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Danny McAuliffe

Another lead: Andrew Gillum up 5 points in new FAU poll

A new survey of Florida’s Governor’s race is giving Democrat Andrew Gillum a 5-point lead on Republican Ron DeSantis.

Gillum garnered 41 percent of support from respondents in a survey conducted over the weekend by Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative (FAU BEPI). DeSantis trailed behind, with 36 percent support. The poll, conducted via an online questionnaire, has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.

In September, the same polling group showed Gillum up 41-38.

“Young voters could be a major factor in the Governor’s race,” FAU BEPI noted. Across the sample of 740 likely voters, 18 to 34-year-olds favored Gillum 46-24.

“If young voters turn out in high numbers, it could carry the Democratic ticket,” added Kevin Wagner, professor of political science at FAU and research fellow at FAU BEPI.

Early voting is underway in some parts of the state, and vote-by-mail ballots have been pouring in since earlier this month. But the poll, conducted from Oct. 18– 21, found that 18 percent of the sample remains undecided. Election Day is two weeks away.

Earlier on Tuesday, a Quinnipiac University Poll gave Gillum a 6-point lead. Another conducted over the weekend, from Tom Eldon’s SEA Polling & Strategic Design, found Gillum up 48-42 percent over his Republican rival. A CNN poll gave the Democrat a 12-point lead on Sunday.

But a Monday survey from St. Pete Polls put the race almost even, giving Gillum a razor-thin, 1-point lead over DeSantis. An internal poll released by the DeSantis campaign on Sunday showed the Republican with a 2-point lead over Gillum.

FAU BEPI also surveyed the U.S. Senate race, but found the Republican leading the Democratic incumbent, with Rick Scott up two points on U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

FBI provided ‘Hamilton’ ticket to Andrew Gillum, subpoena suggests

Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has asserted he paid his way on trips to Costa Rica and New York City that are now the focus of an ongoing ethics investigation, but newly released documents appear to contradict the Tallahassee mayor.

Text messages, video, pictures and other documents surrounding the trip were turned over Tuesday to the state’s ethics commission that is probing the trips due to a complaint filed by a local businessman and persistent critic of Gillum.

In one exchange, Gillum is told that he is getting a ticket to the high-profile Broadway show “Hamilton” courtesy of “Mike Miller and the crew.” Miller was the alias of an FBI undercover agent who met Gillum through a lobbyist and one-time friend of the rising Democratic star politician. Gillum replies back that getting the ticket is “awesome news.”

The documents were turned over to the Florida Commission on Ethics by Christopher Kise, a well-known Tallahassee attorney representing lobbyist Adam Corey. Kise was once Florida’s solicitor general and served on the transition team of Gov. Rick Scott when he won in 2010.

Gillum has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in the ethics probe, which is separate but related to an ongoing FBI investigation into city government. Under Florida law, local officials cannot accept gifts worth more than $100 from a lobbyist or a company that hires a lobbyist.

“I don’t take free trips from anybody, I’m a hardworking person,” Gillum said on Sunday during a testy debate with Republican Ron DeSantis after the former congressman kept asking him who paid for the “Hamilton” tickets.

Gillum issued a statement contending the records “vindicate and add more evidence” that he paid his way or was with family members who paid for expenses. The Gillum campaign back in September, which released receipts related to the trips, insisted that Gillum received the Broadway ticket because his brother swapped a concert ticket for it. Kise has called that “nonsense.’”

In a Facebook video posted late Tuesday, Gillum said that while the tickets were reserved by friends of Corey and he assumed that they were paid by Marcus Gillum, his brother.

“So far as I know, that was the deal,” Andrew Gillum said.

Gillum, who could become Florida’s first African-American governor, also added that criticism from his opponents that he is unethical or doing something illegal “reinforce, frankly, stereotypes about black men.”

The trips to Costa Rica and New York City came to light after the FBI investigation broke into the open in June 2017. That’s when a federal grand jury subpoenaed five years of records from Tallahassee and a local redevelopment agency.

In February, a federal search warrant was accidentally made public on a court website and detailed that the FBI launched its corruption investigation in 2015 and that agents posed as out-of-town real-estate developers and medical marijuana entrepreneurs in order to gain access to various city officials. The warrant stated that agents were focusing on City Commissioner Scott Maddox, a former head of the Florida Democratic Party, and his former chief of staff. Maddox has denied any wrongdoing.

The FBI earlier this year also asked for more records, dealing primarily with an upscale restaurant that is located in a city-owned building. The Edison received $2 million in financial assistance from the city and the local community redevelopment agency.

