Danny McAuliffe, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 38

Danny McAuliffe

Andrew Gillum goes high — and low — in two new ads

Andrew Gillum is confronting Florida voters with mixed messages as he approaches the home stretch of his Democratic bid for Governor.

Gillum’s campaign debuted two new ads on Tuesday, the three-week mark ahead of the Nov. 6 Election Day. One, a negative attack on his Republican opponent Ron DeSantis, criticizes the former congressman’s voting record on Medicare and social security. Another features one of his closest surrogates, wife R. Jai Gillum, who offers an overwhelmingly positive overview of her husband and his quest for the Governor’s Mansion.

The negative ad in part focuses on health care, noting DeSantis’ prior willingness to increase the age of Medicare retirement — a continuation bet on Gillum’s health care offensive against DeSantis.

Prior televised criticisms from Gillum have questioned DeSantis’ health care ambitions. The Florida Democratic Party has also harped on the same issue via television, a parody website — even a real-time clock tracking how much time has elapsed since DeSantis entered the race. (From the Democrats’ perspective, it’s a matter of how long it’s taken for DeSantis to unveil his highly anticipated but prolonged health care plan.)

But the ad also serves as an attempt to appeal to Florida’s coveted older voting bloc, featuring presumed seniors saying things like, “I’ve earned my retirement.” The criticisms aren’t exactly fresh. In fact, they’re repurposed from DeSantis’ tough primary against Adam Putnam, who aired a similar affront in July to no avail.

In response, DeSantis campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said Gillum’s health care plan, which in part provides support for Medicare for all, “would take away the health insurance choices that most Floridians enjoy today and hurt seniors who have earned their benefits by paying into the system their entire lives.”

According to the Gillum campaign, the 30-second spot is airing in most of the Sunshine State’s major media markets.

The other ad featuring R. Jai Gillum serves as a positive testimonial to her husband’s widely publicized political story arc.

“One thing I can tell you about my husband is that he is a fighter,” R. Jai Gillum says in the spot. “He was the first in his family to graduate high school and college.”

She also speaks to Gillum’s tenure as the Mayor of Tallahassee, including his legal victory against the National Rifle Association. Confirmation is pending on whether that positive message will also air across the state.

To watch the ads, click on the images below:

Former Vice President Joe Biden endorses Sean Shaw

The statewide race for the open Attorney General post is attracting national involvement.

Calling state Rep. Sean Shaw a “fighter with a proven track record of standing up for the little guy,” former Vice President Joe Biden is throwing his political weight behind Florida’s Democratic option for Attorney General.

In an endorsement announced on Tuesday, the former two-term Vice President said, “Sean Shaw will be the kind of Attorney General that the state of Florida desperately needs.”

Shaw responded, likening himself to the former Veep.

“Much like Vice President Biden did during his time in the White House, I plan to give issues surrounding common-sense gun reform and tackling sexual assault, the focus, and attention that they deserve,” Shaw said. “The grace with which Vice President Biden has carried himself, through both triumph and tragedy, is a lesson in the resilience of the human spirit.”

This isn’t Biden’s first wade into races down the ballot. He has 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.

Shaw faces former Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Ashley Moody, a Republican who has long carried support from term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi. Moody faced a brutal primary challenge from Frank White, which exhausted much of her campaign funds. Currently, Shaw leads in the money chase with $1.2 million on hand, while Moody’s close behind at $870,000 — although her weekly hauls have recently topped Shaw’s.

Dana Young bets on personal touch to keep swing seat

A steep staircase leads to Dana Young’s quaint Hyde Park campaign office. The space isn’t striking, but it doesn’t need to be.

She points out that call station cubicles had been installed by the previous tenant, an added bonus for the temporary investment.

Young, a Republican state Senator seeking re-election in 2018, says she wasn’t expecting a challenge from Janet Cruz, her Democratic opponent who’s helmed nearby state House districts for the past eight years.

It’s a surprising but familiar political trial for Young. She says she’s well-equipped to do the same thing she did two years ago, when she carried the swing seat by nearly seven points while Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton finished plus-five in the same area.

How’s that? By walking and talking to voters, one door at a time.

After crowding around a conference table, volunteers and campaign staffers split ways to canvass different parts of Senate District 18, which reaches from South Tampa’s peninsula to the northern border of Hillsborough County.

It’s Saturday morning, and the cool October weather is a reprieve for the team that’s been knocking on doors since May. Young — who grew up hunting and fishing and displays a tournament-winning tarpon in her Capitol office — leads a small convoy in a doorless Jeep Wrangler to Davis Islands. 

