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Linda Stewart, Lori Berman among pols denouncing Nazi robocalls against Andrew Gillum

Politicians across the state Saturday condemned robocalls put out by racist groups against Andrew Gillum, the first black major party nominee for Governor.

“The vile and racist robocalls attacking Andrew Gillum represent an attack on every Floridian and have no place in our politics,” said state Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat.

“This disgusting attempt to divide the people of Florida will only bring us closer together. We will reject the politics of hate and, with Andrew Gillum as governor, build a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.”

Audio of robocalls from Road to Power, an Idaho-based Neo-Nazi group, was first obtained by The Tallahassee Democrat and reported on Friday. Politico later reported it also had obtained robocalls sent out by the same group.

State Sen. Lori Berman, a Boynton Beach Democrat, echoed Stewart’s concerns but said the hateful rhetoric should rally progressives together.

“I am proud of the way Andrew has focused on laying out a positive vision for the people of Florida and I sincerely hope this election focuses on the way we can move this state forward and improve the lives of Florida’s working families,” Berman said.

“We must make unequivocally clear that racism and hatred have no place in this election —and won’t be tolerated in our beautiful, diverse state.”

Campaign officials for Republican Ron DeSantis quickly denounced the calls.

“This is absolutely appalling and disgusting,” DeSantis spokesman Stephen Lawson told Politico, “and hopefully whoever is behind this has to answer for this despicable action.”

Republican Gov. Rick Scott also denounced the calls.

“There is no room for any racial politics here in Florida — none,” Scott said on social media. “Florida is a melting pot of people from all over the globe, and we are proud of it. No attempts to divide people by race or ethnicity will be tolerated from anyone.”

Gillum’s campaign responded with measured concern, condemning the calls while fearful of drawing further notoriety to the organization.

“This is reprehensible—and could only have come from someone with intentions to fuel hatred and seek publicity,” Geoff Burgan, communications director for Gillum’s campaign, told the Democrat. “Please don’t give it undeserved attention.”

The unwelcome injection of Nazi rhetoric into the campaign comes while DeSantis deals with an early general election season gaffe, telling Fox News the morning after his and Gillum’s primary wins that Florida voters shouldn’t “monkey this up” and elect Gillum, a comment he said was a phrase he used regularly but in which many others heard racist undertones.

“The Neo-Nazi robocalls against Andrew Gillum are simply horrifying. Floridians deserve to hear from the candidates about their solutions to expand access to health care and improve public education,” said Berman. “Instead, Ron DeSantis started the general election with a racist dog whistle and the tone has unfortunately only gone downhill from there.”

Democrats join Andrew Gillum, vowing to ‘bring it home’

Gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum‘s rallying cry — “bring it home” — may be embraced by the entire Democratic Party as it heads into the fall elections.

Democrats — including Bill Nelson, Sean Shaw, Nikki Fried and Jeremy Ring — rallied in Orlando Friday to kick off statewide fall campaigns.

Gillum, just days removed from his surprising primary upset, repeated his oft-told tale about how his grandmother used to send him to school with the message about the education he was to receive, advising him to “bring it home.”

With those cabinet candidates and dozens of other Democratic officeholders and hopefuls — including former Gillum opponents Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, and Chris King — in the crowd of a packed union hall in Orlando, the chant thundered.

Bring it home.

The refrain highlighted a two-hour rally at the International Union of Painters & Allied Trades Local 1010 Union Hall in Orlando, as Democrats from Party Chair Terrie Rizzo down through the list of speakers declared this would be the year the party changed its losing ways in state elections. This was the year things would be different from the past twenty.

Of course, much the same was said four years ago, albeit perhaps with less sincerity, at the exact same union hall, in a near-identical post-primary party rally, which launched the failed 2014 fall campaigns of Charlie Crist, George Sheldon, Will Rankin and Thad Hamilton.

In many ways, this rally was Gillum’s coming out party after an 18-month campaign that didn’t put him up top until Tuesday’s win. However, by Friday he was clearly a party leader.

Ring entered the fall campaign for state Chief Financial Officer. Fried did so for Agriculture Commissioner. Shaw, Attorney General and Nelson for re-election to the U.S. Senate.

But they all spoke as much about Gillum as themselves. So did Graham, Levine and King.

“I asked to be here to speak before Andrew so that I could introduce Andrew and say that all those things that Rick Scott has done in the last eight years, we’re going to reverse that with Andrew Gillum!” Nelson declared, referring to his opponent in the U.S. Senate election.

In praising Gillum, Ring held nothing back.

“The amazing Andrew Gillum is the most electric, electric candidate I’ve ever said. And he’s going to bring us all to victory,” Ring said.

“Andrew Gillum is dynamic,” added King. “Andrew Gillum is the talent that our party has waited for so long.”

In the backdrop of the positivity on Friday, however, was the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption in Tallahassee.

Gillum has maintained for months that he is not implicated in the probe, but Ron DeSantis, his Republican opponent, already is making a campaign issue out of the matter.

The DeSantis campaign, which paints Gillum as a “socialist,” on Friday released an email accusing the Democrat’s brother, Marcus, of being involved in the FBI investigation.

“Something’s up. And the voters of Florida deserve answers from Andrew Gillum, preferably before the FBI gives them to us,” DeSantis communications director Stephen Lawson said in an email.

When asked about the corruption probe by reporters Friday, Gillum reiterated that he is not the subject of the inquiry and emphasized that he is willing to provide any information sought by the federal investigators, before pointing the finger at Trump.

“I believe that the difference between Ron DeSantis as how we address the FBI is, we have said, should there be any wrongdoing, we welcome them into our government to get to the bottom of it. I believe that they are clear on what their target is, and that should come to a conclusion soon,” Gillum said Friday.

But amid investigations involving Trump’s 2016 campaign and associates, DeSantis and Trump’s response to the FBI “is to undermine them, cut them off at every turn,” Gillum said.

