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Andrew Gillum video promises opportunity; campaign pushes back at tax critics

Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum rolled out a new advertisement promoting his economic message as his campaign pushed back on suggestions his election would usher in higher taxes.

A campaign video released Sunday includes footage from a rally last weekend in Orlando.

The audio for the ad showcases lines from Gillum’s speech about restoring economic opportunity for “our teachers who need to get paid what they’re worth” and “our kids who need an opportunity that should not be defined by their ZIP code, where they live or what side of the track they grow up on.”

The clip comes as the Tallahassee mayor’s gubernatorial campaign responds to accusations the candidate’s “Fair Shake for Florida’s Future” would bring high taxes and dangerous socialism.

Indeed, Gillum in April unveiled the plan with a promise to increase corporate taxes in order to increase education spending by $1 billion.

A new statement from Gillum’s campaign echoed that sentiment while taking a fresh swipe at Republican opponent Ron DeSantis.

“Mayor Gillum is asking our state’s richest corporations to pay their fair share so our children can have the high-quality public education they deserve — while Ron DeSantis has no plan for public education, or any other critical issue facing Floridians,” the statement reads.

But the campaign also says “No Floridian would pay even $1 more in taxes.”

The campaign said the proposed tax would be a “2.25 percent (5.5 percent, adjusted to 7.75 percent) increase on corporate income taxes,” not a 40-percent increase “as misleadingly reported.”

That appears to be a reference to an analysis by the Americans for Tax Reform, which after the primary reported that Gillum’s proposal would give Florida the “highest corporate tax in the region.”

ATR did account for Gillum’s 7.75 percent adjusted figure and said that constituted a 40.9 percent increase from taxes now, which accounts for the $1 billion in new funding Gillum wants for education.

Florida, should it institute that rate, would charge a higher corporate tax than Alabama or Tennessee (6.5 percent) or than Georgia (6 percent), according to ATR.

DeSantis, in contrast, signed a pledge before the primary not to raise taxes on Floridians.

But Gillum’s campaign says 98 percent of businesses would still pay no corporate income tax, and that 2 to 3 percent of C-Corporations that would be subject to any new tax would still pay 83.9 percent less overall in corporate taxes than they were charged in the last eight years under Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

C-Corporations with less than $50,000 income annually would be exempt, as would all S-Corporations and limited liability corporations, according to the campaign.

Gillum insists the economic message will provide empowerment for more Floridians by bolstering educational resources. And in his new campaign video, he ends on a Barack Obama-esque message just as opponents try to paint him as a big government liberal.

“The politics of hope and aspiration and inspiration and opportunity still lives, and it lives right here in the state of Florida,” Gillum says at the rally, before signing off with the campaign motto “Let’s bring it home.”

Did Ron DeSantis just put a charity’s tax status at risk?

Did Ron DeSantis’ campaign just put a First Responder group’s nonprofit status into jeopardy? Well, probably not — but there’s still time.

Schedulers for the Republican nominee for Governor included a charitable fundraiser on a list of “several campaign events” that the candidate will attend today.

The final public event for DeSantis will be the First Responders Fall Cook-off at the Indian River Fairgrounds in Vero Beach.

The problem? The event serves as a benefit for the First Responders of Indian River County, a 501(c)(3) organization with tax-exempt status. That designation comes with rules aplenty, according to LegalZoom, chief among them a prohibition on any political or substantial lobbying activity.

It’s something local party leaders have been conscious of as they spread the word that DeSantis would attend the cook-off as a guest judge. Frank Sosta, Jr., Indian River County chairman for the DeSantis campaign, stressed on social media posts that there will be “NO CAMPAIGNING” (note the all-caps) permitted at the event.

That’s because event organizers don’t want their tax status revoked. Now, Sosta will have T-shirts to sell on-hand but those are not something to be worn at the event.

The local Republican Executive Committee will be on hand with voter registration cards. The Democratic Executive Committee could do that too, but says nobody invited them. But there will be no campaigning materials on the tables, and candidates themselves have been asked not to stump at the event.