One of the owners of the restaurant was Corey, who once served as Gillum’s campaign treasurer and has known him since college. Gillum vacationed at a luxury resort in Costa Rica in May 2016 with Corey, as well as another investor in the Edison. During that trip, Corey set up a meeting between Gillum and people who ended up being FBI undercover agents.

The records turned over by Corey show that Gillum paid for airfare to Costa Rica with his credit card. But an invoice prepared by Corey’s office for the Costa Rica villa that everyone stayed at has Gillum’s and his wife’s names crossed out, with the words “Hold on billing” listed next to the amount. Kise has said that Corey was never given any money for the trip by Gillum.

The records also include information on other trips involving Corey and Gillum and include texts between “Mike Miller” and Corey about setting up meetings with Gillum.

The state ethics commission is not expected to wrap up its investigation until after the Nov. 6 election. In a statement, Kise said that his client chose to release the records since they would eventually become public once the investigation is over. The statement does not answer lingering questions as to why Corey was working in tandem with FBI undercover agents.

“Mr. Corey has been unfairly and inaccurately portrayed in the media as being engaged in improper or criminal actions,” Kise said.

When asked about Corey during the debate, Gillum said that “we all have friends that sometimes let us down.”

Republicans, who have already run ads assailing Gillum over the ongoing investigations, seized on the latest disclosures.

“It’s now abundantly clear that Andrew Gillum has repeatedly lied about taking free gifts and trips from lobbyists,” said Stephen Lawson, a spokesman for the DeSantis campaign.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.

Q-poll: Independents, women, non-white voters push Andrew Gillum up 6 points

Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum is leading his Republican opponent Ron DeSantis by a 6-point margin, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released on Tuesday.

Of the 1,161 likely voters surveyed, 52 percent said they’d vote for Gillum, the Tallahassee Mayor. Forty-two percent opted for DeSantis, a former congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach. Gillum’s lead is outside the poll’s 3.5 percent margin of error.

The live-interview poll randomly sampled more Republicans (35 percent) than Democrats (32 percent). Independent voters came in at 29 percent, while 4 percent of respondents did not indicate or did not know their affiliation.

Gillum’s lead in the poll can be attributed to his favorability among black, Hispanic and independent Floridians. An overwhelming 99 percent of black voters surveyed broke for Gillum. Nearly 60 percent of women and Hispanic voters surveyed also went for Gillum. Across the large sample of independents, Gillum led DeSantis by 18 points.

Peter Brown, assistant director at the Quinnipiac University Poll, suggested DeSantis is suffering from anti-Donald Trump backlash. The President endorsed DeSantis early on — ahead of the Republican primary — and has continued to vouch for DeSantis’ candidacy.

“The GOP has faced strong opposition from women and other anti-Trump voters,” Brown said. “These defections have hurt GOP candidates around the country and made it difficult to attract the numbers of independent voters that are often major players in successful campaigns.”

Brown also noted that Gillum “is on the plus side of a 50-47 percent split among white women.”

Early voting is underway in some parts of the state, and vote-by-mail ballots have been pouring in since earlier this month. But the poll, conducted from Oct. 17 – 21, did not ask respondents whether they’ve already cast a ballot.

Party voters were more faithful to Gillum, who found support in 96 percent of the Democrats surveyed, than DeSantis, who captured 89 percent of Republicans.

Another metric recorded in the poll suggests there isn’t much wiggle room ahead of the Nov. 6 election; just 2 percent of respondents were undecided, while only 4 percent said they could change their minds ahead of Election Day.

The poll mirrors some other surveys conducted over the weekend. One, from Tom Eldon’s SEA Polling & Strategic Design, found Gillum up 48-42 percent over his Republican rival. A CNN poll gave the Democrat a 12-point lead on Sunday.

But a Monday survey from St. Pete Polls put the race almost even, giving Gillum a razor-thin, 1-point lead over DeSantis. An internal poll released by the DeSantis campaign on Sunday showed the Republican with a 2-point lead over Gillum.

Marco Rubio highlights need to restore fighter jets at Tyndall

Several expensive fighter jets stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base were sheltered on site instead of being moved to a different location while Hurricane Michael crept toward Florida’s Panhandle.

That’s cause for concern to Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who noted that at least 17 of the 55 F-22 Raptors at the Panama City facility — almost one third— were designated non-mission capable, or NMC, and consequently unable to be relocated ahead of the storm.

“While the damage assessment of these remaining aircraft is still underway, the facts are clear that any damage sustained could have been avoided if the NMC rate for the F-22 was lower,” Rubio wrote in a Monday letter addressed to Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force. “This concerning figure highlights the dismal state of readiness across our fifth-generation fleet.”