“Even the president has gone so far as to suggest a ‘deep state.’ That is not how we handled it. We said, you’ve got an important job to do. Nobody wants more to make sure that any actions that are taken that are inappropriate, illegal, or inconsistent with the laws of this state, that people are held fully accountable. That’s my position on it. And I’ll do whatever I can, as mayor, to ensure that they get access to whatever they need in order to bring that to a conclusion,” he said.

Some material from the News Service of Florida is used in this article, with permission.

Blake Dowling: Primaries are over; time to buckle up

Tuesday’s primary elections are in the rear-view mirror.

So, what did we learn?

First, never count out the underdog. Our Mayor here in Tallahassee kept fighting the good fight all the way to the end … and got the W.

Andrew Gillum shrugged off a 2-year FBI investigation in his backyard, the highest crime rate in the state and fought a winning effort against a political giant. Pretty cool.

This is what makes American great. Congrats to Gillum.

We also saw President Donald Trump’s voice have bigtime influence, and I guess the jury reached a verdict on this ad … and it was genius (though several jurors thought it was ridiculous)

Congrats to Ron DeSantis for also fighting the good fight and getting the W.

It will be a great showdown between two very different leaders come November.

We also learned to not mail classified documents to the press if you have signed an NDA.

And what were the hackers up to yesterday? More on that later.

As we move into the next election cycle, some leaders think we should hack right back.

That’s right folks. It is exactly what Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is proposing, and (off topic), with a name like that, he has to run for President at some point.

Am I wrong?

Hacking has become a very overused term. Don’t get me wrong, there are serious cases of it. But when you have Sen. Bill Nelson say that our election systems were compromised, and then backs into the bushes (much like Homer Simpson) offering no proof, people really start getting panicky and crying WOLF/HACK when their printer doesn’t work.

The Feds spent a lot of money on new security protocols and services, as well as testing and training and from early reports, it looks as if the dollars were well spent. Details from Hillsborough County are here, and they look promising.

Nevertheless, there are those that say it’s too late for this year, buckle up for whatever is coming and get ready for 2020.

All scenarios are, in fact, true (minus what Nelson said, not sure what that was all about).

In reality, we do need to buckle up for anything that might be thrown at the November elections. There are people out there looking to disrupt our great nation’s electoral process. That’s a fact.

Listen to your IT experts, change those passwords, deploy features like geo-IP filtering on your security appliances which blocks all IP addresses outside the US. Period.

That will trim down a large volume of attacks.

Congrats to those who were victorious yesterday: Gillum, Scott, and the rest. Thank you to all of those with the courage to run for office and represent the people of Florida and the United States.

Sometimes, while sitting on the sidelines it is easy to forget what that effort does to those involved, as well as what that commitment looks like. Cheers to you.

Have a great weekend.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at

Andrew Gillum

Equality Florida’s PAC endorses Andrew Gillum for Governor

Equality Florida Action PAC, the political arm of the state’s leading LGBTQ rights organization, announced Friday that it’s backing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum over his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

“Andrew Gillum has been a consistent champion for LGBTQ equality, and Floridians will see the stark contrast between his record on equality and his opponent who has embraced the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies of the Trump-Pence administration,” Equality Florida Action PAC chair Stratton Pollitzer said.

“DeSantis is out of touch with the values of everyday Floridians, 70 percent of whom support nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ community. Mayor Gillum has committed to advancing Florida as a leader for LGBTQ equality in the South, making the state a welcome place for everyone to live, work, and visit,” Pollitzer said.

The EQFL nod comes after the group awarded Gillum its highest honor, the “Voice for Equality Award,” in 2017.

But the endorsement isn’t all Gillum can expect from the group — they plan to pitch in with a fundraising tour and a “massive campaign” to spread the word to 500,000 Florida voters who see LGBTQ rights as a major factor in whether they’ll cast a ballot on Election Day.

EQFL said that means Gillum, who defied all polling by winning the five-way primary Tuesday, will be the beneficiary of digital media buys, phone banking and field outreach.

“Andrew Gillum is the equality champion who can energize voters and win the Governor’s Mansion,” Pollitzer concluded.

Equality Florida is the second major statewide group to endorse Gillum, currently the mayor of Tallahassee, since he won the nomination.

On Thursday, he earned the support of AFSCME, a labor union that represents more than 1.6 million working and retired public employees.

A full list of candidates backed by Equality Florida Action PAC is available on the group’s website.

According to the first post-primary poll of the general election matchup, Gillum leads DeSantis 48-43 percent with only 9 percent of voters unsure of who they would vote for. The poll also found Gillum with a plus-27 favorability rating while DeSantis, who has the backing of President Donald Trump, was underwater.

Election Day is Nov. 6

Here’s the first post-primary poll of the race for Florida governor

Andrew Gillum is breaking ahead of Ron DeSantis in the governor’s race, fueled by the early preference of Florida’s independent voters, according to the first publicly-released poll of the general election campaign season.

A new poll produced by Public Policy Polling gives Gillum, the progressive Tallahassee mayor who rocked the Democratic Party on Tuesday, 48 percent, and DeSantis, the conservative Republican nominee running with President Donald Trump, 43 percent, in the opening days of the Nov. 6 election campaign.

A remarkably low  percentage of voters, just 9 percent, told PPP pollsters that they were unsure, an early indication of how clear the differences already are, and likely will continue to be ,between the two major gubernatorial candidates.

The poll, taken Wednesday and Thursday, shows Gillum starting with a commanding lead among independent voters. Party faithful are lining up pretty equally behind their nominees, and consequently Gillum’s early advantage appears built entirely from independent voters chosing him.

PPP surveyed 743 Florida voters, of which 41 percent were Republicans, 41 percent were Democrats and 18 percent were independent.

The poll was commissioned by EDGE Communications, the politial consulting firm of Christian Ulvert, the former senior consultant for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, who lost to Gillum Tuesday.

“In the first general election poll since Tuesday’s primary, we see how Florida is very much a swing state. Mayor Gillum starts ahead of Ron DeSantis by 5 points,”  Ulvert stated in a release announcing the poll.