And for the record, DeSantis campaign officials make clear that they don’t intend to treat the cook-off like a sign-waving campaign event.

Candidates can only speak about how they support first responders, something that could present challenges for politicians, especially for those who want to tout any work on behalf of police and firefighters.

But last night, the event made it into the campaign event line-up pushed out as a paid political message from the DeSantis campaign. It was also alluded to in a pointed political release comparing the activity of the Republic to that of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.

None of this was done by the First Responders group, of course, which doesn’t clear releases from the DeSantis headquarters.

That said, the question quickly arises why DeSantis would serve as a guest judge at a nonprofit event anyway. Vero Beach and Indian River County actually sit well south of Florida’s 6th Congressional District, the area he actually represented in the House. Besides, he resigned from the seat this week to focus his efforts on his run for Governor. He’s a curious choice to put on a panel.

Obviously, DeSantis has little reason to spend his weekend in Vero Beach six weeks out from the biggest election of his life other than to introduce himself to voters. But then, that’s probably true of a lot of the people manning booths at events like this. Cook-offs held within two months of elections tend to inspire huge numbers of politicians to discover family recipes worthy of sharing with the world.

To list the event as a campaign function in any way, though, invites scrutiny no nonprofit welcomes. If anyone from the campaign shows up with the wrong T-shirt or too large a campaign button, they may need a change of clothes handy.

And DeSantis may need to be more careful than ever about the words that come out of his mouth. On the bright side, it looks like there will be plenty of delicious food to put there instead.

Andrew Gillum agrees to Univision, Leadership Florida debates

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum accepted invitations to debates hosted by Univision and by Leadership Florida. But whether Republican Ron DeSantis will be on stage as well remains unclear.

“We hope that Congressman DeSantis will join us, though it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to answer a single question about his nonexistent campaign platform,” said Gillum adviser Scott Arceneaux in a statement.

No dates have been determined yet, except that the events would happen in October. DeSantis has yet to confirm attendance.

A release from the Gillum campaign says Univision 23 Miami and Leadership Florida invited the candidate to debates, and the release seems to indicate both of those events will take place in South Florida.

The campaign says it has insisted on having at least one debate outside of that region of the state to ensure voters across the state have heard from both candidates.

“Florida voters deserve the chance to hear from Mayor Gillum and Congressman DeSantis about the critical issues facing our state,” Arceneaux said. “Mayor Gillum looks forward to sharing his vision for Florida that lifts people up, with higher wages, more money for schools and affordable health care.”

The Gillum campaign release notes that in addition to five Democratic primary debates, Gillum also participated in February in a one-on-one debate with Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran as well.

Univision has made no announcement about when it plans to hold a debate with gubernatorial candidates. The network in 2010 held the first debate between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Alex Sink on Oct. 8, less than a month before Scott won the governorship.

Leadership Florida, along with the Florida Press Association, hosted a 2014 televised debate between Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist on Oct. 14.

The Florida governor’s race, scheduled for Nov. 6 this year, remains one of the most closely watched in the country. All polls released included in Real Clear Politics index since the candidates won their respecting primaries show Gillum leading by between 2 and 6 percentage points.

A St. Pete Polls survey last week found the race almost tied, with Gillum holding the slightest of edge.

Candidates campaign, canvass across Sunshine State

Campaign season stops for no weekend. Candidates for the state’s biggest offices continue to greet voters around Florida. Will one be near you today?

Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, will ride his statewide “Make Washington Work” bus tour into Hialeah today and will hold a rally at Gus Machado Ford Dealership at 1:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, supporters in Miami will canvas for incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. The canvass kicks off in Orange Grove and runs from 9 a.m. to noon. Supporters will push for Nelson’s re-election and for other Democrats appearing on the ballot in November.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis launches a heavy day of campaigning today with stops in Casselberry, Orlando and Vero Beach, attending numerous county events and also benefits for veterans and first responders.

Democrat Andrew Gillum’s campaign is promoting about three dozen canvassing events throughout the state, from his home base in Tallahassee to his home region of South Florida.

