Andrew Gillum – Page 4 – Florida Politics
Andrew Gillum

Andrew Gillum announces details for Orlando town hall

Central Floridians won’t get to see a gubernatorial debate Tuesday, but they can still hear directly from at least one of the five Democrats vying to succeed term-limited Gov. Rick Scott in the fall.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said after the cancellation that he’d still be in Orlando to come Tuesday evening, and on Saturday the campaign followed up with the details: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at 1001 N. Orange Ave.

Those interested in attending can swing by the event’s Facebook page and RSVP — the sooner the better, as space is limited. The campaign also said there free parking is available at the venue.

The town hall announcement also made sure it was known who the holdouts were that caused the Orlando debate to be scrubbed: Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge corroborates: Gillum, Orlando area businessman Chris King had committed to the debate, as had Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, who was not a yet a candidate when the event was scheduled.

In fairness to Graham and Levine, who sit atop most polls of the Democratic primary, the Orlando debate was not one of the five they committed to in April, but their reticence to participate may have something to do with the strong performances of Gillum and King in the three debates that have already taken place — both have delivered multiple applause lines and earned strong reviews.

The two remaining debates from those five will be held July 8 in Ft. Meyers and August 2 in Miami. The primary election is Aug. 28.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — At the old ballgame

In her lifelong fight against child abuse, state Senator Lauren Book has found a friend in America’s favorite pastime.

The Plantation Democrat brought together 1,000 middle and elementary school children from seven schools in the Bronx for a walk to advocate for child safety and protection Thursday.

Lauren Book brings her crusade for child safety to the Bronx.

Led by Book, the large group of children approached Yankee Stadium — the heart of the Big Apple borough — as they chanted “Whose streets? OUR streets!”

Once inside, the children were joined by Yankee’s staff and players as they paced the warning track. As most stars should be, the activists were recognized over the stadium’s PA system.

It’s the fourth time the Senator has linked the surrounding neighborhood with one of the most popular teams in baseball, proving that her influence and advocacy knows no geographical limits.

The walk followed recent fatal shootings killing two young people outside local schools. Book paralleled the spirit of Bronx youth with that of Parkland.

“These students remind me that advocacy has no age limit,” Book said. “I wish I could shield these children from violence, abuse and poverty they experience daily, but the reality is, something more powerful is going on here: a new generation is being raised up that will combat these things themselves. It’s not about me, it’s about them.”

In the Bronx, Book also teaches lessons from her “Safer, Smarter Kids” curriculum. The first of its kind program is also taught in Manhattan. As part of the walk, Book donated to a local children’s advocacy center 200 copies of her book “Lauren’s Kingdom,” which encourages children suffering abuse to speak up.

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

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

Take 5

Governor disavows immigration practice — Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter this week to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calling for an end to the practice of separating migrant children from their parents when they are detained for being in the country illegally. The letter preceded President Donald Trump’s announcement later this week that he plans to end the immigration policy via an executive order. “I have been very clear that I absolutely do not agree with the practice of separating children from their families,” Scott wrote. “This practice needs to stop now.” In the letter, Scott requested HHS to notify him of unaccompanied migrant children in the state and made several inquiries regarding health care, education and social services being provided to the children. He also offered a helping hand from the state to reunite children with their parents.

Plans advance to close Broward nursing home — The state won a key victory this week in a series of legal battles with a troubled nursing home in Broward County. An appellate court upheld a state agency’s decision to suspend the operating license of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, the nursing home where authorities linked several patient deaths to negligence following a power outage caused by Hurricane Irma. Also upheld by the court were moves to suspend the facility’s participation in the Medicaid program and block Medicaid admissions. Meanwhile, the state still is battling the nursing home over whether it should be required to turn over death records of thousands of nursing home patients across the state. A circuit court judge ruled last week that the state Department of Health should provide the records for a reasonable fee. State attorneys this week filed an appeal to that ruling, reports the News Service of Florida.

Feds could join FIU bridge lawsuit — The federal government is “actively considering whether to file a statement of interest” in a Miami Herald lawsuit seeking records held by the state Department of Transportation, reported Jim Rosica for Florida Politics. The records requested pertain to the FIU footbridge that collapsed in March killing 6 people. The Herald and two named reporters are seeking “emails, meeting minutes and other records relating to the bridge’s design and construction” from DOT. The U.S. attorney who filed the document this week cited the involvement of a federal entity, the National Transportation Safety Board, as a rationale for potentially justifying involvement in the lawsuit. The state Department of Transportation has cited an ongoing NTSB investigation as just cause for not releasing the records sought by the Herald, as they cannot release the information without NTSB approval.

Groups push halt to early voting ban — University students who are suing over the state’s ban on early voting at college campuses filed a motion this week to halt the ban ahead of this year’s election. The motion seeks a “preliminary injunction to prevent Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner from enforcing” the ban, according to a news release. Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida notes that the students who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit are supported by the Democratic-aligned Andrew Goodman Foundation, along with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Florida and other groups. Writes Dixon, “the groups argue the push is not political, but rather to ensure that younger voters are not treated differently.” Sponsoring the plaintiffs — made up of nine students from the University of Florida and FSU — is Priorities USA Foundation. The group’s Chairman Guy Cecil said, “We’re confident that we will prevail in court when this case goes to full trial, and in the meantime urge the court to stop Secretary Detzner from suppressing the vote any further.”

