and Chris King. A billionaire, Greene believes that he’s the only candidate who can post a formidable financial fight against the Republican candidate, either Ron DeSantis or Adam Putnam.

“My opponents and I all have great ideas – but Democrats have had great ideas for the past 20 years, and we’re all tired of losing,” said Greene.

GOP holds lead in returned ballots as statewide early voting begins

A Republican advantage fills the backdrop as voters head to the polls early across the state on Saturday.

Of the nearly 790,000 mail-in ballots returned as of Friday afternoon, Republicans have the edge with 367,864 ballots cast. Democrats have returned 313,678, according to the Division of Elections.

In the 18 counties that offered early voting this week, Democrats took a slight lead, but not enough to offset the Republican advantage. GOP voters have cast 22,519 ballots at early voting sites, compared to the 26,108 from Democrats returned by Friday afternoon.

With Republicans appearing to show more early enthusiasm, some speculate whether Democrats have the much-hyped momentum — or ‘blue wave’ — behind them this midterm.

“For all this talk of a ‘blue wave,’ Democratic enthusiasm isn’t anywhere close to Republican energy, and it’s showing,” said Taryn Fenske, spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. “Florida Republicans are ready to defy history in November.”

The RNC, along with the Republican Party of Florida, is making its largest-ever investment in data-driven ground efforts in the state, according to Fenske.

The ROI appears to be promising.

“We are arming passionate Republicans with the skills and tools necessary to reach out to their communities,” added Fenske. “It’s about Floridians talking to Floridians, neighbor to neighbor.”

But while Republicans lead in the most-telling metric, the party is slightly trailing in the total share of ballots returned when compared to final 2014 primary numbers. As of Friday afternoon, GOP voters comprised less than 47 percent of all mail-in ballots. On primary day in 2014, that number was roughly a percentage point higher.

Juan Peñalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, noted that Democrats make up almost 40 percent of returned mail-in ballots — more than half of a percentage point higher than 2014 numbers. Elections are numbers games, both within and outside of the party.

These numbers, however, can fluctuate between green and red throughout each week.

Peñalosa conceded to us that he does think preliminary voter turnout in a primary election is indicative of enthusiasm to come in the fall, “But it’s not the only identifying factor.”

What else is there? Peñalosa — echoing what Republicans attributed to their early lead — highlighted nuances in ground game efforts. The party implemented its field program early this year. Ground efforts are typically reserved for after the primaries in midterm cycles, according to Peñalosa.

They’ve also recruited the “best” candidates, according to Peñalosa, and are fielding competition down the ballot, speaking to voters in rural areas — doing things the party hasn’t done before.

While open to ‘blue wave’ speculation, Peñalosa doesn’t think it will stand against time. When early voting is wrapped, he expects his party will have exceeded 2014 tallies.

“I hope Monday is going to be another good day,” he said, referencing the impending fresh batch of statewide turnout numbers.

League pressures higher ed leaders to prioritize early voting sites

After successfully waging a legal battle against the state’s refusal to allow early voting sites on university and college campuses, the League of Women Voters of Florida is turning to campus leaders in an attempt to ensure those sites are established ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

In a letter sent Friday to 10 college and university presidents along with the State University System Board of Governors, the League asks the institutions to work with nearby Supervisors of Elections with a sense of immediacy to spawn early voting locations.

“While it’s too late to set up an early voting location for the August Primary, county Supervisors of Elections have until October 7th to finalize early voting sites for the November general election,” said Patricia Brigham, president of the Florida League. “It should be a top priority for university presidents and their county’s Supervisor of Elections to establish early voting on campuses and let the voices of young Floridians be heard.”

The League joined the Andrew Goodman Foundation and six University of Florida and Florida State University students in a lawsuit challenging Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s policy of barring campuses from allowing early voting. In July, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker struck the practice. The state opted not to appeal the decision a week later.

Some Supervisors of Elections, reported the News Service of Florida, were skeptical of their ability to coordinate with campuses to set up early voting sites ahead of the fall election.

“We cannot allow other needless hurdles to rise up and deprive our campus populations from the benefits of early voting, which voters elsewhere freely enjoy,” reads the letter authored by Brigham. “The lesson in that would be cynicism toward our public institutions and to the value of civic engagement.”

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