As its name suggests, the affluent neighborhood is surrounded by Bay waters, bordered on one side by the mouth of the Hillsborough River. A sea green shine is visible through some of the large-paned homes lining the water.

Young is joined by her political director, Nick Alvarez, and fellow state Sen. Travis Hutson, the latest cameo from the Republican-controlled upper chamber. Last week, retiring state Sen. René García accompanied Young on the trail. Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano is a frequent companion. The list goes on. 

“They do it on their own time,” Young says of her Senate colleagues. “We’re all very close.”

Alvarez, who’s fluent in Spanish, is using an app called CampaignSidekick. Fueled by Census and voter registration information, the tool allows campaigns to record information on voters at different addresses. They’ve already canvassed the area, but now Young is circling back to remind some voters to return their mail-in, or absentee, ballots. She calls it the “A-B chase.”

“It’s very targeted,” Alvarez says of the technology, but there’s room for “soft” Democrats. “If we have information that someone is an older Hispanic Democrat that may have just registered Democrat — just because, which happens — we might target them.”

Young and company are keenly aware of the district’s demographics. Twenty-eight percent of the voting age is Hispanic, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans. There’s a Spanish-speaking team, and plenty of bilingual volunteers and staffers to help convey the campaign’s platform, Young says.

Alvarez points out that the Spanish speakers on staff have been invited in homes to share cafecito with voters. Young admits she isn’t fluent but knows enough to introduce herself.

Alvarez suggests Young should hit the houses with more cars in the driveway. Her average time spent at the door is much higher than the typical two-minute-long interaction shared by volunteers and staffers.

“People take a lot of time to research candidates,” Young says. “They vote for the person more than the party, and so I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know my voters.”

Roughly 20 percent of doors knocked results in an answer, she notes, but it adds up in the long run. The campaign has knocked on north of 110,000 doors. By the day’s end another 1370 would be recorded, with Young personally clocking seven miles.

Those who do answer typically recognize Young immediately, sharing words of encouragement for her campaign. When a small group canvassing for Republicans at the top of the ticket stops to say hello, Young poses for a quick selfie. It’s important to run your own race, Young says, though she’s firmly backing the party’s choices for statewide offices and the U.S. Senate.

Soon afterward, two men operating a car-detailing service beckon Young over. One says he’s seen her commericals and thinks she’s the “right woman for the job.” He’s from the Bahamas and lives in Ybor. Unfortunately, that’s outside my district, Young tells him. Still, they swap business cards as he offers her good luck in the race. 

Almost every interaction is a warm welcome in Davis Islands in part because of the targeting technology, but there are outliers.

One man answers and immediately asks Young why she left the Senate chamber ahead of a vote on an assault weapons ban amendment during a rare Saturday session earlier this year. He’s referencing deliberation over the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act, spawned after the Parkland school shooting in February. Young’s brief absence has served as fodder for Cruz’ campaign. 

Young, who holds a law degree from the University of Virginia, embraces the conflict. She explains to her adversary that she had a legitimate reason to leave the floor and was gone for longer than 45 minutes. She tells him she voted in favor of the complete bill — which resulted in significant changes to the state’s gun laws — and that Cruz hadn’t because the bill didn’t provide enough gun control.

Young, who during college had interned for a Democratic congressman, opts to continue to talk to the man, who identified himself as a registered Democrat, for nearly 15 minutes. It wasn’t until she attended one of former President Ronald Reagan‘s State of the Union addresses that she made the switch to Republican.

She describes the transition as “the first exercise of true political free will,” especially after growing up in Leon County in a Democratic household. (She attended high school with former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham and was close friends then with Graham’s younger sister, Cissy.)

The Democrat at the door eventually warms up to Young and they begin sharing their thoughts on the issues the day. The conversation ranges from the environment to education to local tax initiatives, while the tone shifts from hostile to friendly. The exchange ends with a promise to reconsider the candidates — even an offer of water to help fend off the impending afternoon heat.

“That’s a vote that I’ll probably get,” reflects Young, smiling, as she makes her way to the next house.

Florida GOP takes early lead in returned vote-by-mail ballots

More than 200,000 Floridians have cast their ballots via mail, according to the state Division of Elections website.

And with less than a month until Election Day, Republican voters hold an early returned-ballot lead. Of the number of total votes cast so far, 92,224 came from registered GOP voters, with 71,506 coming from Democrats.

