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Thomas Kennedy: The real extremist running for Florida Governor

Politics in America has become quite the spectacle recently. Florida, of course, has never been known for boring elections. Consider our last gubernatorial election, where former Republican Governor Charlie Crist ran as a Democrat against Republican Rick Scott, a millionaire who oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in the history of Florida (and is currently running for Senate).

Need I say more?

Yet Florida has not seen anything like the epic race pitting Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum against Rep. Ron DeSantis, both aspiring to become Governor. Gillum made history by becoming the first black nominee for Governor in the history of the state after beating four other candidates, all millionaires, while running a bold and progressive campaign. DeSantis defeated Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam after receiving Donald Trump’s endorsement in what was considered an upset by political observers.

Since the onset of the general election, Gillum has faced a barrage of smears from the Florida Republican Party and its allies claiming that he is a candidate too radical for the people of Florida. Republicans say that Gillum is out of step with the average Floridian.

That’s funny coming from a party that has held political power in Florida for two decades, with disastrous consequences for working-class families. Currently 45 percent of households in the state qualifying as working poor and struggle to afford basic necessities like health care, transportation and housing despite being employed. Meanwhile, Republicans in the state have underfunded public education, refused to expand Medicaid for as many as 1 million Floridians, and set up corporate slush funds that divert millions in taxpayer dollars to the same wealthy corporations who help fund their campaigns

In the current race for Governor, it is DeSantis who is the clear extremist. His reactionary political agenda is plain for all Floridians to see.

— He has not taken a stand on raising the abysmal $8.25 minimum wage in the state.

— He opposes gun policies that would prevent tragedies like the Parkland shooting and is proud of his NRA endorsement and the money that comes with it.

— He opposes a woman’s right to choose what happens to their bodies.

— He wants to criminalize undocumented immigrant families who contribute to the economy of Florida in an effort to make their lives as difficult as possible.

— He supports the privatization of prisons and has taken big sums of money from GEO Group, the largest for-profit prison company in Florida.

— He opposed imposing meaningful regulations on industries that are destroying our environment and questions if climate change is caused by humans despite overwhelming scientific evidence.

In stark contrast stands Gillum and his progressive agenda, yet his policy positions are hardly radical or extreme. In fact, they are in lockstep with a majority of Americans.

— Medicare for all? Supported by 70 percent of Americans.

— Assault weapons ban? Supported by 67 percent of Americans.

— Comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship? Supported by 63 percent of Americans.

— Legalizing marijuana? Supported by 61 percent of Americans.

— Raising the minimum wage? Supported by 51 percent of Americans.

— Restoring voting rights to people with prior felony convictions? Supported by 74 percent of Floridians.

I can keep going if I’d wanted to, but I think I’ve made my point.

Despite what political consultants and mainstream media outlets will tell you, people are hungry for change and support policies that will materially make their lives better. They are tired of having to work two or three jobs to make ends meet, and fearing that a health issue could potentially lead to financial ruin or even death due to lack of health care.

DeSantis is a radical who has tied his political fortunes to Donald Trump, one of the most corrupt and unpopular Presidents in modern American history.

I believe that come Nov. 6, Floridians will choose Gillum as the candidate that stands with them on a majority of the issues.

___

Thomas Kennedy is the Political Director for FLIC Votes and a communications fellow for the Center for Community Change Action. He tweets from @Tomaskenn.

Democrats for Cabinet calling for Groveland Four pardons, Republicans mum

In 2017 the Florida Legislature acknowledged and apologized for one of Florida’s ugliest recorded events of 20th-century racism. Yet barring a late surprise it would be left to the next state government to address the Groveland Four, and all four Democratic Florida Cabinet nominees pledged they would move swiftly, if elected, to issue long-sought pardons.

On Tuesday the Florida Board of Clemency will meet. As with the previous five times the board has met since the Florida Legislature urged Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet to issue posthumous pardons for “grave injustices perpetrated against Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas,” such pardons are not on the agenda.

The offices of Scott and the other Cabinet members, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, have never publicly said whether they have any intention of considering the pardons demanded by the Legislature and families of the four men whose lives were destroyed in 1949 after what now are recognized as false rape accusations and a series of racism-fueled injustices.

That silence continued through the end of last week, despite fresh inquiries from Florida Politics and others. On Friday, Scott’s office provided essentially the same response it did twice earlier, last October and in April, saying only that he is keeping his options open. The statement did not say what those options might be, or if the options include not acting at all.

The bipartisan-pushed and -celebrated resolution CS/HCR 631 was unanimously approved by both chambers of the Florida Legislature in April 2017, urging them to perform “expedited clemency review of the cases and grant full pardons.”

Now, all four Democratic Florida Cabinet nominees including gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum are making it clear that they would act swiftly, if elected, on behalf of the Groveland Four. The Republican nominees each declined opportunities to comment on the pardons.

The Democrats also are declaring shame on Scott, Bondi, Putnam and Patronis for doing and saying nothing so far.

There is only one more scheduled meeting of the Clemency Board under Scott and the current Florida Cabinet, set for Dec. 5.

“It makes me incensed that the Cabinet would just ignore the will of a bipartisan Legislature,” said Democratic chief financial officer nominee Jeremy Ring, a former state senator. “This was [Republican House Speaker] Richard Corcoran and [Democratic state Sen.] Gary Farmer coming together, right? This was a unanimous decision. … But more than just absurd that they would ignore the Legislature, it’s unconscionable and mean that they would ignore the families.”