The poll finds Gillum starting out with a fairly warm reception from those surveyed, and DeSantis, not so much.

In favorability ratings, 45 percent of those surveyed said they have a favorable opinion of Gillum, and 27 percent an unfavorable opinion. DeSantis starts the fall campaign with a 41 percent favable rating, but a 47 percent unfavorable rating.

While party voters generally were lining up solidly behind their nominees, DeSantis’s favorability issue extends deeply into independent voters, according to the survey. Just 26 percent found him favorable, and 55 percent found him unfavorable.

Gillum, meanwhile, starts out with a 51 percent favorable rating among independents and only a 14 percent unfavorable rating. Gillum also starts with a large percentage of Republican voters, 37 percent, who say they have no opinion of him yet.

The result of that independent voters favorability gap: 59 percent would vote today for Gillum and just 25 percent for DeSantis, with 16 percent undecided.

“The most interesting number is among Independent voters where Gillum leads DeSantis by 34. … Gillum starts with an impressive edge among Independent voters who are key to winning Florida,” Ulvert stated.

There also is a sharp differences of opinion between men and women, and divided by races.

“In the governor’s race, there is massive gender gap with Gillum leading among women by 21 and DeSantis leading among men by 13,” Ulvert noted.

Gillum has 84 percent of the vote of black voters and 61 percent of Hisapanic voters, while DeSantis hs 54 percent of the white voters.

Andrew Gillum releases behind-the-scenes footage of election night

An upset win from the victor’s perspective is depicted in a new video released by the Andrew Gillum campaign on Thursday.

The quick turnaround — Gillum won Tuesday evening — makes the short worthy of a watch; those who followed the primary election results pile in know the Tallahassee mayor looked ill-fated early on, trailing perceived frontrunner Gwen Graham before precincts really began reporting their results.

The video’s story arc is a microcosm of Gillum’s campaign thus far: the longshot underdog who overcame doubt to prevail.

Slow pans of the video show Gillum awaiting the results in an intimate setting, joined only by family, friends and his closest campaign advisors, like consultant Kevin Cate.  

Skeptical day-of media clips are on the audio track, with journalists saying things like, “The … average of recent polls shows Graham leading by 7 points over Philip Levine and by 12 points over Jeff Greene, with Andrew Gillum and Chris King running fourth and fifth.”

And: “Gwen Graham leading the way, she’s been leading in the polls pretty much all along, and she’s up with 36 percent…”

Then the video pivots. Gillum, seen pacing around the room, is optimistic. At one point he was trailing Graham by 2 points, with Broward County’s results yet to unfold.

“The Holy Grail of votes,” Gillum says in the video.

When Gillum takes the lead, his face says it all: disbelief, bliss and pride. He goes on to deliver a fiery acceptance speech as the nominee.

Public employee union endorses Andrew Gillum, Nikki Fried

The nations largest public employee union has endorsed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) announced its endorsement Thursday, two days after Gillum defied every pre-election poll and came out on top in the five-way Democratic primary for Governor.

“Andrew Gillum understands the issues facing Florida’s working families because he comes from a working family, he understands his success is due to hard work and the support of public institutions, and, most importantly, he has continued standing with working families every step of the way,” said AFSCME executive director Jana Weaver.

AFSCME, which has more than more than 1.6 million working and retired members, said its membership held a statewide call after Tuesday’s primary to discuss the general election and decided that Gillum rather than Republican nominee Ron DeSantis would be the best pick for public employees in November.

“It is clear that for the dedicated public workers who never quit serving their communities that Andrew Gillum is the clear choice and we are going to work hard every day until November to bring it home. He doesn’t just talk the talk, Andrew Gillum knows how to deliver the change our state needs,” Weaver said.

“While Ron DeSantis is focused on his cable news headlines, Andrew Gillum has put together a real agenda to tackle our state’s income inequality, make a real investment in public education, protect our communities from senseless gun violence and expand healthcare access,” she concluded.

In the same announcement, AFSCME said it was also backing the Nikki Fried for Agriculture Commissioner. Fried was a late entry into Democratic primary for the statewide seat, but quickly surpassed her primary challengers in fundraising and earned 58 percent of the vote in the three-way race.

“Nikki Fried will put an end to the scandals and issues that have plagued a department central to the prosperity of our entire state,” Weaver said. “She will work with the dedicated state workers in the department to implement the goals Floridians have clearly stated they want while tackling the challenges, such as climate change, that threaten our future.”

With the addition of Gillum and Fried, AFSCME has backed every Democrat running statewide in 2018. Prior endorsements went out to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who will face term-limited Gov. Rick Scott in the fall; Attorney General nominee Sean Shaw, who defeated Ryan Torrens in the primary and now faces former circuit court judge Ashley Moody; and Jeremy Ring, who is running for Chief Financial Officer against incumbent Republican Jimmy Patronis.


Updated Friday — Later Thursday night, the Committee on Political Education of the Florida AFL-CIO announced it had voted to endorse Gillum for Governor.

Florida AFL-CIO is the state federation of unions representing over one million union members, retirees, and their families in the state.

“For too long Florida’s working people have been left behind by corporate special interests in Tallahassee,” Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams said in a statement. “We need a Governor that will boldly fight for the issues that affect workers every day.”

Money didn’t talk in Florida’s gubernatorial primaries

Florida’s two most-frugal gubernatorial candidates in Tuesday’s primaries are the one’s squaring off in the general election.

Andrew Gillum spent $13.13 per vote to emerge from the five-candidate field to take the Democratic nomination. Ron DeSantis, a Fox News favorite who benefited from free media, spent $17.55 per vote to defeat Adam Putnam.

At the other end of the spending, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, who put $36 million of his own money into his bid for the Democratic nomination, ended up spending $227.90 per vote.