That puts the Republican Party on an early track to continue its history of outpacing Democrats in returning vote-by-mail ballots. In 2016, Republican voters mailed in nearly 60,000 more ballots than Democrats. In 2014, the last midterm election, the Republican vote-by-mail edge was more than 100,000.

In the 2018 primary election, Republicans returned 621,402 ballots compared to the Democrats’ 564,607. GOP voters also had requested fewer ballots, meaning the party’s return rate was exceedingly higher than the Democrats’.

Still, Democrats are pointing to metrics that might signal a change in the early enthusiasm tide.

Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Juan Peñalosa pointed to the number of vote-by-mail ballots requested. For the first time ever, it’s higher than the number requested by Republicans.

Peñalosa also noted that large Democratic counties like Broward and Miami-Dade have counted only a marginal number of ballots so far. In Broward, more than 55,000 voters returned ballots via mail ahead of the Aug. 28 election. As of Friday morning, less than 2,000 were counted.

“We saw the importance of creating more opportunity for Democrats to vote in the August primary, with 1 in 4 vote-by-mail primary voters voting in a primary election for the first time,” Peñalosa said, noting the midterm improvement in returned ballots during the primary. “Democrats expect to over-perform in vote-by-mail in the general, just as we did in the primary.”  

A request for comment on the early voting numbers was left with the Republican Party of Florida.

North Florida Anheuser-Busch distributor to offer cans of water Saturday

Tri-Eagle Sales, a leading beverage wholesaler in North and North-Central Florida, will offer cans of water from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday.

The beer distributor intends to help community members who’ve been affected by Hurricane Michael. In Gadsden County, where Tri-Eagle is located, the storm killed at least four, and mandatory curfews remain in effect, according to local officials.

Tri-Eagle expects to deliver more than 2,000 cases of canned water, which are currently being delivered from the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Cartersville, Georgia. The beer wholesaler says it is “coordinating with the local branch of the American Red Cross, Emergency Operations Center, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office to have emergency cans of drinking water available at other locations.”

Through a partnership formed with the American Red Cross, Anheuser-Busch has provided 79 million emergency cans to areas affected by natural disasters in the past 30 years.

Tri-Eagle, an Anheuser-Busch distributor, boasts more than 200 employees, who service 14 counties from locations in Ocala and Midway. The Saturday water event will take place at the Midway location, 545 River Birch Rd.

Michael Bloomberg, DGA boost Andrew Gillum’s fundraising

Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum raised more than $3.3 million through his political committee last week, receiving hefty support from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Democratic Governors Association and wealthy Democratic donors.

Bloomberg, who visited the Sunshine State over the weekend while reportedly exploring a 2020 presidential bid, cut a $250,000 check for Gillum’s committee, Forward Florida, according to the state Division of Elections.

Other big-ticket donations came from Democratic donor Marsha Laufer, of Manalapan, who chipped in $500,000, and the Barbara Stiefel Trust, which wrote a $100,000 check for the Tallahassee Mayor’s gubernatorial bid. The Democratic Governors Association chipped in $1 million, bringing its total investment in Gillum so far to $4 million.

With the latest committee report filing, Gillum has raised just shy of $20 million since his upset primary. Republican opponent Ron DeSantis, through his committee and campaign accounts, has raised more than $16 million since his primary victory against Republican Adam Putnam. That sum includes fundraising from the Florida Facts committee, which has run a series of televised attack ads against Gillum, but omits last week’s fundraising numbers, due Friday.

Also boosting Gillum’s fundraising numbers were law, real estate and capital management interests. Trial attorney firm Podhurst Orsteck cut Gillum’s committee a $100,000 check. Another firm, Edison Colson, chipped in $75,000.

Miami Beach development project 420 Lincoln Road, West Ventures, and Lakeland Residential Group combined for $100,000 last week, all from the same Miami Beach address.

Tallahassee braces for strongest storm ‘since 1894’

Emergency officials in Leon County are predicting Hurricane Michael will be the “strongest” and “most extreme” storm in decades to hit Florida’s capital city.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Tallahassee, county Emergency Management Director Kevin Peters said Hurricane Michael is nearly a Category 3 storm. He anticipates it will make landfall at that strength on Wednesday somewhere near Panama City.

Tropical storm force winds are expected in Leon County as early as 8 p.m., Peters said. He anticipates hurricane gusts will begin sometime around midday on Wednesday, lasting into the evening.

“Hurricane Michael is expected to be the strongest hurricane to hit our area of Florida since 1894,” said Peters.