“The total silence from the Governor and Florida Cabinet on expediting the pardons of the Groveland Four speaks volumes about why we so desperately need new leadership in Tallahassee,” Democratic agriculture commissioner nominee Nikki Fried said in a written statement. “As ag commissioner, and a member of the cabinet, I would not hesitate to move the clemency review process, and these long-deserved pardons, forward quickly. The Groveland Four, and their families, deserve to finally realize the justice they were never able to in their lifetimes. And Florida deserves a Cabinet that will actually act in the spirit of fairness and compassion when it comes to the clemency review process.”

“Justice for Ernest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin is seven decades overdue,” Democratic attorney general nominee Sean Shaw said in written statement. “I will do everything within my power to bring closure for these families if this is not resolved by my first Clemency Board meeting as attorney general.”

Gillum declined to comment, though his campaign staff and his running mate made it clear he, too, is ready to issue pardons.

“The mistreatment suffered by these young men should trouble every law-abiding citizen and posthumous pardons from Gov. Scott are long overdue,” Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Chris King said in a written statement.

Records released by the FBI and evidence and testimony gathered by Civil Rights crusaiders including Thurgood Marshall, the future Supreme Court justice, laid a powerful case that the four were falsely accused of raping a white woman in a rural area of Lake County outside Groveland in 1949. The story of racism and justice gone awry, and the individual stories of nightmares-come-true of the Groveland Four, were first comprehensively detailed in Gary Corsair‘s 2012 book “Legal Lynching: The Sad Saga of the Groveland Four” and then internationally exposed in Gilbert King‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning, 2013 best seller “Devil in the Grove.”

Shepherd and Thomas were killed in custody. Greenlee and Irvin were convicted and imprisoned. They since have died.

“We hereby acknowledge that Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas, the Groveland Four, were the victims of gross injustices and that their abhorrent treatment by the criminal justice system is a shameful chapter in this state’s history,” the Florida Legislature declared in the resolution.

The resolution also extended the Florida Legislature’s “heartfelt apology to the families … for the enduring sorrow caused by the criminal justice system’s failure.”

The desperate familes, watching aging loved ones who are contemporaries of the Groveland Four move into the twilights of their lives, have gone from joyful to angry as time has slipped by since that resolution was published, Ap;ril 28, 2017, without any word of formal considerations of such pardons from the Florida Cabinet.

They’re now assisted by a loosely-defined group that is getting pro-bono help from the firm Edelman Orlando for a more organized push for the pardons. The nameless group includes several family members and several others who’ve been involved in the effort for years, such as King and Josh Venkataraman, the young activist who brought the matter to the attentions of Farmer, then-state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, state Rep. Bobby DuBose and the Legislature. The group has been writing to the Cabinet members urging action, and seeking more media attention. So far they’ve not heard anything from Florida Cabinet officials either.

“It’s like the Legislature vote did not happen,” said Greenlee’s daughter, Carol Greenlee.

Among survivors is Henrietta Irvin, sister of Walter Irvin.

“There’s an 84-year-old woman in Miami with crippled hands that no longer work, who can no longer bathe herself or brush her hair, who spends her days in bed, wasting away because she has no appetite – a divorcee who raised children, worked long hours at a hospital, buried two daughters, took care of a mentally disabled brother for decades, who has nurtured the hope that her wrongfully-convicted brother, Walter Lee Irvin, would one day be exonerated,” Corsair wrote in an email to Florida Politics. “I believe only one thing is keeping this praiseworthy woman alive – a fading hope that the state of Florida will right a terrible wrong and restore Walter Lee Irvin’s to nullify his criminal record and restore his reputation to law-abiding citizen.”

The response from Scott’s office, from his press secretary Ashley Cook, did not provide any specific reason for Irvin or others involved to hope that a resolution is forthcoming.

“Governor Scott is aware of the Groveland Four case and is strongly against any form of racial injustice or discrimination. Currently, the families of Walter Irvin and Charles Greenlee have applications pending with the Commission on Offender Review which, on behalf of the state of Florida, conducts clemency investigations per standard procedure and the Florida Constitution. After the Commission concludes clemency investigation, their findings are presented to the four-member Board of Executive Clemency,” Cook said in a written statement. “We continue to review all of our options.”

Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, is ready to pursue pardons “following the will of the Legislature,” if he is elected governor, according to his spokesman. “The Groveland Four and their families deserve closure,” said Geoff Burgan.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — New food from a familiar face

A fresh slate of state leaders won’t be the only change lawmakers confront when they return to Tallahassee next year.  

Savour restaurant, offering traditional fare with a twist, is set to open its doors Oct. 15, replacing Avenue Eat & Drink at its former location on East Park Avenue in the heart of Tallahassee’s downtown district.

Florida Politics caught up with owner and operator Drew McLeod, who says he “absolutely” intends to cater to lawmakers, state leaders and others who inhabit the capital city. He’s betting his experience — nearly 30 years of working in the food and restaurant industry in and around Tallahassee — will translate well to his latest venture.

And Savour, he says, should complement other food enterprises popping up downtown, an area where other restaurants have recently struggled.

Avenue Eat & Drink quietly shuttered earlier this summer.

The dining will be upscale with entrees between $25-$45, but McLeod assures the price-quality ratio will keep customers coming back. Spearheading the kitchen and menu is top chef Brian Knepper, who got his start at the famous Commander’s Palace in New Orleans and has since worked at Tallahassee’s Cypress Restaurant, Governor’s Inn and Table 23.

Among the anticipated foodstuffs: Veal chops, lobster bao buns, local black grouper and escargot pot pie. McLeod expects the made-in-house desserts to also carry a “twist;” think key lime-raspberry-blackberry-flavored creme brulee.

Antibiotic-free, local and sustainable products also will be available, McLeod says. And the wine list will be “phenomenal,” boasting a “large variety from NAPA.” That’s in addition to a full bar.