Republican Agriculture Commission candidate Matt Caldwell will swing through Jacksonville today on a search for votes. He’ll stop by the Republican Party of Florida headquarters on San Jose Boulevard for a candidate meet-and-greet at 10 a.m.

Check back on this post as more candidates announce events this weekend.

Ron DeSantis to campaign in Central Florida on Saturday

With the Republican nomination fight for Governor behind him and having officially resigned from his U.S. House seat, former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis will travel Florida in a series of campaign stops today.

DeSantis will start his Saturday in Casselberry at the Seminole County Victory HQ at 10 a.m.

Then he heads to the Hispanic Heritage Month Kick-Off at La Casita Azul Del Elefante Sabio in Orlando. That event starts at 11 a.m.

He then heads to Orlando Brewing for a GOP Vets Military Appreciation barbeque from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

DeSantis will then high-tail it south to Vero Beach for a First Responders Fall Cook-Off from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Indian River Fairgrounds.

The heavy day of campaigning marks one of the most active for DeSantis the entire campaign cycle. In the Aug. 28 primary, DeSantis upset early favorite Adam Putnam, Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, not so much with hustle as with prestige, winning a coveted endorsement from President Donald Trump.

DeSantis also made himself known to much of the Republican base with numerous appearances on Fox News, sometimes showing prowess on national issues in major debates—and other times making gaffes on national television.

But today’s heavy schedule in certain ways shows an earnest shift to campaigning on the ground and pressing the flesh with voters. It’s part of why DeSantis resigned his House seat earlier this week to focus on the campaign full-time.

“As the Republican nominee for Governor of Florida, it is clear to me that I will likely miss the vast majority of our remaining session days for this Congress,” he wrote in a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Under these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to accept a salary.”

Of course, the aggressive campaigning also comes as a number of polls, even notoriously right-leaning ones, show DeSantis trailing in polls behind Democrat Andrew Gillum.

This week, new polls from Rasmussen Reports and from the Florida Chamber of Commerce showed Gillum winning by six and four percentage points respectively.

Independent voters push Andrew Gillum up six points over Ron DeSantis, says new Rasmussen poll

Per Rasmussen Reports, Democrat Andrew Gillum has a six point lead over Republican Ron DeSantis in the gubernatorial race.

The Rasmussen poll of 800 likely voters was conducted Monday and Tuesday.

Gillum was buoyed by female and NPA voters, and held his own with men and white voters, while DeSantis continues to show difficulty reaching out beyond his base.

DeSantis had just a one point lead (48 to 47 percent) with men, but was 13 points down (50-37) with female voters.

DeSantis likewise was up just one point with white voters (46-45), and down 75-24 with African-American voters. Hispanics, however, favored DeSantis 48-37.

Gillum was up with two of three age cohorts. Though those aged 45-64 favored DeSantis 51-38, Gillum was the favorite of voters 65+ (60-38), and 18-39 (56-32).

Likely voters are already polarized with these candidates. DeSantis had a “very unfavorable” rating of 32 percent, 4 points above his “very favorable” rating; Gillum had a “very favorable” rating of 28 percent and a “very unfavorable” rating of 26 percent.

Both Gillum and DeSantis can count on the votes of at least 80 percent of their own party, if the survey is accurate. NPAs break in this survey toward Gillum by a 54-29 percent margin.

This is the second Republican-leaning poll to show Gillum strong this week.

According to a recent poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Democrat Andrew Gillum is four points up on Republican Ron DeSantis.

The spread there is 47-43, with Gillum ahead in every major media market but Jacksonville.

Deal on local property tax rates helped stabilize Florida’s budget

A leading Senate budget writer claimed vindication Friday in a lingering dispute with House leaders over whether to allow local school boards to capture all of the value of rising property values when setting local tax rates.

Rob Bradley, co-chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, underscored the point during a presentation on the state’s three-year fiscal outlook by Office of Economic and Demographic Research director Amy Baker.

Baker, the Legislature’s chief economist, expects state revenues to grow by 3.3 percent or so through each of the next three fiscal years. That works out to about $1 billion per year, suggesting a stable budget picture through the near future.

