Andrew Gillum – Page 2 – Florida Politics

Joe Clements: The ‘big picture’ predictions on Election 2018

This cycle, our firm has worked with dozens of Republican campaigns from Cabinet positions to Congress. One advantage of our workload has been an opportunity to see the results of dozens of polls and focus groups conducted by several national and Florida-based research firms.

Without sharing specifics on data, campaigns or researchers, I want to give a few of my big picture ideas and predictions about what is happening this cycle in Florida.

After I analyze an article of research, I keep notes in a document, which eventually provides an outline for the macro trends I notice across research products. The items below are extracted almost verbatim from my notes and I hope they help provide some context for the current cycle.

Andrew Gillum is underestimated by establishment Republicans and Democrats. Democratic activists are angry about Donald Trump and want someone who shares their anger. In a crowded primary, Gillum has a built-in advantage with African-American voters and has a clear play to voters under 35 years old. He is also hurting Philip Levine and Gwen Graham by pushing them further left.

– The Democratic left flank is the single most underestimated factor of this election. Bernie Sanders was not a fluke. For the first time in a century, there is a true socialist/social justice/leftists voter group on the left with a clear guiding philosophy that pulls and energizes the rest of the party. The problem for Democrats is that their left wing is as far, if not further from center, then the Republican right.

– The Republican conservative right has replaced the role of philosophy (conservatism) with personality (Trump). There is no longer a uniting philosophy on the right outside of populist nationalism. Republican voters appear to differentiate between Trump and other Republican candidates but do want to see reflections of Trump in their candidates.

– Trump is equal parts headwind and tailwind for Republicans. Lower propensity Republican-leaning voters do appear eager to cast a proxy vote in support of him. It’s not clear the same energy exists to cast protests votes against Trump among lower propensity Democratic voters.

– College educated suburban and urban women are going to be the Achilles’ heel for Republicans. These women previously leaned Republican but dislike Trump and will vote Democrat if a good option is available. These “Whole Foods Moms” are the 2018 manifestation of the 2004 “Soccer Moms.” They still vote for security and safety, but Parkland, not 9/11, is now their marquee fear.

– Republicans have work to do on immigration. The issue is considered vital among the Republican base but general election voters think Democrats would do a better job handling the issue.

– Democrats have a real shot at Attorney General. They have decent candidates and room to use populist messaging that appeals to Republican segments on “Big Pharma,” “Big Sugar,” and “Big Insurers.” This race will be the clearest square off between an economic growth message and a populist message.

– Millennials are likely to comprise a significant portion of the electorate for the first time this year as they’ve aged into their thirties. My prediction is that men will break slight Republican and women will break hard Democratic.

– Guns won’t be the watershed issue in the general. Both sides will use the issue to drive turnout but it does not appear to be the strongest issue with moderate voters. We are likely to hear a lot about jobs and the economy come October.

– Floridians are generally optimistic about Florida’s path, which is favorable for incumbent candidates and parties, but Democrats and Republicans live in different worlds on the issue. Republicans are happy, Democrats are not happy, and NPA voters lean happy. Democrats really need the economy to slump and Republicans need it to keep growing.


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.

Philip Levine touts record on police reform in new ad

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is out with a new ad highlighting a key hire made during his four-year tenure as Miami Beach mayor.

The 30-second ad, titled “What a Leader Does,” is on former Lauretta Hill, who was appointed deputy chief of police at the Miami Beach Police Department in 2014. She has since moved on to become a police commissioner in Dallas.

“Four years ago, Philip Levine led the effort to reform the Miami Beach Police Department by putting citizens first,” Hill says in the ad. “I should know, because I was there, sworn in by Mayor Levine as the highest-ranking woman and African-American in department history.

“Together we fought racism, brought the community and police closer, and saw violent crime drop. He took a lot of heat from those who fought progress. But Philip? He’s never been afraid—to do the right thing.”