“We’re going to have a menu that kind of evolves,” McLeod adds. “We’re not going to be afraid to change it every three to six months.”

Savour will operate Monday through Saturday night, and McLeod expects to open as a venue on Sundays for events.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

Supreme Court rules on CRC challenges – The Supreme Court of Florida struck an education-related amendment from the ballot Friday afternoon while upholding in separate rulings three other proposals that were approved by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission. The education ballot item, known as Amendment 8, was struck in a 4-3 decision that affirmed a lower court’s stance that the proposal’s intentions toward charter schools were badly worded. The high court, however, disagreed with a lower court’s stance in its ruling on a proposal that would end dog racing. In a 6-1 decision, justices overturned a previous order by Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, who ruled the ballot title and summary of the proposed ban, known as Amendment 13, would mislead voters, calling it “outright ‘trickeration.’ ” Amendments 10 and 6 also were upheld by the Supreme Court on Friday.

Lower court examines ‘bundling’ – Tallahassee Judge Gievers heard arguments this week over a sweeping challenge to six of the eight proposed amendments approved by the CRC. Filed by former Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead, the lawsuit seeks to wipe the proposals off the ballot because they bundle, or logroll, separate issues into single ballot items. The practice is like forcing diners to select a set menu rather than letting them eat a la carte, a lawyer representing Anstead said. An attorney representing the state, however, argued that there is no judicial authority that guarantees one a right to vote on an unbundled CRC amendment. The case had originally been filed with the state Supreme Court, but the justices kicked the lawsuit down to Gievers’ trial court. Gievers said this week she will rule quickly on the matter.

Scott clashes with Legislature on security money – Gov. Rick Scott is pushing a special lawmaking budget panel to convene and unlock $58 million in unused school security funding, but lawmakers are resisting. Scott last week penned a letter to members of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission citing a Department of Education survey that found school districts used just $9 million of the $67 appropriated for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program. The guardian program funds schools in districts that opted to hire security personnel or arm non-teacher faculty to staff guards at every campus. Before Scott wrote the letter, Bill Galvano, incoming Senate President, and Jose Oliva, incoming House Speaker, told The Associated Press they did not intend to shift the money out of the program. Both Oliva and Galvano are members of the special budget panel. Scott, in his letter, wrote: “Schools in your community can directly benefit from the redirection of this important funding. We cannot let this money go to waste in Tallahassee.”

Parkland SRO subpoenaed by state panelScot Peterson, the school resource officer who was stationed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the Valentine’s Day shooting that left 17 dead, has been subpoenaed to appear before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, reports the News Service of Florida. Peterson has been widely criticized because he did not stop the shooter, Nikolas Cruz. “As opposed to going in, he retreated and ran,” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who heads the fact-finding panel. “We’ll see him leave the door, after saying there were shots fired and hearing shots.” Gualtieri and the commission reviewed footage of the massacre this week. Peterson’s subpoena is for the panel’s October meeting.

Transportation officials: Sorry about SunPass – A Transportation Commission meeting this week began on an apologetic note, reports the News Service of Florida. Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Dew apologized publicly for the issues that have accompanied a $287 million upgrade to SunPass, the state’s toll system. “This is not what they expect. This is not what they deserve,” Dew said. “This is not what SunPass is supposed to do. And they had to endure a lot of complications over the course of the summer.” The upgrades, carried out by state contractor Conduent, took longer than expected and resulted in a toll backlog exceeding 170 million transactions. The backlog has since been cleared, and the state has promised to hold Conduent accountable for its failures.   

Scott announces $1.5 million in grants for small, rural communities

Funding to the tune of $1.5 million will be available for small and rural communities across the state, Gov. Scott announced this week.

The Competitive Florida Partnership and Community Planning Technical Assistance grants will be administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity. The communities using the funding will receive assistance from DEO in planning and economic development.

Rick Scott announced the grant funding this week. It will be administered by his jobs agency, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“Providing resources to support job creation in our rural communities plays a vital role in our state’s continued growth,” Scott said.

Added DEO executive director Cissy Proctor: “These grants are important economic development tools used to benefit Florida’s small and rural communities, allowing them to develop economic strategies to attract businesses and create jobs.”

According to Scott’s office, the grant money is in addition to more than $35 million already awarded to small and rural communities through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, the Rural Infrastructure Fund and the Community Development Block Grant.

Ag department makes dent in invasive snails

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced some good news this week for farmers: more than 168,000 giant African land snails have been eliminated since the species’ discovery in 2011.

The invasive shelled creatures are threats to more than 500 crop varieties in Florida. They also consume plaster and stucco and are vehicles for a parasite known to cause meningitis, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

To report a giant African land snail, call the department’s toll-free help line at 1-888-397-1517.

“Giant African land snails not only threaten Florida’s $120 million agriculture industry, but they also endanger our residents and visitors,” said Putnam. “I am proud of the significant progress we’ve made to eliminate these invasive pests, and I encourage the public to report sightings.”

In partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture, Florida officials have dequarantined areas in 20 of the 32 identified snail hotspots. ‘

The snail species, originally hailing from East Africa, can grow to 8 inches in length. They have no natural predators and can reproduce rapidly, with adults capable of laying some 1,200 eggs a year.