Baker attributed much of that stability to last Session’s legislative compromise on the required local effort, or RLE — the minimum that school districts must raise from property owners to support county schools.

“It would be the RLE decision, mostly — to allow the required local effort to absorb the benefit of new construction,” she said.

For the past four years, the House has insisted on reductions to local property tax rates that leave those taxes level, notwithstanding increases in property values. The Legislature sent state money to help compensate the districts for the revenue losses.

Under the compromise, the House agreed to let local school districts capture the value of new construction for classrooms.

“That one decision really fundamentally changed the nature of short-term and long-term financial outlook for the state budget in a positive direction,” Bradley told reporters following the hearing.

“We need to continue to focus on decisions related to RLE, and we need to very strongly consider going back to the policy of the Legislature from four years ago, whereby the (tax) rate remained the same — there were no tax increases — but there wasn’t a subsidy from the state government to local property taxes,” he said.

Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, took over the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee after Jack Latvala quit the Senate following sexual harassment accusations.

House leaders, by contrast, had argued that if property owners paid more, that would equal a tax increase — even if their tax rates remain the same.

Capturing the full increase in property values would raise an additional $300 million-$323 million dollars per each of the next three fiscal years, Baker said: “Over the three-year period, that would put you somewhere between $900 million and $1 billion.”

Bradley was asked if he had seen any indication that incoming House leadership might soften its approach to the issue.

“That’s why we have Session — to have these discussions,” he said, adding, “It’s not a tax increase. We’ve plowed this ground before, and I look forward to having those discussions.”

Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur, a leading House budget writer who’s term-limited, and who sits on the commission, said the report vindicated his side’s insistence on budget restraint.

Even though he’s leaving, Brodeur has picked up little enthusiasm among House members for significant spending increases on, for example, expanding Medicare eligibility, as Democrats including gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum have advocated.

Such ideas “are simply out the window,” Brodeur said.

Polling: GOP candidates on wrong side of medical marijuana smoking ban

As Florida Politics was preparing to release the results of our final post-primary, statewide survey focusing on the nexus of 2018 elections and medical marijuana, POLITICO Florida published a story putting Ron DeSantis, Ashley Moody and Matt Caldwell squarely on the wrong side of public opinion when it comes to Florida’s popular medical marijuana law.

The three top-of-ticket Republicans each offered varying degrees of incoherence as they staked out positions in support of Tallahasee’s quixotic crusade against allowing Florida patients to smoke medical marijuana.

DeSantis: “I want to see what happens with [the appeal].”

Moody: “…the litigation to clarify the amendment’s scope is reasonable…”

Caldwell: “…smoking is not a medicinal delivery system…[the smoking lawsuit] is just a fig leaf for full recreational use…”

Meanwhile, in the real world, voters believe — by a whopping 66-24 margin — that medical marijuana patients be allowed to smoke marijuana under the law.

These numbers come from Florida Politics’ polling partnership with medical marijuana advocacy org Empowering Wellness. What began as Wellness Week has now stretched over almost two weeks, and we’ve released results from four surveys over the last 10 days. In tomorrow morning’s SunBurn we’ll roll out the fifth and final poll, looking at the race for Attorney General.

ICYM the Sean Shaw-Moody horse race numbers,I’ll give you some hints:

—It’s tiggggght (duh);

—Medical marijuana is a winner for Shaw, and a loser for Moody.

Just like the three previous St. Pete Polls statewide surveys that we commissioned as part of Wellness Week(s), Floridians strongly support the state’s medical marijuana law, in numbers consistent with the 71 percent it received on the 2016 ballot. Also in line with the previous surveys, people aren’t happy with the Tallahasee status quo when it comes to the application of that law.

By a 42-23 margin, respondents disapproved of the way outgoing AG Pam Bondi has handled medical marijuana during her tenure. Those figures are squarely aligned with the prior results, where we asked if folks approved of Gov. Rick Scott’s handling (nope, by 45-30), and the Legislature’s handling (uh uh, by 48-29) of medical marijuana implementation.