Though Hill was appointed to the Miami Beach job by Police Chief Dan Oates, the Levine campaign says the ad “underscores the actions taken by Mayor Levine and city leaders to reform the police department following several high-profile incidents of excessive force.”

Levine added that “Hill embodies the best that our country has to offer and it was my absolute honor to work alongside her in Miami Beach. It wasn’t easy, but together, we reformed a police department and made Miami Beach safer by working with our community.  It’s time we take the same approach statewide, partner with law enforcement and our communities to deliver real change and build a better, safer Florida.”

Levine is one of five major Democrats vying to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott. He faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and Orlando-area businessman Chris King in the Aug. 28 primary election.

As of June 29, he led the Democratic field in money raised, though his total includes more than $11 million of self-funding.

The ad, viewable below, will start hitting airwaves Monday.

Andrew Gillum, backed by billionaires, delivers populist sermon in Jacksonville

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is fond of reminding audiences that he’s the only “non-millionaire” in the Florida gubernatorial race.

The Democrat did just that in Jacksonville Thursday evening at a town hall event held at a Northside church, in cadences appropriate for the venue.

Despite being of modest means personally, Gillum has the help of two prominent billionaires, with one of them, George Soros, again in late June ponying up $250,000 to Gillum’s Forward Florida political committee. In total, the Soros family has pumped $750,000 into Gillum’s quest for the Governor’s Mansion.

The other big name on the billionaire left, Tom Steyer, committed $1 million via his NextGen super PAC. Half of that total was directly linked to Steyer.

And those numbers may not be the ceiling for those commitments.

What they are, Gillum told Florida Politics, is opportunity: “to let voters, particularly those who are going to be an important part of our base, know that we are a choice on the ballot.”

“What most people are counting on is that we won’t be able to communicate so that voters in this state don’t know that I’m a choice on the ballot. We’re convinced that we don’t have to be all over television. We don’t have to be the campaign that raises the most money even,” Gillum added.

Digital, traditional mail, and personal voter contact (as Gillum said, “showing up on their doorsteps”) are among the ways to maximize resources.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be an air war,” Gillum said, with his appeal to a “built-in constituency” serving as a force multiplier.

Gillum acknowledged the backing from Steyer in the town hall, and his mention of the million-dollar donation scored a round of applause, the first of many throughout the evening.

But opponents — both in the other party and in the primary field — have fired off with criticism.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, in his speeches to GOP audiences, positions his campaign as a bulwark against the influence of the two billionaires. And Putnam’s rhetoric is echoed on the Democratic side by Jeff Greene, a billionaire in his own right who entered the race in recent weeks.

“If you want to have Florida managed by George Soros and whatever he wants, regardless of whether the governor likes it, and Tom Steyer, then you can go with Andrew Gillum,” Greene said last weekend.

Gillum, as one would expect, dismisses these critiques.

“I have known Mr. Soros for about fifteen years,” Gillum said, “and he has contributed to work I’ve supported at the People for the American Way Foundation and the youth leadership work I’ve done around the country. He has never called up and asked me for a single thing.”

“It’s easy for someone like Jeff Greene to want to dismiss someone getting support from someone else. He’s the same candidate who made his fortune by shorting the market. Now, he did well, but a lot of people did not do well during that terrible housing downturn,” Gillum added.

“I don’t have the luxury of his three-plus-billion-dollar fortune to try to buy a race,” Gillum continued, “but I don’t believe that’s what’s going to win.”

Rather, Gillum believes his appeal rests in “the kind of authentic, real energy that’s showing up on the ground from everyday people.”

Though by the standards of the gubernatorial field, one where Democrats Philip Levine and Greene have a so-far bottomless capacity to self-finance, and where Republican Adam Putnam cleared $30 million raised some weeks back, $1.75 million is real money — especially for a campaign like Gillum’s, uniquely capable of galvanizing the grassroots and (at least theoretically) expanding the universe of primary voters.

Seventeen months ago, Gillum described an “eighteen-month view of engagement” approach to the campaign, one that involved reaching out to voters who wouldn’t turn out otherwise.