“I don’t regret a moment or a dollar spent on this election,” Greene said in a statement Tuesday night. “Having been blessed with great success, there is nothing more important for me than investing time and resources in addressing the problems of Florida’s most vulnerable. I’ll forever be grateful for this summer spent with my kids traveling across this beautiful state, meeting people from all walks of life, sharing ideas, and fighting to create pathways for everyone to thrive.”

Overall, the candidates spent $151.98 million out of their campaign accounts and affiliated political committees, which translated to $50.63 per vote cast,

The figures do not include spending by outside groups on the candidates’ behalf.

Of course, in this post-election math exercise, the more votes a candidate got translates to a cheaper cost per vote.

Each of the 1,507,490 Republican votes cost $32.73, and the 1,494,317 Democrats votes came in at $68.68. Again, that was just candidate spending, not money from state parties or other outside sources.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who put $26.6 million of his money into the Democratic contest, ended up spending $123.10 per vote. Winter Park businessman Chris King spent $174.20 per vote for a campaign that included $4 million of his own money.

Gwen Graham, who finished second to Gillum, spent $34.76 per vote.

Gillum spent just under $6.85 million and received 521,408 votes. DeSantis spent $16.07 million and received 915,413 votes.

Greene’s $34.8 million in campaign costs landed him 152,693 votes.

DeSantis, whose campaign benefited from an estimated $9.3 million in free media based on his numerous appearances on Fox News, would still have the second lowest expenses-to-vote ratio — $27.71 — if he had to pay for that air time.

Winners and losers emerging from Florida’s 2018 primary elections

What a difference four years makes.

The last time Florida saw a primary was in pre-Trump Time — and pre-Bernie Time too.

But the shadows of both President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders loomed large over the selection of GOP nominee for Governor Ron DeSantis and Democratic pick Andrew Gillum.

They didn’t this year’s 2018 Primary Election Winners and Losers list because this list isn’t really about the candidates, it’s about those who weren’t on the ballot Tuesday, whether they be other candidates impacted by the outcomes or the operatives who made those outcomes happen.

So without further ado, here’s who the Florida Politics staff views as a hero — and who came out a goat: 


Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign — Name one Florida Republican that doesn’t want Trump’s endorsement after DeSantis’ landslide win. And no, David Jolly doesn’t count. Everyone GOP pol scoping out a run for Governor this cycle would have killed for the POTUS’ pratique. Richard Corcoran practically fell over himself trying to snag it with that slate of over-the-top TV commercials and his constant “sanctuary city” rhetoric. In the end, it was given to a relative newcomer and when it dropped (the second time), it was all over but the crying.

Bill Nelson One of the narratives surrounding Nelson’s U.S. Senate re-election bid against Gov. Rick Scott is the septuagenarian’s complete disconnect with black and Hispanic voters. With Andrew Gillum and Sean Shaw making the statewide ballot alongside him, he can probably eliminate that concern.

Kevin Cate and Brad Herold (Part 1) — It’s automatic that the winning quarterbacks of the two teams which make it to the Super Bowl are on the list of winners. Yet, make no mistake, these wins were anything less than automatic. If you had told anyone working in Florida politics a year ago that the general election would be a choice of Andrew Gillum or Ron DeSantis, they’d have said you were #CrazyAF. Cate and Herold both brim with confidence, but it’s well-earned because they have the battle scars to show for it. Both consultants have suffered setbacks (Sink ’10 and Crist ’14 for Cate, and DeSantis for Senate ’16 for Herold) on their way to the promised land. Their perseverance should pay off handsomely.

Kevin Cate and Brad Herold (Part 2) — A second tip o’ the hat: Both consultants not only won in the gubernatorial race, they also had their hands in other victories throughout the state. In addition to Gillum, Cate also works with Attorney General nominee Sean Shaw and Ag. Commissioner nominee Nikki Fried. Herold was also part of Matt Caldwell‘s surprise victory in the GOP Ag. Commissioner primary and steered Vance Aloupis to a victory in HD 115. Herold even had a winning candidate in a race for the Seminole County Commission.

Rest of Team DeSantis — Props to Rick Porter and Heather Barker, who, along with Ashley Ross, helped raise enough money to remain competitive with Putnam; David Vasquez, press secretary; Jordan Wiggins, political director; and Ben & Jordan Gibson. Now at Shutts and Bowen, he handled policy; she’s a digital guru. Also playing key roles were Adam Hasner and Eytan Laor, as well as major donors like Dr. Jeffrey Feingold, Dick Carrillo, and George Zolley. 

Rest of Team Gillum — Kudos to campaign manager Brendan McPhillips, chief strategist Scott Arceneaux, political director Phillip Jerez, comms director Geoff Burgan, finance director Akilah Ensley, deputy political director Tomas Alcala, senior adviser Sharon Lettman-Hicks, GPS Impact principal Brandon Davis, former FDP chair Bob Poe, former First Coast News anchor Donna Deegan and, of course, the team at CateComm, including Franco Ripple and Stephanie Shumate.

Matt Gaetz — A year before DeSantis won; that is, before DeSantis entered the race or Trump tweeted his support and while Putnam still looked like a world-beater, this Okaloosa Republican was telling those who would listen that his House colleague would be the GOP nominee. Gaetz helped make that happen by barnstorming the state with DeSantis, injecting what until then was a pretty standard campaign with some much-needed energy. With Trump in the White House and DeSantis in the Governor’s Mansion, the world will be Gaetz’s (Apalachicola) oyster.

Sean Pittman — The veteran lobbyist and political consultant (and President and Chairman of the Orange Bowl Committee) is one of Gillum’s best and most trusted friends. He’d be the new Bill Rubin (the lobbyist closest to Rick Scott) were Gillum to win. P.S. I believe I owe him advertising for life in INFLUENCE Magazine after losing a wager on who would win the Democratic primary.

Scott Ross — Other than the candidates themselves, there may not be a bigger winner emerging from the primaries than this Capital City Consulting lobbyist. The story goes that in June of 2017 he all but convinced DeSantis to run for Governor rather than Attorney General. Since then, it hasn’t been easy to be one of just a handful of Republican lobbyists not backing Putnam. But that bet has paid off handsomely for Ross, who will likely play a large role in the general election campaign — and a DeSantis administration if the Republican wins.