At stake, according to Rubio: “The threat from near-peer competitors continues to evolve and grow … This aircraft is vital to the U.S. military’s ability to defeat high-end adversaries.”

The Pensacola News Journal reported that up to 22 Raptors could have been sheltered at the base during the storm. Damage sustained to the jets, which reportedly cost $330 million apiece, is unclear.

The Air Force Times reported last week that damage was not as bad “as originally feared.” Tyndall Air Force Base, however, suffered catastrophic damage during the Category 4 hurricane.

Last week, Rubio co-signed with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and North Florida GOP Congressman Neal Dunn a letter asking President Donald Trump to commit to “moving quickly” to restore normalcy at Tyndall.

As well, Gov. Rick Scott has asked the Commander-in-Chief to provide some timely federal remedy.

In the Monday letter to the Air Force, Rubio noted that Secretary of Defense James Mattis has requested the American military achieve a minimum 80 percent mission capability for fiscal year 2019-20.

“As you finalize damage assessments of the aircraft that endured Hurricane Michael, I urge you to begin implementation of the framework laid out by Secretary Mattis starting with all Tyndall AFB fighter aircraft,” Rubio wrote.

“Additionally, I ask you waste no time or effort in providing a supplemental funding request to Congress to repair and restore these aircraft to mission capable status as soon as possible.”

Environmental group spends big on Andrew Gillum pitch

The political arm of Florida Conservation Voters is spending nearly $500,000 on digital advertising to back Andrew Gillum, the Democratic option for Governor this fall.

The news comes a week after Gillum’s Republican opponent Ron DeSantis scored a coveted endorsement from the Everglades Trust — support that could convince undecided voters that DeSantis is the better candidate for Florida’s environment.

The 30-second spot from Florida Conservation Voters — which had lashed out against DeSantis shortly after news of the Everglades Trust endorsement — begs otherwise.

The digital ad suggests DeSantis would “let things get worse,” while Gillum would roll “up his sleeves to fix the problem.”

That problem, according to FCV, is climate change — and by extension “red tide, algae blooms, sunny day flooding, stronger and larger hurricanes,” according to the organization’s deputy director, Jonathan Webber.

The ad repurposes a story published in August by the Sarasota Herald Tribune. In quotes referencing the article: “Climate change isn’t really a problem.” But DeSantis isn’t quoted saying that. 

The story was published two days after Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency over the red tide algae outbreak in Sarasota and six nearby counties. DeSantis had acknowledged to the Herald-Tribune that climate change “may be a factor” fueling stronger red tide blooms. 

The quote in the ad likely references DeSantis’ remarks about dealing with climate change at the state level. The former congressman suggested to the Herald-Tribune that the state is an inappropriate venue.

“I certainly don’t think in Tallahassee, you know, we’re going to be able at the state level to do things that are really global in nature so that’s something that I think is more of a national and international issue,” DeSantis had told the Herald-Tribune. 

Gillum, at least publicly, disagrees. The Tallahassee Mayor’s environmental policy plan reads: “Sea level rise poses a catastrophic threat to our state — and one we’re wholly unprepared to face.” It also proposes that the state reconvene climate change summits started under former Gov. Charlie Crist, and “transition our energy production towards clean, renewable sources like solar and wave/tidal.”

The climate change contrast between Gillum and DeSantis also played out on stage Sunday night during the CNN debate.

Asked about climate change, DeSantis said he didn’t “want to be an alarmist.” But he conceded that resiliency projects are needed around the state in places like South Florida, where there is “more water” and “flooding.” Gillum, however, retaliated by suggesting DeSantis does not believe in climate change science.

To watch the ad, click on the image below.

Latest St. Pete Polls survey pegs Fla. Gov. race Andrew Gillum 47%, Ron DeSantis 46%

The two candidates competing to become Florida’s next Governor are shaping up for a photo finish on Nov. 6.

That’s according to the results of the latest survey from St. Pete Polls, which has consecutively put Democrat Andrew Gillum with an inside-the-margin-of-error lead over Republican Ron DeSantis.

The poll, conducted over the weekend but wrapped before the two candidates debated Sunday night, put Gillum at 47 percent and DeSantis at 46 percent. That mirrors results from St. Pete Polls last week that put Gillum at 47 percent and DeSantis at 46.