Instagram of the Week

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The Week in Appointments

Gov. Scott this week made the following appointments and reappointments:

Board of Control for Southern Regional Education

State Rep. Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, 45, of Orlando, is a district relations manager with Florida Virtual School and previously served as a classroom instructor for 17 years. He currently represents House District 49. Plasencia is reappointed for a term ending June 30, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council

Trenia Cox, 68, of St. Petersburg is a former senior special projects coordinator for the Juvenile Welfare Board. She is reappointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending July 18, 2021. Nancy Acevedo, 69, of Winter Springs is the community relations coordinator for the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. She succeeds Patricia Robbins and is appointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending July 18, 2021. Calvin Martin, 49, of Palatka is the state director of program advocacy and inclusion of Florida Guardian ad Litem. He succeeds Karim Veerjee and is appointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending July 18, 2020.

Polk State College District Board of Trustees

Gregory Littleton, 51, of Winter Haven, is the president and chief executive officer of Citizens Bank & Trust. He received his bachelor’s degree from Freed-Hardeman University and an advance banking degree from the Graduate School of Banking. Littleton is reappointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending May 31, 2019. Daniel Dorrell, 71, of Lakeland, is a retired Certified Public Accountant. He received his bachelor’s degree from the Florida State University. Dorrell is reappointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending May 31, 2022. These appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Florida Gateway College District Board of Trustees

Lindsey Lander, 45, of Trenton, is the owner of Lindsey Lander Attorney at Law P.A. He received his bachelor’s and law degree from the University of Florida. Lander is appointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending May 31, 2022. Dr. Miguel Tepedino, 39, of Lake City, is a physician with North Florida Family Medicine and a residency and associate clinical professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine. He received his bachelor’s degree and medical doctorate from the University of Florida. Tepedino is appointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending May 31, 2022. Dr. James Surrency, 66, of Trenton, is the retired executive director of the North East Florida Educational Consortium. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Murray State University, and his doctorate of Education from Nova Southeastern University. Surrency is reappointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending May 31, 2022. These are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Seminole State College District Board of Trustees

Tina Calderone, 59, of Longwood, is a school board member for Seminole County Public Schools. She received her bachelor’s degree from Central Connecticut State University and her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Florida. Calderone is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending May 31, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

ACA health insurance prices going up

Premiums for Affordable Care Act-complaint health insurance will rise by an average 5.2 percent as of Jan. 1, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

The office reviewed rates proposed by nine insurers, and OK’d premium changes ranging from a drop of 1.5 percent to an increase of 9.8 percent. You can review the results per insurer here.

The highest rate on offer would be from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, at $620 per month, and the lowest from Florida Health Care Plans, at $489

Those outcomes could change, depending on a review by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the state insurance office said.

Hearing set on workers’ comp premium reduction

State regulators will schedule a hearing during October to consider a 13.4 percent decrease in Florida’s workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI, proposes rate levels for all of Florida’s workers’ compensation carriers. But the Office of Insurance Regulation has the final say.

CFO Jimmy Patronis oversees the regulatory body.

“As always, OIR will review the filing to ensure the proposed changes are not excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory and evaluate its potential effects on the insurance marketplace and employers, who are required by law to carry this insurance on their employees,” the agency said in a press release.

In the past, regulators have deviated from NCCI’s rate proposals. If they approve this change, it would take effect on Jan. 1.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who oversees the insurance office, said the development was “a testament to our commitment to ensuring Florida is an attractive place for all business owners.

Time to register for insurance summit

Registration is open for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation’s annual summit, scheduled for Oct. 24-25 at the Turnbull Conference Center in Tallahassee.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes is scheduled to give the keynote address. The St. Petersburg Republican carried a number of insurance reform bills last session, including a measure promoting the Florida private flood insurance market.

Sen. Jeff Brandes will deliver the keynote address the FOIR’s annual summit.

Key office staff will discuss priorities during break-out sessions covering the Medicare supplement market; flood insurance; the fine points of filing forms with the office; the state’s new insurance filing system; and the assignment-of-benefits “crisis.”

Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier will deliver remarks opening and closing the conference.

James Madison Institute opines on amendments

The Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute announced its 2018 Florida Constitutional Amendment Guide, where voters can find an analysis of each ballot initiative.

“A well-informed voter is the bedrock of our republic, and it is our hope that The James Madison Institute’s 2018 Amendment Guide will educate voters on the issues present in the upcoming election,” said Dr. Bob McClure, the group’s President and CEO.

The James Madison Institute is a liberty-minded think tank headquartered in Tallahassee.

“Educated voters help ensure that Florida will make prudent decisions for our future, and the importance of this year’s election will be examined for generations to come.”

As Florida’s premier free-market think tank, the Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational organization. It conducts research on issues such as health care, taxes, and regulatory environments.

JMI’s 2018 Florida Constitutional Amendment Guide can be found here.

Tallahassee entrepreneur honored as national retail champion

Lisa Mergel, owner of Kanvas Beauty in Tallahassee, was recently named America’s Retail Champion of the Year.  

Mergel’s brick-and-mortar location is a boutique day spa and beauty products store. In addition to managing the business, Mergel serves as a board member for the Florida Retail Federation.

R. Scott Shalley is the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.

“We are extremely proud but not surprised that the winner came from Florida, and there’s no one more representative of the incredible and dedicated retail employees in our state than Lisa Mergel and Kanvas Beauty,” said FRF President & CEO R. Scott Shalley. “Lisa’s commitment to her community, her customers and her industry are just some of the reasons she was selected for this prestigious award and we’re honored to have her as a board member and a leader of Florida’s retail industry.”

The America’s Retail Champions program honors retailers who contribute to and make their mark on the public policy debates affecting the industry.

More than $24M available for volunteer efforts

Volunteer Florida recently announced that $24,329,191 was secured to administer 38 AmeriCorps programs in the Sunshine State through the next fiscal year.