Florida relevant in landmark sales tax ruling — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that’s being acclaimed by some as a move toward “leveling the playing field” between physical retails stores and online sellers could significantly affect the dollar amount of taxes remitted in the Sunshine State. Reports Jim Rosica for Florida Politics, “Estimates have varied on how much Florida would get if it captured taxes on its residents’ online purchases, from $200 million to more than $750 million.” The recent court ruling walks back an earlier precedent that online retailers could only be required to collect sales taxes on purchases if they had a physical presence in the state. The ruling supported a South Dakota law that required online retailers to collect sales taxes on orders from customers within the state. Currently, Floridians are required to pay sales taxes for online orders, and while large online retailers like Amazon already collect sales taxes, other smaller outlets do not, reports Axios. Florida TaxWatch and the Florida Retail Federation lauded the ruling. TaxWatch said the decision signals an opportunity for Florida to modernize its tax system, and the FRF pointed to the ruling as a chance for legislators to create equity between brick-and-mortar stores and online sellers.

Scott targets algae blooms

Amid reports of algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee River and east to the St. Lucie River estuaries and the Indian River Lagoon, Gov. Scott directed the state Department of Environmental Protection to order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “redirect the flow of water out of Lake Okeechobee to the south.”

Rick Scott is asking the Army Corps of Engineers to redirect water being released from Lake Okeechobee

“Two years ago, we saw the devastating impact of releases from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and estuaries which caused widespread algal blooms and led to the declaration of a state of emergency in four counties,” Scott said in a statement Wednesday. “We are taking immediate action to do everything in our power to solve this problem.”

In response to the order, reports TCPalm.com, USACE began reducing overall discharges Friday. “Some have noted that there is no storage nor not enough conveyance for the water to go to the south, and that is going to be a problem,” reports TCPalm.

In his request, Scott noted that the state has a tentative agreement with the Donald Trump administration to expedite repairs to the federal Dike from where water needs to be discharged.

Added Scott: “Also, working with the Florida Legislature, I signed a law that accelerated the EAA reservoir to move more water south of the Lake, to help ease these discharges. But, while we continue to wait on the federal government’s action on the Dike and EAA reservoir, we are going to do all we can to protect our waterways as we enter the hot summer months in Florida.”

Bondi touts scam-targeting operation

Operation Main Street, a nationwide initiative focused on stopping scams that target small businesses, saw success in the Sunshine State.

Attorney General Pam Bondi announced this week that of the 24 actions taken against scammers during the initiative, four were in Florida. The following businesses caught the wrath of the Attorney General: Florida Corporate Filing Services, GNA Housekeeping, LLC, United Business Services, Inc., and US Yellow.

Pam Bondi is targeting small business scams.

According to a news release from Bondi’s office, US Yellow tricked “small businesses into believing US Yellow provided free local listings with local Yellow Pages” and then charged businesses more than $1,000 a year for a listing.

For the other named scammers, Bondi’s office obtained final judgments for deceptive practices.

“Small businesses are vital to Florida’s economy, employing more than 3 million Floridians and contributing to our state’s economic strength,” Bondi said.

Instagram of the Week

#WeShouldAllCare 🇺🇸 #KeepFamiliesTogether @nymag @justinteodoro

A post shared by Congressman Darren Soto (@repdarrensoto) on

The Week in Appointments

Collier County Clerk of the Circuit Court

Crystal Kinzel will fill a vacancy created by the death of Dwight Brock. Her term began June 20 and will last through Nov. 13. She was the Chief Deputy Clerk of the same circuit.

Lake County Clerk of the Circuit Court

Gary Cooney will fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Neil Kelly. His term began June 15 and will last through Nov. 13. He was the Chief Deputy Clerk of the same circuit.

Education Dept. lauds family involvement initiatives

The Florida Department of Education this week announced the winners of its 2018 Family and Community Involvement Award, which recognizes schools for their efforts to get families and communities involved in education.

“It is my pleasure to recognize these schools with the Family and Community Involvement Award,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “As a former teacher and principal, I have seen firsthand how family and community involvement can positively impact student achievement. My congratulations to our schools for their innovation in creating meaningful programs that connect students, parents and the community.”

Winning awards for their initiatives were Callahan Intermediate School in Nassau County, Denn John Middle School in Osceola County, Gulf Middle School and Hudson Elementary School in Pasco County, Killearn Lakes Elementary School in Leon County, Minneola Elementary School in Lake County, Poinciana Elementary School in Monroe County, Thomas L. Sims Middle School in Santa Rosa County and Woodlands Community Middle School in Palm Beach County.

The winners will be formally recognized and invited to share their award-winning programs at the Educational Strategies and Student Engagement Institute in November.