Gillum noted the task as the election approaches is “narrowing our focus on the parts of the state that will allow us the best yield for our time.”

Time will tell if that prevails.

Most polls have shown Levine and Gwen Graham ahead of Gillum, Chris King, and Greene.

And in the Jacksonville market, the biggest names to endorse Gillum have been former state Sen. Tony Hill and former state Rep. Mia Jones, with other Democrats, such as Jacksonville City Councilmen Garrett Dennis and Tommy Hazouri, backing Graham.

However, the Gillum approach seems predicated on the kind of variables that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld referred to as “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns.”

Are the pollsters and pols wrong?

That’s Gillum’s bet. And that of the billionaires bankrolling his populist bid.

Gillum is delivering a message that Democratic voters yearn for, regarding such issues as criminal justice and rehabilitation (including the regressive “money bail” system), veteran homelessness, jobs with a living wage (including teaching), Medicaid expansion and indigent health care, the judiciary and others.

And he is delivering that message with a messianic verve and commitment, as well as a definite generational appeal to voters under the age of 40, that eludes many in the field.

Gillum kept his remarks positive in the town hall, though he did note a disagreement with Graham on “the issues.”

“She voted against President [Barack] Obama 52 percent of the time … to ban Syrian refugee immigration … in favor of the Keystone Pipeline,” Gillum said, noting that while “it isn’t personal,” he doesn’t trust Graham “when [our] back is against the wall.”

As the candidate told us Thursday, it’s a five-way race for the nomination. And 20 percent plus one vote, in theory, can win it.

“My conversation and my comments are informed,” Gillum said, “by the people I’ve come in contact with on the trail.”

“We’ve been written off more times than I’ve got fingers for. I believe we come back after every one of them. We’re beginning to peak,” Gillum said, “right at the time that we need it.”

Andrew Gillum slates Jacksonville town hall for Thursday evening

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, firmly in the mix of the Democratic gubernatorial field with less than 60 days before the primary, will court Jacksonville voters Thursday evening at a town hall event.

The event kicks off at 6:30 p.m at the Gateway to Heaven church located at 7700 N. Pearl Street.

Attendees, especially those who have followed Gillum throughout his campaign, should expect to hear road-tested talking points, if the Orlando event last week was any indication.

“He dogged the incumbent for not expanding Medicaid and turning away federal cash for high-speed rail; he gave a full-throated endorsement for Amendment 4; and he detailed an extensive list of education priorities he’ll push for if elected — a $50,000-a-year base salary for teachers, better early education, and more opportunities for K-12 students who aren’t college-bound to learn skills that can land them a place in the workforce,” wrote Florida Politics’ Drew Wilson.

Gillum, who is fond of reminding audiences that he’s the only “non-millionaire” in the Florida Governor’s race, nonetheless has serious financial help also, via two prominent billionaires.

One of them (George Soros) in late June ponied up $250,000 to Gillum’s Forward Florida political committee, bringing Soros money in total to $750,000. And as Florida Politics reported first last week, billionaire Tom Steyer committed $1 million to the Gillum effort via NextGen America, Steyer’s progressive super PAC.

While Gillum lacks the resources of the other Democratic contenders (not to mention the Republicans), what is clear is that his benefactors believe he is worth the investment.

Andrew Gillum: Replace ICE with someone who cares

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum became the first Florida Demoratic gubernatorial candidate Tuesday to adopt a progressive position that’s growing in support and controversy nationally: the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

“I support a comprehensive immigration overhaul that includes abolishment of ICE in its current form to be replaced with a more compassionate and focused agency that actually keeps us safer,” Gillum stated in a news release issued Tuesday.

Donald Trump has turned ICE into a police and child separation agency — not a border enforcement agency that treats people humanely and compassionately,” Gillum continued. “A decision between security or compassionate immigration policy is a false choice; we can have them both, and I promise to fight for that as governor.”