The Governor’s lead agency for volunteerism and service, Volunteer Florida plans to use the money to mentor at-risk students and boost the state’s graduation and retention rates. Eighty-one percent of the total figure will “help provide after-school tutoring, summer school programming and targeted interventions to prevent dropouts and encourage long-term success in school,” according to the agency.

“I am grateful for Governor Scott’s continued support of Volunteer Florida, as this funding will allow approximately 1,430 AmeriCorps members to engage in direct, high-impact service Florida’s communities,” said Volunteer Florida CEO David Mica. “These dedicated AmeriCorps members will improve individual Floridians’ lives and make the state a more prosperous place for all to live.”

Remaining funding, according to the agency, will be used to protect Florida’s natural resources, conserve public lands, promote prosperity and help the state’s disaster responses.

AmeriCorps volunteers serve a year in the program to gain valuable experience before entering the workforce or continuing their education. This year, $6,692,613 worth of scholarship funding is available for members who complete their service. View a full list of AmeriCorps initiatives receiving the funding here.

FSU student-managed fund breaks $4 million mark

Looking for financial advice? Consider consulting with a student at Florida State University.

FSU’s College of Business announced recently that an investment fund managed by undergraduate and graduate finance students exceeded $4 million, a new record in the fund’s 12-year history.

In 2013, the College of Business introduced a dedicated trading room that is used by the SIF’s student managers.

It closed last month at $4,026,382, up 17 percent from the same time last year and up 10 percent year to date.

“The fund has benefited from the strong performance of the overall market,” said Steven Perfect, associate professor of finance, a certified financial analyst and the faculty adviser of the student fund. “But we also were well-positioned in a number of high-performing technology stocks like Apple, Amazon, CRW and NVIDIA.”

“We are incredibly proud that we can offer this experience to our finance students and that they have engaged so deeply and successfully in the opportunity,” said Michael D. Hartline, dean of the College of Business. “The SIF is an invaluable tool for preparing students for the complex and challenging world of finance and a great example of why our school is recognized as one of the preeminent business schools in the nation.”

Jim Moran building wins award

The renovation of Florida State University’s new entrepreneurship-focused Jim Moran Building has won a design award “recognizing architectural features that nurture learning and imagination,” the school said.

The American Institute of Architects in Florida has presented its ‘Merit Award of Excellence for Renovations and Additions’ to the project’s architects, who “transformed the 19th-century building in downtown Tallahassee into a state-of-the-art home for entrepreneurial education.”

The building’s interior exhibits design narratives of connectivity, transparency and inspiration.

The honor notes several design elements: “We’ve taken that idea of transparency, literally, in the building,” said M. Hays Layerd, formerly of Architects Lewis + Whitlock, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in May.

“You see glass walls wherever possible. The fronts and backs of the building are glass to allow light and views to permeate through. We want everything to be open. We want to be open to the community, so people have a visual connection, understanding that the entrepreneurial process is not hidden or done in private. You really need to connect with people.”

Also, inspiring quotes from Moran, an automotive entrepreneur and philanthropist, and a timeline of his life story are displayed prominently throughout the 20,000-square-foot building, next to the new Ballard Building on Monroe Street.

Research finds bias against businesswomen

Women CEOs in America are paid less, have shorter tenures and their companies are punished in the stock market, even when their firms are just as profitable as those run by men, according to new research from Florida State University.

In addition, women CEOs are less likely to serve as board chair of their companies, and they have a much tougher time landing the top job because there is significantly less demand for their leadership compared to men.

“This research should be eye-opening to people, and I hope they take a closer look,” said Michael Holmes, FSU’s Jim Moran Associate Professor of Strategic Management. “We hope this sets the record straight on past research, some of which has produced conflicting results, and now people can build on this aggregation of findings.”

To set the record straight, Holmes and Assistant Professor of Management Gang Wang conducted an exhaustive study focusing on the influence of gender on CEOs’ careers.

The business management experts conducted a meta-analysis, examining the entire body of research completed over decades, and they pored over 158 previous studies that investigated gender, companies’ hiring choices and the impact of those decisions.

One of the key findings in that body of research reveals an extreme underrepresentation of women CEOs. Only 5.4 percent of Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs in 2017, and that figure was the all-time high in the United States.

Junior League of Tallahassee to host Sunshine State Ball

Local residents and guests from across the state will be welcomed to the capital city to enjoy dinner and live entertainment at the 2019 Sunshine State Ball.

The inaugural event, hosted by the Junior League of Tallahassee, is a celebration of Florida and its volunteers.

“We are beyond thrilled to be turning this vision into a reality,” said Junior League of Tallahassee President Lex Phillips. “It will be a historic evening. We’re setting the bar with this inaugural event and hope it begins a long tradition of fun and Florida pride that gives back in a big way to the community we love.”

The event will take place on Jan. 11 at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. Tickets for the black-tie occasion are available but are expected to sell quickly. Proceeds will benefit the Junior League’s mission.

“The Sunshine State Ball is a continuation of the Junior League of Tallahassee’s legacy, and we hope to energize and inspire others as an example of effective community volunteerism across the Sunshine State,” added Phillips. “We are women who believe in our community and want to make it a better place. This event is the next step in being the change we want to see in Tallahassee and in Florida.”

Cap City Bank named “best bank”

American Banker Magazine has listed Tallahassee’s Capital City Bank among its 2018 “Best Banks to Work For,” ranking No. 35 overall out of 85 banks that achieved best bank status.

The 2018 edition marks the sixth consecutive year the 123-year-old financial institution has appeared on the list.

As its name suggests, Capital City Bank is the financial institution of choice for many Tallahasseeans.

“Capital City Bankers are dedicated to building personal relationships while exceeding the expectations of our clients,” said Bill Smith, Capital City Bank Group chairman, president and CEO. “We aspire to be more than a bank to our clients and emphasize creating positive, memorable and exceptional service experiences.