FWC staff recognized for conservation efforts

John Hunt, a biologist working for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and FWC officer Michael Bibeau were both honored this week by the Florida Guides Association for their conservation efforts.

John Hunt, with Captain Phil Chapman, was honored by the Florida Guides Association.

For his “passionate commitment” to protecting marine fisheries, Hunt received the Capt. Phil Chapman Award. He is known across the globe for scientific contributions that have been instrumental in preserving the Caribbean spiny lobster fishery.

Gil McRae, Director of FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, said Hunt “embodies” the needed application of “sound science and collective problem-solving approach that relies upon strong partnerships among government, stakeholders and environmental groups.”

“Perhaps, most importantly, John is a tireless advocate for his staff within the agency,” added McRae. “He has repeatedly shown admirable dedication and commitment to his staff, serving as a model for all of us with his leadership, compassion and courage.”

For his work patrolling Pinellas County, Bibeau was honored with the Trained Eyes Coastwatchers Officer of the Year award.

“The hard work of my brothers and sisters in conservation law enforcement inspires me to do my job every day to the best of my ability,” Bibeau said.

Parks surpass prescribed-fire record

The Florida Park Service has beaten a previous record for the amount of land managed by prescribed fire in a fiscal year.

More than 80,837 acres of land have been managed via controlled burns this year. The process is extremely beneficial to the environment, and remains a safe and effective way to help woodlands; the fires are planned, set and extinguished by specialized staff.

Florida State Parks Director Eric Draper.

“We are proud of Florida State Parks staff for setting a new record for protecting park habitat with prescribed fire,” said Florida State Parks Director Eric Draper. “Florida is fortunate to have such dedicated people working in state parks reducing risks of wildfire and restoring natural systems.”

The risk of wildfires is mitigated through prescribed fires because the deliberate blazes can be used to target areas where dry, dead plants have accumulated. It’s an effective tool that allows park workers to clear brush out of the way. Other benefits of controlled burns include increased nutrients in soil and upticks in biodiversity.

There are 175 state parks in Florida, 67 of them have seen more than 390 prescribed fires this year.

Preliminary citrus budget gets approval

The Florida Citrus Commission approved a preliminary $17.68 million spending plan for the Florida Department of Citrus in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

That’s a $442,000 increase from last year, which ended up being one of the worst years for Florida citrus in recent history as it reeled from the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.

The tentative plan figures Florida citrus growers should produce 60 million boxes of oranges and 5 million boxes of grapefruit. The budget is based on a tax projection of $.07 per box of processed oranges, all grapefruit and all specialty fruit. A tax of $.05 is projected for fresh oranges.

Though the overall budget increased, international programs, scientific research, and administration components of the budget saw cuts.

The budget will not be finalized until October, after the USDA releases its initial crop forecast for the upcoming season. Florida growers are on track to produce just 44.95 million boxes of oranges this year, according to the latest USDA forecast, and citrus groves suffered extensive damage that could affect crop production for years to come.

No SunPass fines during update

Good news for drivers: there’ll be no late fees or penalties as the state updates the troubled SunPass electronic toll collection system.

“I share the frustrations with our customers over the rollout of (the updated system) and find it unacceptable,” said Mike Dew, secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation.

Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Dew promises no SunPass fines during updates.

“We will not be imposing late fees or penalties on SunPass accounts until the system is providing the benefits and ease of access that our customers deserve and expect.”

“The SunPass system has accumulated toll charges for customer accounts since the maintenance period began June 1,” a news release said. “In the best interest of the customer, the posting of toll charges was withheld until the website and call center systems were operating more efficiently.”

SunPass customers will continue to be charged regular tolls, however. Once the system gets a clean bill of health, fees and penalties will resume for delinquent accounts.

Lawmakers ranked on progressive positions

It’s a common practice for activist groups and interests to dole out letter grades for lawmakers based on their voting records during the previous Session.

Typically, the results fall along party lines. And a recent report card from Progress Florida was no outlier to that trend; all of the 17 lawmakers who earned an A grade are Democrats, and very few Republicans received anything but an F grade — although term-limited Republican Sen. Rene Garcia of Miami got a C.

Unsurprisingly, Carlos Guillermo Smith earned the top grade among Florida progressives.

Votes were factored into whether they expressed support for what Progress Florida dubbed “People First” positions. During 2018, votes, like supporting an assault weapons ban, or opposing the House’s education package, met the “People First” criteria.

“Floridians don’t always know where their legislators stand on key issues impacting their lives, from access to health care and environmental protection to gun safety, the economy and supporting public schools,” said Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo. “Our People First Report Card grades state lawmakers based not on what they say in a campaign mailer, but on how they actually voted on issues Floridians care about.”

Unsurprisingly, Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith topped the group’s list. The freshman Democrat helped found and chaired the Legislative Progressive Caucus. He was joined with 100 percent scores by South Florida Democrats Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez and Rep. David Richardson. Each aligned with Progress Florida on every scored vote.