Despite a razor-thin lead, the poll carries good news for Gillum. He’s the preferred candidate among those who’ve already voted, 51-45. In the survey conducted last week, DeSantis led that metric 49-45. In total, a little more than 4 percent of respondents were undecided. Twenty-seven percent of all respondents said they already cast their ballots for the election. The rest, 73 percent, indicated they planned to vote.

The new numbers stand in contrast to a poll released from CNN on Sunday, which gave Gillum a 12-point edge over DeSantis.

An overwhelming 81 percent of black voters surveyed went for Gillum, with just 13 percent opting for DeSantis. On the other hand, DeSantis leads in support among white voters, 54-40. Gillum has a 6-point edge over DeSantis among Hispanic voters.

With respect to appeal across the aisle, both candidates garnered around 14 percent of voters from the opposite major party. Party support hovers around 80 percent for both candidates, although less so for Gillum as almost 5 percent of Democrats were undecided.

The poll was conducted through an automated phone call polling system. The results were then weighted to account for proportional differences between the respondents’ demographics and the demographics of the active general election voter population for the state of Florida. The weighting demographics used were: political party, race, age, gender and media market. The voters polled were chosen at random within the registered voter population within the state of Florida.

Voters who said they were not planning to vote were excluded from the results below. The sample size is 1,575 and the results have a 2.5 percent margin of error at a 95% confidence level.

Joe Biden plans trio of Florida rallies next week

Former Vice President Joe Biden will make three stops in the Sunshine State early next week to rally for Democrats up and down the ballot.

At noon Monday, the Delaware Democrat will be in Tampa holding a get-out-the-vote rally alongside U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, Attorney General hopeful Sean Shaw and nearby Congressman Charlie Crist. That’s at the University of South Florida’s East Gym, 12301 USF Maple Drive, Tampa. Doors open at 10:30 a.m.

At 3:45 p.m. on Monday, Biden, Gillum and Nelson will headline a similar rally in Jacksonville, this time joined by local congressional candidate Nancy Soderberg. That’s at the University of North Florida Field House, 11852 University of North Florida Drive, Jacksonville. Doors open at 3:45 p.m.

Capping off the two-day circuit is a 3:45 p.m. rally on Tuesday in Orlando. Gillum, the Tallahassee Mayor, will not be present, although Biden will be joined by Nelson and Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, along with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. That’s at the Cheyenne Saloon, 128 W Church St, Orlando.

A news release announcing the appearances notes that Biden will make stops at college campuses “to encourage young people to vote early, and promote Democrats up-and-down the ballot.” It also highlights that early voting begins in Hillsborough, Duval and Pinellas counties on Monday.

“This election is a battle for the soul of America, and Florida has the chance to decide the future of this country. I am honored to stand with Senator Bill Nelson and Mayor Andrew Gillum as they work to restore our nation’s democracy,” said Vice President Biden. “The stakes couldn’t be higher in 2018. We need Floridian’s voices to be heard at the polls this fall, and that starts with early voting.”

Biden earlier this week endorsed Shaw, the Democratic Attorney General candidate. He has also offered support for candidates running in special elections during the past two years, even going as far as recording robocalls to go out ahead of February’s House District 72 race, which saw Democrat Margaret Good secure an upset victory.

It’s no secret that Biden, who served two terms under former President Barack Obama, is mulling his own presidential bid in 2020. And there’s an emerging trend of other presidential potentials making headlines in Florida this cycle. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his rounds through South Florida earlier this month. Another national Democratic figure, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, endorsed Democratic Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried earlier this week.

Tom Steyer’s $2M donation to Andrew Gillum looks different this time

California progressive billionaire Tom Steyer is again opening up his wallet to help get Democrat Andrew Gillum elected Governor.

But unlike other money coming from Steyer, this cash infusion offers Gillum a bit more autonomy.

On Thursday, a spokesperson with the Steyer’s NextGen America organization confirmed that $2 million is on its way to Forward Florida, Gillum’s committee. The news was first reported by CNN.

Because the money is being funneled to Gillum’s committee, the donation is nuanced. In September, Steyer made headlines by pledging around $5.2 million on Gillum’s behalf, though almost $2 million of it would be spent via NextGen America and For Our Future, organizations affiliated with Steyer but also support other “progressive candidates” in the state, a spokesperson with NextGen confirmed. The remaining money would be spent on digital advertising for Gillum.

NextGen confirmed that the additional $2 million is separate from the $5.2 million already pledged through the other organizations. None of the latter sum has shown up in Gillum’s fundraising reports, meaning it’s likely being exclusively used by the affiliated organizations.

With the latest donation, Steyer’s total contributions to Gillum’s campaign and committee accounts exceed roughly $2.8 million. Another $600,000 was spent during the primary on digital advertising on behalf of Gillum.