“Our associates are our most valuable resource and make it possible to live up to this promise. I’m proud of our team and honored that Capital City Bank has been recognized in this way again this year.”

The annual “Best Banks to Work For” list was created in 2013 by American Banker Magazine and Best Companies Group.

Capitol Directions

Republicans: This election is stark choice of capitalism versus radicalism

Led by blistering attacks from Gov. Rick Scott, Republican candidates kicked off their unity rally in Orlando Thursday morning declaring that this year’s election offers stark choices that boil down to capitalism versus socialism.

Scott, the nominee for U.S. Senate; gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis; the rest of Florida’s cabinet; and the rest of the Republican Party’s nominees for the cabinet took turns Friday attacking Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and other Democrats as radical, bent on destroying Florida’s economy and the state.

“When I was in the private sector I recalled many times that it seemed like the two political parties didn’t have very different choices. That’s not the case here in Florida today,” Scott said. “This election offers voters the starkest choice possible for the direction and the future of our state and the country. The Democratic ticket of Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum offering a very clear, a very liberal, a very radical and a very risky direction.”

“I am the capitalist candidate for Governor for the state of Florida,” DeSantis later declared.

The event oozed unity after primary battles that left some Republicans broken and broken-hearted. On Thursday, Attorney General nominee Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner nominee Matt Caldwell, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Attorney General Pam Bondi all called for Republican voters to support GOP candidates.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and DeSantis shared a warm handshake and a call to “rally behind our values as Republicans.”

There were, however, a couple of key Republican leaders conspicuous by their absences. The first was Republican Party of Florida Chair Blaise Ingoglia, who continued his refusal to share a dais with Scott.

The other was President Donald Trump, who, in an hour of speeches, was mentioned only once, only in passing, and not by DeSantis, his pick in Florida, nor by Scott, who seeks to join him in Washington and had previously boasted of having a close relationship with him.

Scott and others planned to join Vice President Mike Pence at private events later on Thursday, but Pence was not scheduled to join the Florida Republican unity rally.

The theme was to build on the records of Scott, Bondi, Putnam, and Caldwell, pushing for lower taxes, deregulation, and tougher law enforcement, which was largely defined as enforcement of immigration laws. Much was made of Florida’s economy, job growth, lower taxes, and lower unemployment. Scott also defended his records on education and the environment, which have been sharply targeted by Democrats.

“I think the appropriate course of action is to see what has worked here, build off of that, and enjoy even more success,” DeSantis said. “My opponent, Andrew Gillum, would really want to stop that and reverse all the progress we’ve made.

“If you want to bring more investment to Florida, you probably don’t want to campaign on the biggest tax increase in Florida’s history,” DeSantis said.

From there, DeSantis and Scott charged Gillum with socialist ideas, particularly involving health care, and warnings that would strip private health care plans away from Floridians, bankrupt the state, and send Florida tax money to states like California and New York.

DeSantis also accused Gillum of “radicalism” in calling for the abolishment and replacement of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and in his statements regarding Israel. DeSantis called him anti-Israel for opposing the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, something DeSantis helped champion in Congress.

“I think he believes Jerusalem should be divided,” DeSantis charged. “He criticizes Israel, he said they were committing murder when they were defending themselves against Hamas terrorists who were overrunning the border on the Gaza Strip. That is not representative of Florida values. I’ve always stood by Israel. I will be the most pro-Israel governor in the country.”

Scott, too, attacked Gillum and explicitly charged him with preaching socialism. His attacks on his own opponent, Nelson, was more often by association with Gillum and the Democrats, though he did take a very personal shot at the incumbent U.S. Senator.

“If you grew up wealthy like Bill Nelson, it’s all theory, it’s just about numbers,” Scott said of people struggling to make ends meet. “I grew up poor.”

Jeanette Nuñez’s anti-Trump comments are ‘non-issue,’ Ron DeSantis says

A running mate whose anti-Donald Trump comments surfaced after she was chosen by President Trump’s strong choice for Governor of Florida?

“That’s a non-issue,” U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis said of state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez Thursday.

DeSantis, who rode Trump’s endorsement from 10 points down in most polls to an easy Republican gubernatorial primary victory over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, introduced Nuñez of Miami to run for lieutenant governor on his ticket. And then he dismissed any notion that she at least once was a fervent member of the #NeverTrump wing of the Republican Party.

In at least one 2016 tweet, Nuñez called Trump a con man and accused him of supporting the Ku Klux Klan.

Water over the bridge of past elections, and that’s what you say in primaries when you like the other guy, Nuñez and DeSantis said on Thursday.

“We’re talking about moving Florida forward. Elections are elections. It is what it is. It’s no secret that I was a strong Marco Rubio supporter, but that election is done and I’m looking forward to this election,” she said, referring to Florida’s junior U.S. Senator.

“To support Marco Rubio, a favorite son, a Cuban-American, a historic run, to me, if I was in her shoes, I probably would have been supporting Marco as well. So that’s a non-issue,” DeSantis said.

Of course, DeSantis had cut no slack for Putnam after he also had said negative things about Trump during the 2016 election cycle. Putnam also supported a favorite-son candidate from Florida in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, former Gov. Jeb Bush. Putnam tried hard to walk it back during the primary campaign, while DeSantis ripped him repeatedly for his anti-Trump remarks in 2016.

That’s different, DeSantis insisted Thursday.

“He was running saying, like, he was basically Trump’s guy. And I just thought it was more insincere,” he said. “Jeanette is standing by what she said. She’s just saying it’s a different contest.”