Chip LaMarca recognized for local commitment

As he vies for the South Florida HD 39 seat in the Legislature, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca was recognized this week for his work at the local level.

The Florida Association of Counties chose LaMarca as the recipient of the 2018 President’s Commitment to Service Award — the honor is bestowed upon those who address local issues and serve alongside the association.

Chip LaMarca earns kudos for his local work.

In accepting the honor, LaMarca emphasized home rule — which has come to be a hot topic of the Legislature as lawmakers have pre-empted powers to the state. The state has been criticized for overreaching into governing decisions usually determined at the local level.

“The Florida Association of Counties works on behalf of Florida’s 67 counties to advocate for home rule and legislation that is vital to the quality of life for all of our residents,” said LaMarca.

Florida Association of Counties President Christopher Constance, also a Charlotte County Commissioner, said LaMarca’s “unwavering commitment to local governments exemplifies the definition of a dedicated and selfless public servant.”

If LaMarca makes it to the House in November, Constance and the counties could have another local-friendly fighter in the state House.

Utility leaders honored for service

Four public powers leaders were honored this week by the American Public Power Association (APPA) for their important work of providing electricity to the state.

Among the honorees: Amy Zubaly, who is the Executive Director of Florida Municipal Electric Association, or FMEA; Fred Bryant, the former general counsel of FMEA and Florida Municipal Power Agency, or FMPA; Chris Gent, who is the vice president of communications for Kissimmee Utility Authority; and Michael Perri, Jr., a board member of Fort Pierce Utilities Authority.

Amy Zubaly, executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) Board of Directors.

Zubaly was awarded for her 18 active years with APPA. The association recognized her important work restoring power in Florida after Hurricane Irma, as well as her efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

Bryant was given the James D. Donovan Individual Achievement Award. It’s the second time he’s received the honor. He is credited with unmatched legal expertise in his field.

Perri, the board member, was recognized in his capacity as an elected official. APPA awarded him the honor for assisting in beneficial legislation and opposing potentially harmful bills.

FSU research: Church does little for opioid addiction

A new study conducted by researchers at Florida State University found that religious involvement has no significant effect on mothers who are misusing prescription drugs — like opioids.

Illegal drugs, however, are a different story; the researchers found that practicing religion could have an effect on prohibited substance use.

FSU Associate Professor Amy Burdette (Image via FSU /Bill Lax)

“However, religious communities are just beginning to discuss the dangers of prescription drug abuse,” explained FSU Associate Professor Amy Burdette, who spearheaded the research.

Across the slice of population studied — female mothers who were mostly single — drug abuse was low.

“That’s a bit of good news,” Burdette said. “Whether you’re talking about prescription drug misuse or illegal substance abuse, it’s somewhat rare in our sample — it’s not that most mothers are doing this.”

Still, Burdette believes the study should be taken into consideration by religious leaders.

“Our research suggests that church leaders may want to directly address the issue of prescription drug misuse as churchgoers may not view prescription drugs in the same way that they view illegal drugs,” Burdette said. “Not directly addressing the issue may lead to a high degree of moral ambiguity.”

Leon County balances budget without increasing millage rate

After tentatively coming to an agreement this week, commissioners for Leon County are touting the seventh-consecutive year in which they’ve drafted a budget without raising the millage rate.

The elected leaders of the county that houses the capital city are proposing a $262.5 million spending plan for the year ahead — a 3.46 percent increase from last year.

Leon County Commission Chair Nick Maddox.

But that increase is accompanied by no change in the millage rate, currently set at 8.3144 mills.

A news release announcing the budget plan said it was created during “a slowly improving economy, where growth in property tax revenues and state sales tax revenues are beginning to cover the inflationary costs of government expenses without having to reduce program services.”

“While property values continue to slowly rise in our recovering economy, the County remains committed to serving our citizens while avoiding new expenses,” said Commission Chairman Nick Maddox. “This balanced budget demonstrates that commitment.”

Making way for new Publix near downtown

If you travel Gaines Street often, get ready for detours.

Starting next week, there will be what the city calls ‘traffic impacts’ on the strip because of construction on the new Publix Greenwise Supermarket being built near Gaines and Railroad Avenue.

The city promises, however, that “access to area businesses and residences will be maintained at all times.”

Here’s the plan, according to a city news release:

— From next Monday through Sunday, July 1, the eastbound lane of Gaines from Railroad to Woodward Avenue will be closed. The westbound lane will remain open and detour signs will be posted.

— Starting Monday, July 2, until Thursday, July 5, the eastbound lane of Gaines from Railroad to Woodward will be closed daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

— Starting Friday, July 6 and lasting through Sunday, July 8, there will be a full road closure (both eastbound and westbound lanes closed) on Gaines in front of the site.

For more information, email Dwaine Stevens, the Publix Media and Community Relations Manager for the region, at Dwaine.Stevens@publix.com.

Artopia: Big Bend Cares

Artopia is a charity art fundraising event Saturday, June 23, to benefit Big Bend Cares.