Alan Williams — The former state Representative from Tallahassee, who later joined governmental relations and lobbying law firm Meenan P.A., is a longtime booster and defender of Gillum. Expect him to play a role in state government should Gillum win in November.

Jose Oliva — The House Speaker-to-be from Miami Lakes made a key endorsement of DeSantis, and expect that to pay off in the 2019 Legislative Session if DeSantis becomes Governor.

Carlos G. Smith — The Orlando-area state Rep. is Gillum’s staunchest defender in the Legislature. He was everywhere on the campaign trail with him.

Marc Reichelderfer — “The Marchitect” (sorry, I double over my keyboard in laughter every time I type that) was at it again this primary, engineering Moody’s late-in-the-game surge to victory for A.G. The GOP consultant also played a role in several other campaigns, including Mike Miller’s primary win in CD 7.

#TeamMoody — In the face of a multimillion dollar onslaught from Frank White, Moody’s team of Reichelderfer, Tom Piccolo of Strategic Image Management, campaign manager Nick Catroppo, Christina Johnson of On 3 PR, and finance director Samantha Blair held strong and propelled their candidate to a bigger win than what polls were showing. This was Piccolo’s first work as a lead on a statewide. After Tuesday, it won’t be his last. Also, let’s give a shout-out to Michael Corcoran of Corcoran & Johnston, Moody’s finance chair.

#TeamCaldwell — The Republican primary for Ag Commissioner was a bit of a mystery heading into Tuesday, but Caldwell came out on top with a third of the vote in the four-way race. He was outspent mightily by self-funder Baxter Troutman and faced a tough challenge from Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley, but thanks to 90,000 miles of #2LaneTravels and a great team, that didn’t matter. Congrats to campaign manager Brian Swensen, consultant Terry Miller, campaign spokeswoman Danielle Alvarez for their part in securing the win.

Joe Clements — Not many people predicted Gillum would get the W on Tuesday, so credit where credit is due. Clements, of Strategic Digital Services, had the race pegged in June. His prediction: “Gillum will come out on top in this battle. Dem voters are angry and the candidate who paces them on their anger will be the one they choose to lead.”

Consensus Communications — The consulting firm worked TV and video production for some of Tuesday’s biggest winners: Ashley Moody, who toppled Frank White in the Republican primary for Attorney General; Matt Gaetz, who captured nearly two-thirds of the vote in CD 1; and Mike Miller, who beat the better-funded Scott Sturgill by a whopping 24 points in the CD 7 primary. And they didn’t just handle TV for that last race, they also took care of Miller’s direct mail, communications and campaign strategy.

Florida Federation for Children — The group, which supports school choice, touted some key wins for candidates it supported with co-chair John Kirtley declaring that voters “have shown their commitment” to school choice. Those wins included Gayle Harrell in SD 25, Kim Daniels in HD 14, Susan Valdes in HD 62, Spencer Roach in HD 79, Patricia Hawkins-Williams in HD 92 and James Bush III in HD 109. Those candidates were helped along by more than $360,000 in electioneering communications spending by the group in state Legislative races.

Florida Justice Association — A few members moved on to the General Election and Association-backed candidates won key House races. The field team, quietly led by Kevin Sweeny and a crew of unnamed operatives, once again scoured the state to bring the Association much-needed victories, including a few upsets and last-minute wins. Always underestimated, never outworked!

Florida Medical Association — The FMA’s PAC was a big winner Tuesday night for a slew of reasons. It was the first and only statewide organization to endorse DeSantis for Governor. It endorsed Moody early for the GOP pick for Attorney General. It scored a major victory in the state Senate with Gayle Harrell beating Keiser. Nice work Tim Stapleton, Rich Heffley, and Chris Clark. And a round of applause to Dr. Mike Patete.

Marion Hammer — It has not been the best election cycle for the ‘face of the NRA’ in Florida. She and her organization stayed (mostly) on the sidelines in the gubernatorial and Attorney General races, but it may have been the difference maker in the Republican primary for Ag. Commissioner. Hammer and Co. turned on the printing presses for Caldwell, sending pallets worth of direct mail to primary voters who knew they were voting for DeSantis but were unsure who to pick down-ballot.

GEO Group — In the current political climate, it pays to hedge your bets. While major statewide institutions like the Florida Chamber were dumping good money after bad into Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign, only a few treated DeSantis, the one-time longshot, to some serious skrill. One of the few that did? The GEO Group. They also fancied Rick Scott quite a bit back when he was considered a dark horse candidate for Governor. If DeSantis comes out on top in November, that’s a heck of a lucky streak for the private prison company.

Nick Iarossi — The Capital City Consulting lobbyist isn’t exactly Scott Ross (that’s the only time you’ll ever read those words), but he was one of the first major supporters of DeSantis and has, by a significant factor, raised more money for DeSantis’ campaign than any other Adams Street’er. Look for Iarossi to lead the effort to bring in all of the other big dogs who were with Putnam in the primary. If DeSantis wins, there may not be a lobbyist who would, in the end, benefit more.

Medical marijuana advocates — Weed wins. From Gillum’s surprise victory over no-toker Graham to the Agriculture Commissioner race where former medical marijuana lobbyist Nikki Fried smoked two opponents who had been campaigning for over a year, candidates who cuddled up to cannabis scored big time in the primary election. It may have even helped centrist Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto cruise over Alan Grayson, the liberal darling of yesteryear. And it wasn’t just Democrats who were riding high Tuesday: pro-medical pot Republican U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Matt Gaetz each won decisively over their anti-drug adversaries.

Alex Miranda — Not many people would have seen Vance Aloupis, a “white guy with the funny name” as one of his ads pointed out, as the front-runner in the heavily Hispanic HD 115. But solid fundraising and clever ads (props to Brad Herold) helped him come out on top in the four-way Republican primary where two of his opponents, Jose Fernandez and Rhonda Lopez, combined to dump nearly $500,000 in candidate loans into their bids. In all, it went down as the most expensive House primary of the 2018 cycle.