Joe Clements: Possible paths to victory for Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis

On July 9, I published “The ‘big picture’ predictions on Election 2018,” which shared the reasons I thought Andrew Gillum would win the Democratic primary for governor.

Throughout the summer, I tweeted about why I thought Gillum would win the primary election and the rationale behind it, which I retweeted on election night after the results flowed in.

Where do I stand now?

I think Gillum carries the advantage going into the general election, but I do not believe Ron DeSantis faces any challenges that Adam Putnam would not have faced.

First, let’s forecast the rise of Andrew Gillum.

Gillum is going to quickly become a national Democratic icon and people will start floating his name as a 2020 presidential nominee. The energy around Gillum in Democratic circles will be intense as he is a better-looking and more rhetorically-polished Bernie Sanders. Gillum may offer fringe left beliefs, but he does not look or sound fringe.

The bane of Democratic politics in Florida is voter turnout.

While Democrats outnumber Republicans, they can rarely achieve high enough turnout rates to beat Republicans statewide. Gillum, like Barack Obama, brings “once in a generation” excitement to minority communities that will be thrilled to vote for Florida’s first black governor.

Let’s call this strategy the “Barack Obama,” where a candidate can use star power and inspirational messaging to drive turnout among low-propensity voters.

The FBI investigation and corruption charges are unlikely to hold weight with voters who have low confidence in the FBI and dismiss information they don’t like as “Fake News.”

At best, Gillum’s mayoral record can be used to motivate Republican voters, but it is unlikely to deter Democrats.

Finally, Gillum is going to benefit from any attack tweets issued by Donald Trump, as this will provide him with national earned media and drive home the narrative that he is the nation’s premier anti-Trump candidate.

The DeSantis campaign should work with the White House as much as possible to focus presidential messaging about Gillum around the FBI investigation and corruption charges. By doing so, the media will begin to talk about those issues, and Gillum will be forced to answer an attack on his record and not merely respond to Trump.

To win, Gillum needs to focus on voter turnout and not make unforced errors in the media or in debates.

Now, let’s take a look at DeSantis.

As a Republican, DeSantis has two valid strategic options that will lead to a win statewide.

The “Rick Scott:” Move away from the President while also trying to build a coalition of Republicans and moderates around economic issues.

Or …

The “Donald Trump:” Keep working with the President to recreate the Trump coalition of hardcore Republicans and blue collar, white Democrats around social issues.

The issue for DeSantis with the Scott strategy is women. Generally, college-educated moderate women do not support Trump. Democrats will exploit DeSantis’s support for Trump to wedge away soft Republican and NPA women.

DeSantis’ issue with the Trump strategy is that it is successful for only one person – Donald Trump. No one can guarantee if Trump-supported candidates are able to generate the same level of support and voter turnout as the Big Man himself.

That said, I don’t believe DeSantis faces a steeper climb than, say, Putnam, or any other Republican candidate, would have against Gillum. I believe that if Putnam won, he would have ultimately pursued the Trump strategy once it was evident that support among moderate women had collapsed.

Ironically, all the attributes for which Trump praises DeSantis make it difficult for him to recreate the Trump strategy. Ivy League lawyers are typically unpopular among populist NPA and Democratic voters in Florida’s exurban and rural counties, just the where DeSantis needs to recreate the Trump coalition.

There are two actions the DeSantis campaign can take to build a Trump strategy.

First, the DeSantis campaign should seek the endorsement and active support of the one Republican who is most beloved in our rural and exurban areas: Putnam.

Putnam draws large crowds in these areas and the DeSantis campaign needs a validator to voters who will not vote for Gillum but may be at risk of simply not voting.

If DeSantis fails to win these rural and exurban voters, he will have taken the Mitt Romney strategy, which is not a winning route.

Second, the DeSantis campaign should select a moderate Republican woman (or Puerto Rican) to fill the lieutenant governor slot – and give that person a meaningful role.

Denise Grimsley and Jeanette Nunez are both choices, offering overlapping benefits. Grimsley is liked among rural voters and Nunez among Miami Cuban voters. There are also several viable options for LG in Orlando that carry deep ties to the I-4 Puerto Rican community, such as Bob Cortes and Rene Plascencia.

DeSantis would hit the jackpot if he finds a moderate, Republican, Puerto Rican woman for his ticket.

To win, DeSantis needs to duplicate the Trump coalition without the benefit of Trump on the ticket.

In the end, Republicans will be working with tight numbers, but they will ultimately have the advantage of a good economy; voters are always looking to keep things “on the right track.”

So, there we have it: Gillum needs to initiate Twitter battles with Trump and turn out low-propensity voters. DeSantis needs to offset the loss of moderate women with big wins in Trump Country.

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Joe Clements is co-founder and CEO of Strategic Digital Services, a Tallahassee-based tech company. He is also co-founder of Bundl, a campaign contribution management app.

Adam Putnam popular in rural areas but lost big elsewhere

As he ran for governor, Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam campaigned in communities throughout the state and played up his roots in Polk County.

And in Tuesday’s primary elections, Putnam did well in rural Florida.

But his primary opponent, Congressman Ron DeSantis, swamped Putnam in more heavily populated areas and wound up winning the race by about 20 percentage points, according to numbers posted on the state Division of Elections website.

In all, Putnam won 27 counties, including only one large urban county — Hillsborough. Putnam also won in his home Polk County and Leon County, where he is well known.

But all of the other counties where he won were relatively rural: Bradford, Calhoun, Columbia, DeSoto, Dixie, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Glades, Hamilton, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Okeechobee, Suwannee, Taylor, Union and Washington.