The notion of abolishing ICE  had its rise with the revelations this summer that President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy toward undocumented or illegal immigrants led to the splits of thousands of families in a matter of months, sending young children alone to detention centers. The idea picked up national attention when progressive Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an ICE abolitionist, won her surprise congressional primary in New York last month, and a handful of other Democrats nationally have picked up the rallying cry, though few as prominent as a Florida gubernatorial candidate.

Then again, governors have little say about federal agencies.

If Gillum wins the August 28 primary, or if the Democrat who wins takes the same position, it’s sure to lead to major rhetorical showdows this fall. At last week’s Republcian Party of Florida Sunshine Summit the Republican candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis, and many of the speakers, ridiculed progressive Democrats for suggesting ICE should be abolished. It would be an issue with clear-cut diametric positions.

Gillum faces Winter Park businessman Chris King, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the Aug. 28 primary.

Gwen Graham tops Democratic rivals in outside contributions, but not June fundraising

With a combined haul of more than $633,000 for her campaign and independent political committee, and with all of it coming from outside donors – sort of – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is declaring her early June fundraising swamped her four Aug. 28 primary opponents.

Graham’s campaign is reporting it raised $152,291 and her independent committee Gwen Graham for Florida brought in another $481,350 during the just-posted campaign finance reporting period of June 1-22.

Graham’s campaign hailed that total as more than all four of her Democratic primary opponents raised from supporters combined during the same period.

“Florida Democrats get it. With Donald Trump in the White House and a woman’s right to choose on the line, they know we can’t afford to lose this election,” Campaign Manager Julia Woodward stated in a news release. “Florida Democrats know Gwen Graham is the best candidate to finally take back our state, which is why they’re supporting our campaign more than all of our primary opponents, combined.”

Yet those bragging rights comes with a few caveats that fuzz over the full financial pictures for any of the Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls.

First, her Democratic rivals Jeff Greene, Philip Levine, and Chris King all bolstered their campaigns with big personal checks that Graham’s campaign is discounting because they’re not donations from supporters. As a result, in the end each of them brought in far more money in the 22-day period than Graham managed.

Second, while rival Andrew Gillum did not raise much at all from June 1-22, his Forward Florida independent political committee cashed contributors’ checks totaling $451,000 just in the next three or four days.

Third, while technically all of Graham’s money came from outside contributors, the biggest of those was her father, former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who donated $250,000 to the Gwen Graham for Florida political committee on the last day of the reporting period.

End result: Palm Beach businessman Greene raised $3.6 million during the period, all of it donated from his own bank account; former Miami Beach Mayor Levine raised more than $1.2 million during the period for his campaign and his independent committee All About Florida, including $1 million he lent his campaign; Winter Park businessman King raised $815,489 combined for his official campaign and his independent committee Rise and Lead, including $800,000 for his campaign; and Tallahassee Mayor Gillum managed just a paltry $108,778 in total contributions before his independent committee Forward Florida cashed the late-June checks from New York billioniare George Soros, the Barbara A. Stiefel Trust, and a couple of others.

Strictly counting outside contributions, including that of Bob Graham, former U.S. Rep. Graham’s total of $633,641 for June 1-22 compared with just $358,674 brought in by the other four candidates and their committees.

Graham also finished the period with more cash on hand than any other candidate. Graham had $3.7 million in the bank — $2 million more than her next closest competitor, at the end of the day on June 22.

“While other candidates are increasingly relying on out-of-state billionaires, secret money and their personal bank accounts, Gwen is continuing to widen her lead in grassroots supporters who are donating $5, $10, or $25 at a time,” Woodward stated. “This is more than just a campaign for governor, this is a movement to restore our public schools, conserve our environment, and protect our access to health care — and we’re going to win because we have real Floridians supporting our fight.”

Philip Levine adds to his South Florida endorsements list

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine added the backing of eight more local leaders to his list of South Florida endorsements.

Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach, announced the endorsements Tuesday of Lake Worth Vice-Mayor Andy Amoroso, Miami Beach commissioners Ricky Arriola and Micky Steinberg, Boynton Beach Commissioner Justin Katz, former Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl, Aventura Commissioner Robert Shelley, Golden Beach Mayor Glenn Singer, and Aventura Mayor Enid Weisman.

The endorsements add to his buffer of local support against the emergence of fellow South Florida businessman Jeff Greene in the battle for the Aug. 28 Democratic primary in the governor’s race. Also in the race are Winter Park businessman Chris King, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

“Mayor Levine has the executive experience necessary to bring Florida into the future,” Weisman stated in a news release issued by Levine’s campaign. “He is a public servant in the truest sense of the word, and he would serve Florida with the same honor and integrity that he did on Miami Beach. I’m proud to stand with him as he seeks to return a government in Tallahassee to the people.”

The other endorsers tackled key Democratic issues in their praise for Levine.

Amoroso highlighted Levine’s support for the LGBTQ community.

Arriola addressed his focus on building a 21st-century economy. Katz said Levine would be a champion for public schools.

Keechl expressed confidence that Levine would support local governments against state government pre-emption efforts.

Singer praised Levine’s understanding about and commitment to address climate change and sea-level rise.

Shelley spoke of Levine’s grassroots support. Steinberg spoke as a working mother confident in Levine’s commitment to public schools.

In the release, Levine stated:

“This election is so crucial for the future of Florida — it will decide the direction our state goes in for years to come. As I’ve traveled and met with community leaders and residents, I’ve heard the same thing from people from Pensacola to Little Haiti — it’s time for new leadership in Florida that respects the will and priorities of the people. I’m thrilled to have the endorsement of such honorable public servants and look forward to working alongside them, and the people of Florida, to come together and make history by flipping our state blue for the first time in twenty years.”

George Soros’ quarter-mil benefits Andrew Gillum political committee

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is fond of reminding audiences that he’s the only “non-millionaire” in the Florida Governor’s race.

But Gillum has the help of two prominent billionaires, with one of them (George Soros) again in late June ponying up $250,000 to Gillum’s Forward Florida political committee.

This is the second quarter-million contribution made by Soros to the committee; he has given $700,000 total since the beginning of the campaign cycle, with Alex Soros giving an additional $50,000.

Soros’ support shows that Gillum, whose campaign has been bottom-of-the-pack in terms of fundraising throughout much of the 2018 cycle, is enjoying timely help from left-wing billionaires just as voters begin to pay attention.

As Florida Politics reported first last week, billionaire Tom Steyer committed $1 million to the Gillum effort via NextGen America, Steyer’s progressive super PAC.

Both Republican and Democratic opponents have taken notice of the influence of Soros and Steyer.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, in his speeches to GOP audiences, positions his campaign as a bulwark against the influence of the two billionaires.

Putnam’s rhetoric is echoed on the Democratic side by Jeff Greene, a billionaire in his own right who entered the Governor’s race in recent weeks.

“If you want to have Florida be managed by George Soros and whatever he wants, regardless of whether the governor likes it, and Tom Steyer, then you can go with Andrew Gillum,” Greene said this weekend.

Expectations are that whether Gillum garners the nomination or not, the left-wing billionaires will back the Democratic candidate to the hilt.

But at least for now, Gillum has to be encouraged by the Soros/Steyer support, and Soros’ willingness to double down on his investment as June came to a close.

Jeff Greene talks Democratic primary from Leadership Blue conference

Jeff Greene is the newest Democrat to enter the Florida governor’s race. And as he tries to play catch-up, the billionaire is sharing his thoughts on the primary race, including some tough talk about his opponents.

Greene was one of several Democratic candidates for Governor to appear at this weekend’s Leadership Blue conference at The Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood.

During an interview with Florida Politics, Greene responded to criticism by Andrew Gillum and some Democratic activists, who are skeptical of a billionaire jumping into the race for governor.

But to hear Greene tell it, his wealth isn’t a burden for Democratic voters, but rather a plus.