Local and regional artists donate artwork for this event, which includes a few signed and numbered limited editions. With art and media including painting, sculpture, photography, arts and crafts, Artopia features both silent and a live auction at the end of the evening.

Last year, Artopia featured more than 300 pieces of original artwork, including oils, pastels, acrylics, photography, scenography, sculpture, pottery, ceramics, jewelry, woodwork, mixed media and much, much more.

In addition to all of the artwork, local businesses and individuals donate gift certificates and other perks to bid on. Tickets are $25.00; event begins 7 p.m. at the Donald L Tucker Civic Center, 505 W Pensacola St.

Capitol Directions

Orlando Democratic guberatorial debate canceled

The Orange County Democratic Party has canceled efforts to have a gubernatorial debate in Orlando next Tuesday because Philip Levine and Gwen Graham would not agree to participate.

Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge expressed regret over the last-week cancellation he announced Friday and that voters in Orange County “will not have the opportunity to hear from the candidates seeking to be their governor in one open, public forum.”

Hodge said Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King had committed weeks ago, but not former U.S. Rep. Graham nor former Miami Beach Mayor Levine. The fifth candidate, newly-entered Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene, also had recently committed, his campaign said.

“Regrettably the Orange County Democratic Party has been forced to cancel the planned Democratic gubernatorial debate scheduled for next Tuesday, June 26th, due to an inability to secure all of the candidates for the event,” Hodge said in a statement. “We have been working hard over the past six weeks to make this event a success, and I would like to thank all of our volunteers who worked to make this happen. It is unfortunate that the voters of Orange County will not have an opportunity to hear from the candidates seeking to be their Governor directly in one open, public forum.”

The debate was being planned for Barnett Park on Orlando’s west side, for a 7 p.m. forum.

“The Democratic Executive Committee will be working to find another way to connect our voters directly with our five candidates seeking the governor’s office, and hope to announce another event in the near future,” Hodge added.

Gillum and King blasted their rivals for not being willing to join them. The first four Democratic gubernatorial candidates have debated three times, and Gillum and King have done well, getting strong reviews for their performances. But now Levine and Graham are showing signs of pulling ahead in polls heading toward the August 28 primary.

Gillum said he’s going to come anyway.

“It’s critical that Orange County voters hear about our priorities for this state, and since my opponents refuse to join me for a debate, I’m looking forward to hosting a town hall in its place on Tuesday night,” Gillum said in a statement. “Floridians need to know where we stand, and who we stand for.”

King said it was too bad that neither Orlando nor Jacksonville are getting to see the Democrats go head-to-head.

“Politics and politicians, as usual, have failed progressive values and ordinary Floridians for too long and Democrats deserve to judge for themselves whether the other candidates for governor offer a fresh vision and a break from the past. That’s why I’m disappointed that some candidates in this race have refused invitations to debate in Orlando and Jacksonville,” King said in a statement. “We must compete in every corner of our state and take no one for granted, and that means making sure Spanish language, African American, Caribbean and other diverse media outlets are included as well.”

Levine’s campaign responded with a reminder that the Democrats initially had agreed to five debates, even though that included none in Orlando or Jacksonville.

“Our campaign worked successfully with the Florida Democratic Party on a number of agreed-upon debates and forums. After weeks of negotiations, all campaigns agreed to five debates, including a statewide televised debate that will air in Orange County,” Christian Ulvert, senior advisor to the campaign, said in a statement. “The Mayor is excited and proud to continue to share his vision for Florida and his progressive record of accomplishments directly with voters in the upcoming three debates and town halls.”

Email insights: Rick Kriseman hits Andrew Gillum over ‘smear campaign’

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman slammed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum in an email Friday for “using dirty Republican tricks and tactics” to smear primary rival Gwen Graham.

The email, sent out by Graham’s campaign, is the latest round of drama relating to Collective SuperPAC. It’s connected to The Collective, a national group that supports African-American political candidates.

The so-called “dark money” super PAC has been running ads for weeks across the state slamming the former Congresswoman for being a moderate, or even a Republican sympathizer.

Now that a new round of ads is rolling out in the Tampa Bay area, Kriseman said he’d had enough.

“It is disappointing to see an out-of-state secret money super PAC come into our city and attack a fellow progressive Democrat,” Kriseman said. “After 20 years of one-party Republican rule in Tallahassee and with Donald Trump in the White House, Democrats must stand as a united front to win back our state in November.

“St. Petersburg Democrats will reject smear campaigns. They want something to vote for — not against. We have many strong candidates running in this Democratic primary and we won’t win back our state by using dirty Republican tricks and tactics. We must be better than them and show Florida voters a new path forward to end the status quo in Tallahassee.”

The second-term St. Pete mayor joins a chorus of Democrats who have blasted Gillum over The Collective’s targeting of Graham, including Jacksonville DemocratsRuth’s List and three former Florida Democratic Party chairs, among others.

Gillum, for the most part, has remained silent on the third-party group’s smears. He also was slow in issuing a denouncement — from his campaign, not himself — after Sunshine State News writer and Gillum supporter Leslie Wimes called Graham a “skank.”