Currently, local shelter space is open to the public at Chiles High School, Godby High School, SAIL high school, Lincoln High School and Fort Braden K-8. But more could open as the storm nears.

Joining Peters were local officials and lawmakers, including Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. He emphasized preparation ahead of Tuesday evening, when conditions are expected to worsen.

“We can’t ‘exclamation mark’ and underscore the importance of this storm and storm preparation enough,” Gillum said.

Those not heeding warnings ahead of the storm, Gillum said, are making “those underestimations at their own risk.” He said the city is anticipating a “life-threatening” event and preparations should be completed before Tuesday night.

Emergency vehicles at the ready “cannot roll once the wind gets above 35 miles per hour,” Gillum said, meaning during the storm individuals “are their best first responder.”

Gillum implored the public to follow updates from the news media, as well as the city-owned platform.

The Democratic candidate for Governor did not speak on the state of his race against Republican Ron DeSantis. But while speaking with reporters earlier on Tuesday, Gillum addressed criticisms of his handling of Hurricane Hermine, which struck Tallahassee in 2016.

“I don’t expect that the power would’ve gotten on quicker after Hermine than when it did,” Gillum said. “We had 90 percent of folks back in power three days after the storm event.”

The Republican Party of Florida weaponized storm-related criticisms last week when it debuted two television ads attacking the Mayor’s post-Hermine response.

“Gillum refused help from workers,” one Tallahassee local charges in one of the spots. Adds another: “Gillum turned away workers who could have restored our power.”

After Hermine, Tallahassee officials said they did not “reject” offers of help from outside utilities in the wake of Hurricane Hermine, but rather just didn’t say “yes” to everyone right away.

And at the time, Gillum told Florida Politics he was in the dark about a formal offer by Florida Power & Light to help restore power after Hermine.

Gillum said later on Tuesday that the number of employees assisting the city-owned utility will be six-fold the usual.

Andrew Gillum

‘Don’t come to my state and talk trash about my city’: Andrew Gillum pushes back against Donald Trump

It took less than a day for Hurricane Michael to make partisan sparks fly.

Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum took to Twitter Monday evening to respond to vague criticisms offered by President Donald Trump earlier in the day at a stop in Orlando.

“Don’t come to my state and talk trash about my city while we are preparing for a Category 3 hurricane,” Gillum wrote in a tweet addressed to Trump. “We need a partner right now, not a partisan.”

Gillum was referencing comments made by Trump during an exclusive interview with WFTV’s Christopher Heath following the president’s remarks at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Convention.

Trump, who endorsed Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis and rallied alongside the former congressman in Tampa ahead of the primary election, praised DeSantis and criticized Gillum, along with his tenure as Mayor of Tallahassee — all without directly mentioning Gillum or the capital city.

“[DeSantis’] opponent runs a place that has a lot of problems and I know it very well, but it’s got a lot of problems, tremendous corruption, tremendous crime,” Trump told Heath.

Trump also suggested Gillum “runs an area and a city that’s got among the worst statistics in the country and certainly in the state.”

When it comes to crime, Trump may have been referring to reports released that have shined an unfavorable light on Tallahassee.

One report, which reviewed data from the FBI Uniform Crime Report, found Tallahassee had 767 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2015, far more than in any of Florida’s 21 other metro areas observed by the FBI. Another report, which only examined FBI statistics on property crime, found Tallahassee had 52 property crimes per 1,000 residents, making it the tenth-worst city in the country for crimes such as burglary or larceny

Those stats are nothing new. Leon County, which houses Tallahassee, has had the highest crime rate in the state since 2014, although Gillum has recently pointed to 2017 — which saw the lowest crime rate in the county since 2013 —as evidence that the area is improving.

Hurricane Michael is currently tracking toward the Panhandle and Big Bend regions. It is expected to make landfall somewhere between Pensacola and Panama City, possibly as a category 3 hurricane on Tuesday night or Wednesday. Tallahassee is expected to be affected by the storm, and many state offices have closed their doors in preparation.

Gillum spent Monday in Tallahassee prepping residents for Hurricane Michael’s arrival.

Hurricanes have become a topic of contention in the race for Governor, with DeSantis hitting Gillum over the amount of time Tallahassee residents went without power in the wake of Hurricane Hermine in 2016 — Republicans claim the wait time could have been trimmed if outside workers waiting to help restore power to the city were allowed to pitch in on the effort.

Despite negative ads placing the blame on Gillum, he was not empowered to make that call.