NextGen and Tom Steyer — Billionaire progressive activist Tom Steyer has committed to spending at least $110 million helping Democrats in the 2018 election. Much of that will head to ground game infrastructure via his NextGen group, but one of the marquee candidates getting some direct backup was none other than Andrew Gillum. If Steyer is as successful in November as he was Tuesday, he’ll have built up some serious cred on the left if he follows through with his rumored 2020 presidential run.

Other lobbyists — DeSantis’ campaign will tell you the congressman is not particularly close to many lobbyists (we asked which D.C. lobbyists DeSantis likes and the answer was only the lobbyist for Major League Baseball), but there are some lobbyists who moved to his side early-on or after Corcoran dropped out, including John Holley of Florida Power & Light, Iarossi and most of his colleagues at Capital City Consulting, Brady Benford and Chris Dorworth of Ballard Partners, Mike Fischer and Rob Schenck of Legis Group; Chris Spencer of GrayRobinson, Bill Rubin and Heather Turnbull of The Rubin Group, and Rachel Cone, Paul Mitchell and Monte Stevens of Southern Strategy Group.

Richard DeNapoli — Off-grid, the Broward County GOP state committeeman went after two of his nemeses: Congressional candidates Julio Gonzalez (CD 17) and Javier Manjarres (CD 22), both of whom lost bitter GOP primaries. Revenge is a dish best served cold, right? Yeah …

Political consultants throughout the state — With a $200 million-$250 million Governor’s race on the horizon, plus U.S. Senate and competitive state Senate races and House races, plan ahead, gals and guys. There’s gold in them thar hills … if you know where to find it.

Ryan Smith — Another young political consultant making his mark this cycle. He led a winning effort in a hotly contested $450K Seminole County Commission race, with Amy Lockhart emphatically defeating Joe Durso. Smith was also called in at halftime in a key Brevard County Commission race between Curt Smith and Trudie Infantini turning a 20-point deficit into a 6-point victory. Not to mention, he helms a new pro-Matt Gaetz Super PAC, the Florida Conservative Fund.

Public schools — Broward, Orange, Clay, Washington were among counties to pass tax increases to help local schools meet the needs of their students. Since Republican-dominated St. Johns County created the blueprint to pass its referendum in 2015, the voters have been open about paying more for better public schools. Private (and charter) school backers should take note.

St. Pete Polls — While polling aggregators like Real Clear Politics made the mistake of including questionable surveys from the likes of Gravis Marketing, etc., the little polling shop-that-could posted what may be the best record of the primary of any public pollsters. Matt Florell‘s operation was the first to show DeSantis with a three-touchdown lead (a figure that Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times initially said was “absurd”) and it all but nailed the final numbers in the GOP primary. No, St. Pete Polls did not forecast Gillum winning the Democratic nomination, but it came the closest of any public pollster and certainly showed the “Gillum surge.” SPP also forecast Moody’s comeback and Caldwell’s surprise victory. All told, SPP was 14 for 16 on Election Day.

George Soros — The billionaire benefactor (or boogeyman, to some) was an early believer in Gillum. Even more noteworthy, he was a late believer, too. Soros threw $1.2 million in direct financial support toward the Tallahassee mayor’s political committee, including teaming up with Tom Steyer and an anonymous compatriot to make a last-minute cash infusion of $650,000 so Gillum could “bring it home.” As the national media has been saying the past couple days, the Florida Governor’s election is a preview for the next presidential race. Soros proved he can get his pick through a primary, and if he can rack up another win in the general there’s a workable blueprint for 2020.

Strategic Image Management — It’s all about founder and fireworks enthusiast Anthony Pedicini and his years of success running campaigns throughout Florida. He started out in politics working for lobbyist Billy Rubin, later was tapped to become a Legislative Aide to state Rep. Gayle Harrell, the Stuart Republican … shucks, we could go on, or you could read all about him on this cool website. (Some guy named Piccolo is named there, too …)

Tallahassee Democrat — As reporter Sean Rossman, late of the Democrat and now with USA Today, tweeted: “As we settle into 9 weeks of @AndrewGillum v. RonDeSantisFL, know (that) @TDOnline has covered Gillum for 20 years — from FAMU student body prez and young city commissioner to ambitious mayor and now gov. candidate. Give ’em a read.” No one knows Gillum better.

Whoever … — … it was who wrote in July about “The coming Andrew Gillum vs. Ron DeSantis general election.” Hmmm.

Leslie Wimes — The controversial Sunshine State News columnist is a big supporter of Gillum. Count this as one of her few successes.

Mixed Bag

Rick Scott — Scott may have faced only token opposition Tuesday, but there’s a contingent of Martin County voters who made it clear that, given an option, they’d rather literally anybody but the two-term Governor represent them in the U.S. Senate. According to Florida Democrats, the new beach access law isn’t doing him any favors. How else can anyone explain perennial candidate Rocky De La Fuente snagging more than 20 percent of the vote in the county?

Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries, Disney, Florida Power & Light, etc. — Each of these bet heavily on Putnam winning. In fact, a year ago, their lobbyists were tripping over each other just for the privilege of handing Putnam’s fundraisers six-figure checks. Now, you may think that warrants them ending up in the Losers column. That would be naive about how Tallahassee really works, especially with a “socialist” like Gillum, and not Graham, on the ballot. By the time summer turns to fall, the establishment will have put itself back together to fight the looming threat. I’d be surprised if the checks, which will need to be twice as big as they were to Putnam, aren’t already in the pipeline.

Amanda and Brewster Bevis — This power couple (she is Putnam’s comms guru and he is the political muscle at Associated Industries) was synonymous with Putnam’s campaign. This loss has to be soul-crushing for them. But, as one-half of a political couple who has suffered a similar devastating loss in a statewide race, I can personally attest that loyalty is its own reward — and loyalty like what the Bevis family has displayed will, in time, be rewarded.