Gillum and Graham are running for the Democratic nomination alongside Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, Winter Park businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. The primary election is Aug. 28.

Update: More Tampa Bay-area Democrats are standing in Graham’s corner.

On Friday afternoon state Sen. Darryl Rouson, St. Petersburg City Councilor Darden Rice and Tampa City Councilor Mike Suarez joined Kriseman in admonishing Gillum for the third-party ads.

“I strongly condemn all ad hominem attacks against Gwen Graham or any of our Democratic candidates for Governor. I urge all candidates to refrain from hiding behind dark money committees that hide their donors and expenditures. We don’t need this type of politics in Pinellas or Hillsborough Counties or anywhere in Florida,” Rouson said.

Rice said she was “outraged to see Andrew Gillum’s negative Super PAC ad try to smear Gwen Graham’s progressive record. On the first day of her campaign for Congress, in conservative Panama City, Gwen Graham stood up for LGBTQ Floridians and supported marriage equality.”

Suarez, who is running to succeed Bob Buckhorn as Tampa Mayor, added that “the same day Gwen Graham was uniting Democrats against Donald Trump’s anti-refugee policies, Andrew Gillum’s Super PAC was purchasing ad time to attack her. That says everything Florida Democrats need to know about this race.”

In addition to more quotes from Tampa Bay pols, the Graham campaign cited a PolitiFact post debunking The Collective’s claim that voted “against President Obama 52 percent of the time” during her one term in the U.S. House

Chris King digital ad offers his highlights from Democrats’ debates

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is launching a new digital video ad offering two minutes of his highlights from the three Democratic debates this month.

Swing for the Fences,” provides eight clips of King’s better moments in the debates, plus one of Democratic front-runner Philip Levine‘s response to a King attack that leaves Levine getting jeered. There’s also a shot of rival Gwen Graham looking annoyed as King makes an indirect attack on her. Democrat Andrew Gillum appears in some of the debate shots but doesn’t get a close-up or a line. Democrat Jeff Greene has not yet appeared in any debates.

Interspersed in the video are text compliments lifted from media coverage about King’s debate performances.

King’s campaign said the ad would target Democratic voters on Facebook, statewide, as part of the campaign’s ongoing six-figure online media buy.

The ad shows King, the Winter Park entrepreneur, mentioning his positions on such topics as affordable housing, criminal justice reform, marijuana legalization, wage growth, immigration, and abortion.

“If you want the status quo, I’m not your guy,” King says in one of the debates, as the ad wraps up. “If you want to swing for the fences and dream again, I’m Chris King, and I want to be your governor.”

Poll: Philip Levine and Gwen Graham tight, Chris King in third

A new poll from RABA Research is finding similar results from one disclosed earlier this week that the Florida Democratic primary race for the governor’s election is close to a dead heat between former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

The poll, using random digit dialing and excluding cell phones, surveyed of 660 Florida Democrats last Friday and Saturday, found Levine’s support at 27 percent, Graham’s at 26 percent, Winter Park businessman Chris King at 15 percent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 8 percent, and Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene at 3 percent.

Just 21 percent of those surveyed said they did not know, or that they wanted someone else.

“The race is a coming down to the wire. Phillip Levine and Gwen Graham lead the field with Chris King coming in a strong third,” John Davis of RABA Research said in a news release. “The coming weeks will be critical in determining whom Democrats put up as their nominee.”

RABA is a reasonably new polling outfit claiming bipartisan roots, founded in 2016 by Republican media strategist Kim Alfano and Democratic campaign consultant Brad Anderson, among others. Their polls have been cited by FiveThirtyEight, Politico and NBC News, among others, though their record is slim thus far. FiveThirtyEight has assessed just two of their polls, giving them only a C rating, and a very slight Democratic lean.

This survey does not take the usual “likely voters” track for Democrats; instead, it redistributes weight between super voters and new voters, with those who indicated the potential to vote in the August 28 primary. Among those surveyed, 79 percent they were almost certain they would vote, 10 percent said probably, and 11 percent said there was a 50-50 chance.

RABA reported a margin of error of 3.8 percent for overall results.

Two things this poll has in common with one conducted by the Republican-leaning political research organization Let’s Preserve The American Dream earlier this month while differing from many other polls: the overall conclusion that Levine and Graham are in front, in a very tight race; and a survey sample that took in a large percentage of female voters – 59 percent in the RABA survey. That’s reflective of the past two Democratic primaries in Florida, in which women made up 60 percent of the turnout.

Levine’s been running TV commercials almost all year; Graham started hers, only in the I-4 corridor, early this month; and King launched his statewide in April. Greene launched a huge ad buy this week, after the survey.

Among other findings:

— Graham was the only Democrat that had a majority of respondents having formed an opinion about her, but just barely — 52 percent.