DeSantis, by contrast, won by large margins in the urban counties of Broward, Duval, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Pinellas. He also won convincingly in Republican strongholds such as Collier and Lee counties in Southwest Florida, Clay and St. Johns counties in Northeast Florida and Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties in the western Panhandle.

PredictIt sours on Democratic flip after Andrew Gillum nomination

Political prediction markets flipped forecasts on whether Democrats would take the governor’s mansion one day after Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s surprise win as the nominee.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Republican Ron DeSantis was selling at 57 cents on PredictIt; Gillum is selling for 45.

That said, Gillum beat the market on Tuesday night by quite a bit. At the time, PredictIt had Gillum selling at 5 cents, with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham the favorite at 79 cents and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at 20 cents.

Though notably, the market flipped by midday, with Gillum jumping up 46 cents in price and selling ahead of Graham 56 cents to 50, so an apparent “Gillum Surge” happened late in the markets as well as the polls.

DeSantis, in contrast, shocked nobody with his landslide victory of the GOP side. As the favorite candidate of President Donald Trump, the markets in advance of the primary selling a DeSantis victory at 87 cents and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam at 16.

But investors pegged the general election as a dead heat as of yesterday, and on August 24, a Democratic win traded for 60 cents to a Republican victory priced at 44 cents.

The change in the dynamic over 24 hours was enough for PredictIt to note the shift on social media channels.

But oddly, even as PredictIt’s buyers turned bullish on DeSantis, accompanying comments on the market were almost entirely pro-Gillum, with many seeing the progressive candidate as a representative of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ viability.

Incidentally, the Predict market for the U.S. Senate today remains gloomy for Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, whose re-election trades at 43 cents, but that’s a 4-cent boost from yesterday following Gov. Rick Scott’s formal election as the Republican nominee.

PredictIt markets show Republicans chances of holding the U.S. Senate remain the safe bet at 75 cents, with a Democratic takeover at 26 cents.

But the market does predict Democrats will take the U.S. House, with that outcome trading at 66 cents and Republicans holding the chamber trading at 36 cents.

Joe Henderson: Ron DeSantis, Andrew Gillum wins are nothing less than astonishing

If Florida voters wanted a contrast in the election for Governor, they have it. The differences between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis in the November election couldn’t be dramatic – and it goes far beyond the fact Gillum now stands one election win away from being the first black Governor in the state’s history.

He is a hard-left, progressive candidate who didn’t play it safe in the campaign and was continually overlooked, but he never went away. He shocked pollsters, pundits, and everyone but himself Tuesday night in winning the Democratic primary.

DeSantis is the anointed acolyte of Donald Trump who surged on the president’s endorsement and blew out Adam Putnam, the one-time heir apparent to the governor’s mansion, to secure the Republican nomination.

DeSantis had a 20-plus point lead in the polls leading to Election Day with his complete embrace of the president and his policies.

It is set up as a national referendum on the president, and maybe it was always going to be that – just not like this, though.

Gillum lagged well behind early in the polls. Even as he surged at the end behind a populist and positive message of change against the status quo, he was basically dismissed by the pundits.

DeSantis cruised in the closing days of the primary, seemingly at ease and assured.

Gillum?

He ran hard the entire way.

He didn’t have enough money, at least until a late infusion of cash from George Soros, progressive billionaire Tom Steyer, and Collective PAC, a group dedicated to electing African-Americans.

He didn’t have enough experience.

It wasn’t his “time” in 2018. Maybe later.

But something about his campaign connected with voters. His upbeat message, his unabashed progressive platform – it all worked and set up the November showdown against DeSantis and/or Trump, depending on how you view the race.

Yes, Florida politics rarely ceases to astonish, and we greet this morning with the news that the son of a bus driver is now the Democratic nominee for Governor.

Gillum never stopped believing, even if most others did.

Even as late polls showed Gillum was surging, he still trailed Gwen Graham by 5 points. She was trying to make history, too, by becoming the first woman to hold Florida’s top office.

So, what happened?

An endorsement by Bernie Sanders certainly helped. Gillum pushes a populist agenda – a $1 billion increased commitment to public education. Increased vocational training. A ban on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks, and tougher background checks.

He will actually use the words “climate change” from the Governor’s pulpit if elected.

He proposes raising corporate taxes or, as he calls it, “ask the richest corporations to pay a little more of their fair share.”

It is a reliably progressively agenda, against what is sure to be a 180-degree opposite in DeSantis.

But let’s leave the policy wonk stuff for another day and focus on what we just saw.

While Gillum might have been mayor of Florida’s capital city, he still was largely an unknown through the rest of the state. He called himself the only “non-millionaire” in the race. It’s true he was out-moneyed by billionaires Philip Levine and Jeff Greene.

Graham had a famous last name; her father, Bob Graham, served both as Governor of Florida and in the U.S. Senate.

How could the son of a bus driver overcome that?

It started with a message that resonated. His Democratic rivals stressed many of the same points, but Gillum’s progressive and “why not now?” platform seemed to connect. Voters clearly saw him as the face and voice of change they were looking for.

It’s a remarkable achievement to get this far.

The journey isn’t done, though.

To break 20 years of Republican rule in Tallahassee, Gillum will have to convince a statewide electorate that he is more than a fresh face and more than just the latest face of history. It will be his challenge to prove he has answers as well as a great story.

Tuesday was a night for Gillum and his supporters to celebrate and reflect. They have accomplished something that wasn’t supposed to happen. They proved the experts wrong. They believed when few others did.

The son of a bus driver is the Democratic nominee for Governor in Florida.

They made history. But as the primary result proved, anyone who believes Andrew Gillum is satisfied with getting that far is mistaken.

Ron DeSantis handily wins Republican primary for Florida governor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

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