“I don’t owe a penny to anybody. The only special interest group I owe anything to is the people of Florida.”

In fact, Greene turned the attacks back toward Gillum, who has received support from billionaires George Soros and, more recently, Tom Steyer.

“I know Tom Steyer. I know George Soros. They don’t just give people money because they feel like, ‘Oh he’s a great guy, here’s the money. Do whatever you want.’ You are going to be their agent.”

He continued the critique, saying, “If you want to have Florida be managed by George Soros and whatever he wants, regardless of whether the governor likes it, and Tom Steyer, then you can go with Andrew Gillum.”

On the issues, Greene was clearly most focused on education, coming back to the need for reform.

In terms of what he would do for Florida, Greene pointed to New Jersey, which improved its middling education numbers and now is now second in the country, according to one rankings system.

“Two years of high-quality, universal pre-K for every three- and four-year-old in the state. It’s not that expensive.” He pitched the elimination of vouchers to private schools as a way to pay for the program.

Greene also said he would push to equalize the way education money was spent throughout the state.

“Unfortunately your zip code, where you’re born, will determine in a lot of ways where your life goes.”

And when speaking about other issues, Greene often found a way to tie them back to improving the state’s school system. “A lot of the problems that we have are direct derivatives of our failures in education.”

He argued better schools would help wages, attract innovative companies to the state, and reduce the amount of people resorting to crime and getting caught up in the criminal justice system.

Greene did highlight ways he would push for criminal justice reform, including the elimination of mandatory minimums and private prisons.

But the reality is, Greene still trails Philip Levine and Gwen Graham in the polls. Asked how he would come out on top, Greene remarked, “undecideds are leading the polls. So we’re going to get those undecided voters.”

And once again, he used that fact to take aim at his opponents.

“No one knows who Philip Levine and Gwen Graham are. And those that do have not been inspired by them.”

Voters will have their say on that during the August 28 primary.

Democratic gubernatorial campaigns hold meet-and-greet with activists

Voters and activists have packed The Diplomat Hotel through the weekend during the Democrats’ Leadership Blue summit. Saturday, they got their chance to meet the campaigns up close.

Volunteers, and even some of the candidates, set up to meet with party loyalists and give their pitch on why their team will be the winning team come August.

Jessica Cottrill, a volunteer for the Chris King campaign, was particularly passionate. “I’ve been around politics since I was eight years old. And I’ve never been this driven, this excited by any candidate.” She said only Barack Obama’s presidential run in 2008 came close.

When asked what drove her support for King, Cottrill said, “He doesn’t say things unless he’s really invested time and studied the information. He’s just brilliant.”

The most raucous group of supporters belonged to the Levine campaign, who flooded the room around the candidate as he entered.

But Levine volunteers said that enthusiasm isn’t just a coordinated stunt. It comes from the atmosphere inside the campaign.

“He is someone that all of us really, truly believe in. And that is why we have so much excitement coming from our team,” said Marissa Weiner.

Kevin Simauchi, another Levine volunteer, added, “The campaign is a family. Everyone looks out for each other.”

During a visit to Jeff Greene’s section, the candidate himself jumped in, sounding confident in his position in the race. He noted Levine, the self-described frontrunner of the race, running nearly even with Gwen Graham in some polls. “Not that impressive after a year of campaigning.”

A representative from the Andrew Gillum campaign highlighted recent signs that the campaign is gaining steam.

“It’s going great. We’ve got lots of momentum going right now,” said David Metellus, Deputy Field Director with the Gillum campaign.

He referenced recent campaign events as well as the endorsement and financial support of billionaire Tom Steyer.

“We have a great group of volunteers,” he added, noting it will will be that group which puts the campaign over the top.

Graham saw similar excitement at last night’s “Women for Graham” rally. And the Democrats are looking for this sort of passion, as they seek to take over the governorship for the first time this century.

Despite their campaigns’ respective confidence, only one will be successful comes August 28, when Democrats head to the polls to choose their nominee.

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