— She also had the best favorable/unfavorable ratio in the pack, with 43 percent saying they had a favorable opinion of her, and 9 percent an unfavorable opinion. Levine’s ratio was 36 to 13 percent; King was 29 to 11 percent; Gillum was 26 to 10 percent. Greene, who might have been remembered by respondents at that point last week only for his failed 2010 U.S. Senate campaign in which he found himself fighting off several negative stories, registered 11 percent favorable, 21 percent unfavorable, with a huge 68 percent saying they are not sure.

— Just 29 percent said Florida was heading in the right direction, 48 percent in the wrong direction, and 23 percent said they were not sure.

— The cross-tab breakouts showed standings in all 10 Florida media markets, with Levine doing well in most of South Florida; Graham in Orlando and much of the Panhandle; Levine leading Graham comfortably in Tampa; Gillum holding down Tallahassee; and King with sizable advantages in Jacksonville and Gainesville, while also slightly leading Levine in West Palm Beach, Greene’s home turf.

Andrew Gillum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and polling that doesn’t feel right

There I was, in Pisa on Wednesday, taking in the wonder that is the Tower of Pisa.

And I just couldn’t stop thinking about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.

I know, I know … what a shame it was for me, while on a glorious vacation in Italy and yet I could not stop thinking about Florida politics. However, before setting off on our Pisa excursion, I checked my email, including one message from Gillum’s campaign manager, Brendan Phillips proclaiming “Andrew’s in the lead.”

Phillips’ excitement was based on a new survey from Gravis Marketing — an organization which once got a Maryland congressional race wrong by 96 points — which gives Gillum a five-point lead in the Democratic primary.

Reading those numbers, I underwent the same sense of skepticism that Giovanni di Simone must have felt when he took over the Tower’s construction: something just doesn’t feel right.

It’s easy to knock poll results you don’t like. Perhaps there’s an over-sample of a specific demographic. Or the survey was conducted over too long a period. Maybe the polling firm itself has a spotty record.

While there are any number of issues with this particular Gravis poll (especially glaring is a 16-day polling window), the most troubling indicator is one of the survey’s other findings. According to this poll, Bill Nelson leads Rick Scott 50 to 40 percent.

Ten points?

There’s a better chance of me climbing the stairs to the top of Tower of Pisa than Nelson defeating Scott by ten points.

Seriously, there isn’t one serious Democratic consultant or activist who has Nelson leading Scott by double digits. It’s doubtful many of them believe Nelson is even leading Scott, much less by that margin. In fact, the most recent public polling has Scott ahead of Nelson by as many as four points.

A more rational assessment of the U.S. Senate race came via Steve Schale, who remarked on Twitter, “The polling at this point is relatively pointless. It’s gonna bounce around a bit, but fundamentally FL is very stable. Last two Gov & last two Pres all decided by a point. This should be same kind of race.”

Perfectly said, Steve. That’s why it’s ridiculous to believe a poll that shows Nelson +10. And if it’s ridiculous to believe that part of the poll, it’s ridiculous to believe that Gillum is up five over his opponents.

Those on Gillum’s team who say he is leading reminds me of the builders who tried to make the Tower of Pisa look better by making its columns and arches on the south side about an inch taller than those on the north side.

You just want to shout: “You’re not fooling anyone!”

A clearer picture of the Democratic primary probably can be found in the poll produced by the research organization Let’s Preserve the American Dream which finds the Democratic gubernatorial race tight between Philip Levine and Gwen Graham, with newcomer Jeff Greene having a lot of ground to make up.

Florida Politics reported exclusively about this poll, so it may have missed your radar screen.

One other polling note, this one not about Gillum or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There are now two polls that show Democrat Sean Shaw leading Republican Ashley Moody in the Attorney General race (although there’s no guarantee Moody will be the GOP nominee). FP hears that Shaw’s strong showings are creating quite a buzz at the Florida Justice Association’s annual gathering at The Breakers.

Gwen Graham’s new TV spot focuses on Medicaid expansion

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is launching her second television commercial today — once again only in Tampa Bay and Orlando — and pushing hard for Medicaid expansion in Florida.

Her latest 30-second spot, “Absolute,” begins like a dramatic movie trailer with pounding music and flashing images of Tallahassee and someone being rushed on a hospital gurney, as Graham begins, “It’s disgusting what’s going on in Tallahassee. It didn’t used to be this way.”

That cuts to the obligatory reference and images of Graham’s father, former Gov. and U.S. Sen Bob Graham, as a narrator reminds viewers that he expanded health care and then noting that it’s now up to his daughter.

Gwen Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, then declares, “It is an absolute failure of the Republican Legislature that we haven’t taken Medicaid expansion. We will take Medicaid expansion.”

She also states another wish, a little vaguer and somewhat less of a pledge: “And every Floridian should be able to buy into the same type of insurance that Tallahassee politicians get.”

Graham has pledged to work with the Legislature to expand health care, and she has said she would take it directly to the voters with a state constitutional amendment if the Legislature refuses to act.

“Medicaid expansion is critical to our state. As governor, I will work with the Legislature to expand health care — and if they won’t, I will veto their priorities until they are willing to listen to the priorities of everyday Floridians,” Graham stated in a news release about her new TV commercial. “And if the Legislature refuses to act, I believe the people of Florida will do their job for them.”