“If you were going to choose a single race that has the most national significance, it would be the governor’s race in Florida,” Steyer told CNN.

In addition to the $2 million committee transfer, Steyer also said he’s financing 300,000 mailers in Florida calling for the need to impeach President Donald Trump. According to CNN, the mailers make mention of Gillum’s support for impeachment.

Gillum faces Republican Ron DeSantis in the contest for Governor. Election Day is Nov. 6.

Records sought for correspondence between Rick Scott’s official office, campaign

A photo of Gov. Rick Scott acting in his official capacity following Hurricane Michael made its way into an ad for Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign.

That’s not sitting well with a liberal Super PAC invested in Florida’s closely watched top-ticket races.

American Bridge 21st Century filed a three-pronged public record request on Wednesday with the Governor’s Office. The group wants any email correspondence between the state and the campaign from the past week, along with any mentions of visual materials of Hurricane Michael recovery efforts and a list of any “filming expenses” incurred by Scott’s state office.

Hurricane Michael made landfall a week ago in Mexico Beach as a powerful Category 4 storm. Since then, Scott has traveled the areas hit in the storm’s path, speaking to local officials, assisting affected communities and coordinating with federal authorities.

On Monday, Scott’s Senate campaign announced the candidate would leave the trail limelight, citing the need for Scott to focus on hurricane recovery efforts. Wife Ann Scott would take over in his absence, the campaign said.

On Tuesday, the Scott campaign unveiled a new television ad extolling the Governor’s hurricane response, while criticizing his Democratic opponent Sen. Bill Nelson.

Scott is “leading hurricane recovery, directing relief efforts, and even housing state troopers in his own home,” the ad’s narrator says, displaying an image presumably captured by staff members of the Office of the Governor.

The still shows Scott speaking to state troopers in the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee. The duplicative was first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

American Bridge spokesperson Amelia Penniman charged that the use of the image “strongly suggests Scott used taxpayer-funded government resources to capture video footage for use by his campaign.”

“We expect a swift response and thorough explanation,” Penniman added, referencing the pending records request.

A spokesperson for Scott’s state office redirected questions to the campaign. As of publishing, the campaign had not yet responded.

Whether Scott’s official office took the photo in question, however, has not been disputed. Scott campaign spokeswoman Lauren Schenone told the Times, “Those photos were released publicly and anyone can use them, including the media and our opponents.”

Rick Scott, Bill Nelson fault each other for canceled CNN debate

One of the most bitterly disputed features of Florida’s U.S. Senate race is if or when the candidates will convene to talk about real issues.

Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican challenger Gov. Rick Scott have swapped accusations of debate dodging since the summer. The latest development: a canceled CNN forum, prompting more sparks to fly in the debate debacle.

“Regrettably, Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott are unable to agree on a new date to hold the U.S. Senate debate originally scheduled to air Tuesday, Oct 16,” an account associated with the cable news network tweeted on Wednesday. “Therefore, the CNN Florida Senate debate has been canceled.”

The debate, once approved by both candidates, had been postponed last week after Hurricane Michael devastated Florida’s Panhandle. Both candidates agreed to delay the forum.

Scott’s campaign wanted to reschedule the debate for Oct. 25 and early this week began suggesting Nelson would back out.

That’s precisely what Nelson did, according to Scott’s campaign.

Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said in an email that CNN had proposed rescheduling the debate for Oct. 25, and that “Nelson refused to debate on the date [CNN] offered.”

As of publishing, the communications office at CNN did not confirm nor deny that Nelson refused.

Schenone also pointed to Scott’s displayed eagerness to face Nelson on stage. The Governor accepted four debates earlier this year, but only two were agreed to by Nelson.

But on Twitter, Nelson is suggesting that Scott refused to debate earlier than Oct. 25.

“We received word from CNN it will cancel our Senate debate,” Nelson tweeted. “Rick Scott refused to debate before early voting starts en masse Oct. 22.”

Early voting begins statewide on Oct. 27, though some large counties, including Miami-Dade, will open up the polls on Oct. 22. Vote-by-mail is already is underway.

A request for comment was left with a spokesperson for the Nelson campaign.

From Scott’s perspective, it’s a matter of Nelson not wanting to face him one more time ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

“Bill Nelson ducks CNN debate,” Scott tweeted. “Refuses to reschedule after Hurricane Michael delay. Sad but not surprising. I hope he reconsiders. Senate won’t be in session – can’t imagine what’s more important than talking to voters.”

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