Impending hurricane brings Bill Nelson to Tallahassee

Florida’s Democrat U.A. Sen. Bill Nelson made his rounds across the Panhandle and Big Bend regions as a potentially catastrophic storm approaches the areas, expressing optimism in federal relief and shying away from politics, just like his Republican challenger, Gov. Rick Scott.

Speaking with reporters on Monday in Tallahassee after being briefed by emergency officials, Nelson said he’s confident in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ability to respond to Hurricane Michael, currently expected to make landfall at Florida’s Panhandle as a major hurricane Wednesday.

“FEMA is embedded here,” Nelson said. “They’ve got supplies pre-positioned. They’ve got more supplies in a couple military bases in both Alabama and Georgia so that after the storm they’re ready to come.”

Nelson said he’s spoken to leadership in the Coast Guard, which he said will bring its ships — currently out at sea — back to the shore after the storm. He said officials told him the east side of the eye will bring a stronger storm surge — approximately 8-12 ft — than the western side, 4-8 ft.

Nelson, who spoke with emergency officials in Panama City earlier on Monday, noted the projected path of the storm has shifted slightly more towards the Bay County city. He said officials there were prepping a mandatory evacuation for 8 a.m. on Tuesday — but that was before the storm shifted.

Currently, the National Weather Service predicts “life-threatening storm surge is likely along the Panhandle and Big Bend coast.”

“[Panama City] may be speeding that up,” Nelson said, referencing mandatory evacuation orders. “The big loss of life can occur from the storm surge. So people need to heed the evacuation orders.”

Any increase in wind speed,  he added, is “exponentially more damaging.”

In the backdrop of Nelson’s Monday appearance is a closely contested race for his seat. But, like his opponent Scott, Nelson refrained from offering political criticisms.

When asked about whether he believes Scott has adequately prepped for Hurricane Michael, Nelson opted not to play politics, saying that he “didn’t know the answer” to whether or not Scott is doing a good job.

Likewise, at a Pasco County briefing earlier on Monday, Scott backed away from political discourse. A reporter asked Scott then whether he was avoiding Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, who actively participated in storm preparations on Monday in Tallahassee, where he presides as Mayor

“This isn’t about politics,” Scott said. “This is about keeping people safe.”

Nelson said he’s asked Secretary of State Ken Detzner to extend the state’s voter registration deadline, currently set for Tuesday.

“A lot of people haven’t been paying attention [to the election], and now they’re paying attention, and the election is right around the corner,” Nelson said.

When Scott was asked about extending the registration deadline earlier on Monday, he said he’s “still looking at that,” but added that online registration is currently available.

#FlaPol in Review: A weekend roundup

With just weeks out from the election, every candidate is doing something over the weekend.

For some, the crowds are growing, and the number of doors knocked is increasing.

Here’s what some pols are doing on Saturdays and Sundays ahead of Nov. 6.

Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum drew a large number of attendees in Stuart after unveiling his environmental plan last week:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis announced that his Panhandle staff would take a break from traditional campaigning to assist Floridians with the impending Hurricane Michael:

DeSantis’ running mate, state Rep. Jeanette Nunez, was busy on the trail speaking with veterans:

Republican Attorney General hopeful Ashley Moody stopped in Ocala over the weekend:

Democratic candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried met party powerhouse Mike Bloomberg as he visited the Sunshine State:

Democratic candidate for Attorney General Sean Shaw spoke to party faithfuls in Palm Beach:

Incumbent Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is knocking on doors for his reelection bid:

Democratic CFO challenger Jeremy Ring opened three new offices:

Democratic Congressman and former Governor Charlie Crist is all in for Gillum: 

Democratic U.S. House hopeful Mary Barzee Flores also is working for the party’s candidates at the top of the ballot:

Democratic state House hopeful Anna Eskamani has teamed up with incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy:

Democratic congressional candidate Nancy Soderberg canvassed West Volusia:

Donna Shalala, who’s hoping to grab an open House seat this fall, joined other party electeds over the weekend: 

Democratic congressional hopeful David Shapiro drew a small crowd: 

Republican state Sen. Dana Young grabbed a photo op with Pirulo: 

Young also got support from term-limited state Sen. Rene Garcia

Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes‘ campaigning took to a Pinellas boardwalk over the weekend: 

Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes canvassed Maitland: 

Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith might’ve knocked on your Orlando-area residence: 

Democratic state Rep. Janet Cruz, who’s challenging Young in the state Senate, spoke with voters Tampa: 

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