House Democratic leadership — With a very competitive gubernatorial race, a hypercompetitive U.S. Senate race and many state Senate districts in play, there may not be much money left for the new Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee to make much-needed moves.

Florida sheriffs — The county lawmen didn’t do so hot on Tuesday, though they didn’t completely crap out. Just about every elected Republican with a badge and a gun lined up behind Putnam, and he wasn’t shy about name-dropping those endorsements as he hit county after county on the trail. Ditto for Denise Grimsley, who landed more than three dozen sheriff endorsements ahead of her loss in the Ag. Commish primary. The only candidate they got right was Ashley Moody, who earned the backing of nearly every Republican sheriff in the state. But it must sting a little extra to be Grady Judd, who accused Ross Spano of falsely claiming he had endorsed him in the closing days of the CD 15 primary. Welp, can’t win ‘em all.

Brett Doster — Late last year, after Doster and Co. did work for Roy Moore’s campaign for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat, one of the ickiest statewide campaigns in years, some thought they would enter a slump. Eight months later, and it’s a mixed bag. His slate of candidates this cycle included Toby Overdorf, who won big over Sasha Dadan; Tommy Gregory, who walked to the nomination after it was discovered Melissa Howard faked her diploma; and Ray Blacklidge, who trounced Jeremy Bailie in HD 69. Other candidates, however, didn’t do so hot. Shannon Elswick lost big despite leading the money race in HD 32, so did Marc Vann despite Rep. Elizabeth Porter backing him as her successor.

Data Targeting — It’s a mixed bag for Pat Bainter and company. They scored some big wins: Matt Caldwell for Ag. Commissioner, Michael Waltz in CD 6, Mike Miller in CD 7. They had another dozen successes or so, but sorry, it’s hard to call Ed Hooper’s victory over a complete unknown or Gayle Harrell’s win over a former Democrat who lived 80 miles away “wins” when they are so clearly gimme’s. But along with their successes came some slip-ups. Frank White for Attorney General, Berny Jacques for HD 66 and Rebekah Bydlak for HD 1 all outraised and outspent their challengers and walked away with an ‘L.’

David Johnson — Hmmm. Our friend deserves to be in the Losers column because great candidate Denise Grimsley couldn’t pull off the win but A) he recognized that and insisted to be put in the L-column, and B) he is married to someone on the winner’s list. We’ll give him a pass, but just this once!


Christian Ulvert — We’re hesitant to put Philip Levine‘s GC in the Losers column because a) we know he made a small mint off that campaign and b) his many, many other clients, such as Jason Pizzo, did well on Tuesday. In the end, though, it feels like Levine underperformed, but how much of that is Ulvert’s fault? No offense to Gillum, who won, but the Levine machine seemed to be the best oiled of any of the Democratic operations. We’re gonna think about this one for a while.

Tim Baker and Brian Hughes — Alas, the dynamic duo talked Frank White, Baxter Troutman and Rob Panepinto (Orange County Mayor) into running. Took their money and ran very different campaigns that had one common thread: Millions of personal dollars for last place finishes. They still have their base of power in northeast Florida, especially while Hughes is chief of staff to Lenny Curry, but their plans for statewide expansion hit a setback.


#TeamPutnam Putnam’s bid for Governor was years in the making, but after millions of dollars spent and thousands of miles traveled he got swamped in the primary and will find himself out of political office for the first time in 20 years come January. Helping navigate the failed campaign was general consultant Ward Baker, campaign manager Bret Prater, the aforementioned comms director Amanda Bevis, and Putnam’s old school boys, Mac Stevenson and Jim Innocenzi. Baker came on board in March, bringing in Jeb Bush’s media team Terry Nelson at FP1.  The two of them led the media strategy and Terry led the production, produced all the ads that aired. They all did what they could, but “Florida First” didn’t stand a chance against a single tweet from Donald Trump.

Adam Putnam’s debate negotiators — One of the biggest strategic mistakes made by the Putnam campaign was having the big TV debate on Fox News with Fox News hosts. It was like Putnam had a home game but DeSantis built the stadium and fences to maximize his swing. Not a single televised debate in Florida with Florida journos? T’was bad deal-making, is all.

U.S. Sugar — Outside of the candidates themselves, there was no bigger loser on Tuesday than the Clewiston behemoth, which doubled, tripled and quadrupled-down for Putnam. Unlike many of the other companies and industries which backed Putnam over DeSantis, it will be hardest for sugar (Florida Crystals and the Sugarcane Growers Co-op were also supportive of Putnam) to get right with DeSantis, who has shown his antagonism for the sugar industry by opposing the industry’s federal subsidy. All of this said, remember: as ridiculous as it is how often establishment players like Big Sugar get these races wrong, it’s more amazing how capable they are of succeeding, if not prospering, despite it.

The Florida Education Association — Aaaagh. So. Much. Losing. Not only did the teachers union get taken through the wringer in the 2018 Legislative Session, they were one of Gwen Graham’s most prominent backers. They even put $150,000 behind her campaign in a Democratic primary where all five wanted to boost the education budget. They can’t take much comfort down the ballot either. Maybe if they threw some of that cash behind Mike Alvarez, they wouldn’t have to deal with charter school darling Susan Valdes when Session rolls around next year.

Bob Buckhorn, Patrick Murphy — Like suitors in a medieval court, Sir Robert and Sir Patrick were ready to do anything just for the right to kiss the hand of the Queen. Problem for them is the Queen ain’t the queen, and with that so go the Lieutenant Governor ambitions of the Tampa mayor and the former congressman. That’s all she wrote.