Graham faces Jeff Greene, Philip Levine, Andrew Gillum, and Chris King in the August 28 Democratic primary. Greene, Levine, and King have been running statewide television commercials, while, so far, Graham has appeared content to concentrate on capturing the I-4 corridor, from where much of the Democratic vote came in the 2014 and 2016 primaries.

Gillum’s campaign has not yet gone up on television, although a national political committee supporting him ran statewide ads for him earlier this spring.

The winner gets to take on the Republican nominee, either Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam or U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Adam Putnam with five county sherriffs

Panhandle sheriffs line up behind Adam Putnam for Governor

Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign announced Wednesday that it had locked down another eight endorsements from Republican county sheriffs.

Included in the new bloc of backers, all of whom hail from the Panhandle, were Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson, Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley, Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford, Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison, Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson, Jackson County Sheriff Louis Roberts III and Liberty County Sheriff Eddie Joe White.

 “As a true native Floridian, Adam possesses an undeniable love for the citizens of our great state and has shown it countless times during his career. Adam has supported law enforcement officers even though the political climate has been turned against us in recent years. I support Adam Putnam because I know he will do what is right for the people of Florida,” Johnson said.

All of the Panhandle sheriffs claimed Putnam, a Bartow Republican, was the best choice out of the seven major guv candidates when it comes to public safety, and many of them also stressed the core strengths the Putnam campaign has touted over the past year he’s been in the guv race — that he is both the most experienced and the most “Floridian” candidate running to lead the Sunshine State.

“It is profoundly humbling to have the support of our sheriffs and law enforcement and to have them embrace my Secure Florida First Agenda,” Putnam said in a news release. “To lead Florida, to protect Florida, to keep Florida safe, you must know Florida and you must put Florida first. Today, we recognize that to put Florida first, we have to put law enforcement first.”

The sheriffs announced Wednesday make for 17 backers county lawmen so far, with the nine who announced their support last week hailing from the Tampa Bay region. He has also been endorsed by the Florida Fraternal Order of Police.

Last week’s sheriff nods came with an equal number 30-second videos where each sheriff announced his support and ended with the same campaign catchphrase: “Adam Putnam stands with law enforcement and we stand with Adam Putnam.”

Putnam faces Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Republican primary. Through May, he was far in the lead, fundraising-wise with more than $30 million raised for his campaign and political committee compared to around $10.8 million for DeSantis, whose total includes $1.1 million he raised for his now-defunct re-election campaign in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

Running on the Democratic side are Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Winter Park businessman Chris King, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene.

The primary election is Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

Jeff Greene launches two TV commercials, blasting Trump, remembering Dad

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene is airing his first television commercials to Florida this week, starting with a 30-second spot showing him being tough with his Palm Beach neighbor President Donald Trump.

He is also launching a 60-second spot that highlights his father’s economic struggles and what they mean to him now.

Greene is going up in a big way, spending $2.9 million of his own money on this week alone on the TV ads and a digital buy, which his campaign said is four times the dollar amount of his closest Democratic competitor.

Greene, the Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor, entered the race June 1. And after a lull, he is leaping into a battle royale that already has Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Andrew Gillum and Chris King racing toward the August 28 Democratic primary for governor.

The 30-second ad is called “Jeff Greene Stands Up to Trump,” but might as well take the name of the commercial’s tagline that is an early theme of Greene’s campaign rhetoric: “The timid need not apply.”

A press release Tuesday morning states: “Greene’s unique appeal to Florida Democrats lies in his ability to spend whatever it takes to go toe-to-toe with historically better-funded Republicans in the general election to help Democrats regain control of the governor’s mansion for the first time in 20 years without being beholden to special interest groups.”

The Trump commercial begins with a narrator declaring, “Jeff Greene stood up to Trump on national TV.” Greene is then shown appearing on CNBC in a pre-2016 election interview in which he says, “I know enough about Donald Trump to be scared to death to see him as our president.”

The narrator then takes over, adding: “Is standing up to him on gun safety, affordable health care, and women’s choice. But Jeff is the only candidate in America who was willing to stand up to Trump in his own dining room.”

That features a brief video clip, without audio, of Trump and Greene standing a few feet apart from each other at Mar-a-Lago angrily yelling and gesturing at each other.

In the longer commercial Greene tells the story of how, when he was 15, his father lost his textile mill machinery business in 1970 after the New England textile industry collapsed.

“When you lose your job you lose your dignity. You lose your pride. You could see the angst in his eyes,” Greene recalled.

“In Florida today, people are barely live week-to-week, paycheck-to-paycheck, and I know exactly what it’s doing to them because it happened to my family,” Greene says, as the video turns to shots of individual Floridians.

“We should have a responsive government that takes care of their needs. And as Governor, I’ll make sure that happens.”

The commercial then seeks to take viewers to the heart, though some might see it as melodramatic.

“Jeff Greene is running for governor, but maybe he’s really running for his dad,” the narrator concludes.

[The links have been broken but the videos can be seen here.]

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