Even in the survey we conducted among Republican primary voters in the uber-conservative 1st Congressional District (held by medical marijuana-supporting Republican, Matt Gaetz), Panhandle Republicans would rather keep the Florida medical marijuana law in place, versus repealing it, by a 53-34 margin.

DeSantis, Moody and Caldwell are simply out of step with the electorate on this issue, and all indications are that Democrats are going to continue weaponizing it to their electoral advantage.

We had Bill Nelson over Scott by 0.1 percent, Andrew Gillum over DeSantis by 0.3 percent, and Nikki Fried over Caldwell by 1.8 percent — and the AG race is looking to be another close one.

With a slate of statewide contests this tight, medical marijuana could easily make the difference in any one of them.

SEIU to put $5 million toward Florida elections

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is pledging $5 million to help elect candidates throughout Florida this November.

In a statement obtained by Florida Politics, the group says the money will go toward “advertising, communications and get-out-the-vote efforts in Florida to support candidates dedicated to lifting up the middle class.”

“Having to work two full-time jobs to barely feed your children or pay your rent is not freedom,” said SEIU Florida President Monica Russo.

“Living in fear of getting sick because you can’t afford a doctor is not freedom,” she added. “Having no voice in the workplace because you could get fired on a whim is not freedom. Instead, we’re uniting for the freedom Florida families need to achieve better, more secure lives.”

SEIU Florida has also recruited hundreds of members to volunteer through the election cycle. Their efforts will include canvassing neighborhoods and working phone banks.

The organization says it will assist candidates who support a $15 per hour minimum wage, protection of Medicare and expansion of Medicaid, along with the rights of employees to join a union.

News of the monetary contribution comes on the same day the group announced it was backing Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee in the race for Governor.

“Andrew Gillum is going to bring working-class values back to the governor’s office so that all Floridians have the freedom to pursue their dreams and support their families,” Russo said.

“Andrew has been fighting his entire life to ensure that every Floridian can earn a good wage, have a safe roof over their head and access quality, affordable health care to give working people the freedom they deserve.”

Enterprise Florida works ‘back channels’ to connect with Rick Scott’s successor

With Rick Scott leaving the governor’s office in January, Enterprise Florida is preparing for life without its biggest supporter.

The business-development agency, which Scott has helped defend from attacks by the Florida House, has been working “back channels” with the campaigns of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum to make both more aware of the agency’s reach and roles.

“Obviously, Enterprise Florida, where we go will have a great deal (to do) with who wins the governor’s race,” Executive Vice President Mike Grissom, who made the back channels reference, said Tuesday, without expounding on just how each candidate could be expected to reshape the agency.

Enterprise Florida President and CEO Pete Antonacci expressed a little more confidence that there won’t be dramatic changes regardless of the winner of the Nov. 6 gubernatorial contest.

“I continue to be optimistic about people when they are exposed to a set of facts, a set of facts could be persuasive,” Antonacci, who was Scott’s general counsel at the end of the governor’s first term, told members of the public-private agency’s Executive Committee. “I think we’ll be able to persuade the next governor of the value that this board provides and the value of the organization.”

The agency’s 62-member board of directors includes the governor, who serves as the chair, and six of his appointees.

Former staff members from the agency are working for both campaigns, and Grissom offered advice Tuesday to get local business officials to meet with House and Senate candidates.

“The best time in the world to get in contact with your state representatives and state senators is when they’re first getting in,” Grissom said. “We’re going to have a nice big crop of House members this year that we have an opportunity of getting to early and talking about economic development.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican who will leave office in November, has been a major critic during the past two years of state funding for economic-development incentives and Enterprise Florida.

Corcoran’s successor, incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, is expected to take a similar stance on opposing direct incentives for businesses.

Scott clashed with the Republican-dominated House over the incentives issue until a compromise was reached that resulted in the governor getting an annual $85 million pool to spend on regional infrastructure and worker-training programs.

Neither DeSantis nor Gillum is expected to match Scott’s support for incentive money.

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