Carlos Lopez Cantera — CLC weighed in on the Governor’s race pretty late in the game just to back the candidate everyone knew would lose. But he didn’t just endorse Putnam, he pretty much called DeSantis a swamp creature. Way to shoot yourself in the foot there, Carlos. And that’s not even touching the barbs he and DeSantis exchanged during their brief U.S. Senate bids two years ago. If DeSantis takes the Governor’s mansion in the fall, CLC might as well put a cork in his ambitions for the next four years. Maybe if Scott beats Nelson, he can get a gig in the mail room?

Adam Corey — That poor bastard. Seriously, can you imagine where this #FriendofAndrew would be right now if he hadn’t been named in an FBI subpoena? The mind reels.

Lenny Curry — Hizzoner had his brand exposed by endorsing losing statewide candidates Baxter Troutman and Frank White. Sure he endorsed DeSantis, but he did so after DeSantis already had the victory well in hand. Oof.

Brenda Snipes — Maybe someday the voters of Broward County will punish their Supervisor of Elections for her many bad ways, including her office’s way-late filing of results. Until then, we shake our heads.

Election Day endorsers — U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló probably thought they were making a safe bet when they added their names to Gwen Graham’s stack of endorsements Tuesday. Not only were they wrong, but why even go through the trouble? An endorsement is supposed to help get people to the polls, not be based on them. And nobody likes a bandwagoner — who wants to bet Frankel and Rosselló have a closet full of ‘Bama and Warriors gear?

Audrey Gibson — She played in the Daphne Campbell primary — and lost. The new Senate Dem Leader got off to a bad start. Better luck in the 2019 Session.

Jack Latvala — Keep in mind, the Clearwater Republican hated Caldwell and tried to take him out; also Grimsley’s connection to Latvala may have hurt her.

Javier Manjarres — A special shout out to this clown who shook down enough people that he should have had enough money to win the rights to lose to Ted Deutch in CD 22. But the former landscaper couldn’t even do that, losing to tomato can Nicolas Kimaz. And shame on Marco Rubio and Pam Bondi for endorsing serial abuser @VoteJavi in the first place.

Stephanie Murphy — Mike Miller is a tough cookie and someone she certainly did not want to see on the ballot opposing her.

Tom Eldon — Unlike the bottom-tier pollsters in the losers column, Eldon’s polls were sound and all of them passed the smell test. SEA Polling & Strategic Design pegged it as a two-way race between Philip Levine and Gwen Graham, but in the end, it seems like Levine was getting over measured somehow — one late-in-the-game poll showed him with a lead in the early vote and a lead among voters waiting to cast their ballot until Tuesday. But when the ballots were counted, Levine was a distant third.

Adam Goodman — You’re probably asking how Goodman made this list because, supposedly, he’s winding down his TV ad work while increasingly enjoying his time living in St. Pete. Yeah right. It was clear he was doing something for Philip Levine, whose ads (at least some of them) employed the same style — right down to the narrator’s familiar delivery — of Goodman. For his sake, we hope Goodman got paid because this is two high-profile races in a row (Levine, Rick Baker) in which his client, err, friend did not win.

Omar Khan — No one was expecting King to win the Democratic nomination, but the Orlando entrepreneur had the intelligence, pedigree, and money to do much better than he did. Khan has to take some of the blame for King’s disappointing finish. Like his friend Steve Schale, his candidate has underperformed in back-to-back gubernatorial races. Some free advice for Khan: Talk less, listen more.

David Jolly — Tuesday was a complete wipeout for the former Republican congressman who was briefly mentioned as a possible LG candidate if Patrick Murphy had decided to run. DeSantis, a former opponent of Jolly, comes from the #MAGA wing of the GOP opposite Jolly’s ‘Never Trump’ faction. Jolly was also pushing hard for Graham to pick Murphy as her running mate, but that’s obviously no longer an option. Down-ballot, Jolly was backing two legislative candidates, Berny Jacques (HD 66) and Vito Sheeley (HD 70), who got creamed like corn.

Joe Negron — Scratch up another loss for Rebecca Negron, who was sent packing from her gig on the Martin County School Board after Victoria Defenthaler dished out a double-digit beat down. Maybe if CD 18 flips in the fall she can give that one another go, but as it stands it looks like the Negrons will be spending a lot of time together, at least for the next couple years.

Pollsters — Nearly every pollster was way off the mark Tuesday. Florida Atlantic University should probably stop putting out primary polls with a 280-person sample size. Gravis somehow came up with a 12-point lead for DeSantis with 23 percent undecided and 10 percent of the vote going to Bob White and Bruce Nathan one day (!) before the election. And St. Leo … where to even start? One week out from the election they hit-publish a poll showing Putnam with a double-digit lead. How many of those respondents were from Polk County?

Steve Schale — Only the Chicago Cubs were a more likable loser than the Democratic strategist. Except the Cubs have won more recently than Schale. There’s no faulting him for being all in for Graham, but this is now two gubernatorial races in a row where his candidate entered as the prohibitive favorite but came up short. His 2008 win for Barack Obama feels like a lifetime ago.

Melissa Stone — In the course of six months, Stone was part of two statewide campaigns for the same office, both of which ended badly. First she hitched her wagon to ex-banker Jay Fant, whose early negative attacks on Ashley Moody made him look like a misogynistic weirdo before the donors stopped sending checks and he had to withdraw to save face. Then she signed on with Frank White, whose negative campaigning sunk him too. But hey, at least she’s still cashing checks from Rick Scott and Jimmy Patronis.

Gwen Graham took 44 counties in defeat

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham won 44 counties in Tuesday’s primary election but lost as nominee Andrew Gillum carried heavily populated Democratic strongholds, unofficial results show.

Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, dominated in rural counties and many mid-sized counties but won in only one of the eight most heavily populated counties — Pinellas. Gillum, meanwhile, won 18 counties, including voter-rich Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach counties.

In Broward, for example, Gillum beat Graham by a 37,500-vote margin; in Miami-Dade, he topped her by a 33,145-vote margin; and in Duval, he had a 21,719-vote margin. Statewide, Gillum defeated Graham by 47,043 votes, the results show.

The third-place candidate in the five-person race, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, won five counties — Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades and Lee.

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