Donald Trump Archives - Page 5 of 351 - Florida Politics

Mike Pence to headline Orlando fundraiser for Rick Scott

Vice President Mike Pence will headline a fundraiser for Senate candidate Rick Scott on Thursday in Orlando.

Palm Beach philanthropist Darlene Jordan and Texas GOP donor Tom Hicks, Jr. will host the event, which has a suggested contribution level of  $250 for individuals.

A specific location for the Sept. 6 “afternoon reception” has yet to be released. The event happens the same day as Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work: Kickoff to November!” press conference with state elected officials.

Scott and Pence have appeared together in Orlando in the past. The Florida governor last year joined the vice president for a business roundtable at the Correct Craft factory last year to promote President Donald Trump’s tax cut proposal.

At the time, Pence stressed a message of helping “job creators,” a theme much in line with Rick Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” message that fueled his two terms as Florida’s top elected official.

“It’s the jobs creators that are here today that we feel the greatest debt to, men and women that put their resources and time on the line to create opportunities,” Pence said then.

Now, Scott is challenging three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the November general election.

Scott, of course, proved a valuable ally to now-President Donald Trump in 2016, when the Republican ticket carried Florida in the presidential election.

Trump publicly stated during visits to Florida last year he hoped Scott would run for Senate.

But since announcing his run in April, Scott has kept a cautious distance from the currently unpopular president. But even while Trump has been unpopular generally, he’s at record levels of popularity among Republicans.

Pence, incidentally, has been consistently more popular than Trump.

Jordan, executive director of the Gerald R. Jordan Foundation, has been a close Scott ally for years.

The governor appointed her in 2016 to the State University System of Florida’s board of governors. Last year, Scott named Jordan to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.

Hicks, a partner at Hicks Holdings, served as national finance co-chair for Trump’s presidential campaign and as vice chairman of the finance committee for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration.

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

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

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

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

Where do I stand now?

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

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

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

The bane of Democratic politics in Florida is voter turnout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, let’s take a look at DeSantis.

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

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

Or …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.

Governor’s race ‘ultimate base turnout election’

Just weeks ago, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was treated by many people as little more than an afterthought in Florida’s crowded Democratic primary for governor.

But a stunning victory Tuesday instantly catapulted Gillum onto the national stage in what is certain to be one of the country’s most closely watched gubernatorial races, as he faces off against Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis, an acolyte of President Donald Trump.

Gillum, 39, drew the support of national liberal groups and donors, including progressive patriarch U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and billionaires Tom Steyer and George Soros.

The Tallahassee mayor had consistently trailed former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine throughout the Democratic primary.

But, in pulling off the upset Tuesday, Gillum nailed down decisive leads in vote-rich urban counties such as Duval, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Those margins helped Gillum coast to victory Tuesday with a 3 percentage-point edge over Graham by the end of the night.

While Gillum hopes to make history as the Sunshine State’s first black governor, DeSantis is trying to parlay his support from Trump into a gubernatorial win.

But the question remains whether either candidate can translate his primary election victory into a November triumph.

“What you’ve got is the ultimate base-turnout election on both sides. Ron DeSantis isn’t going to reach a bunch of moderates in the middle, and neither is Andrew Gillum. These are two guys who represent the absolute edge of their parties,” GOP consultant Rick Wilson, the author of the book “Everything Trump Touches Dies,” told The News Service of Florida on Wednesday.

The outcome of the governor’s race in November “is going to show us the heart of Florida,” Allison Tant, a former chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party who is backing Gillum, told the News Service.

“And it’s going to show us if we are a state that wants more for each other than the division that DeSantis brings,” she said. “It’s going to be a very telling time for Florida, and we’ll see what happens.”

Gillum made no secret of his strategy of relying on minority voters — and others he claims have historically been ignored by candidates — to boost him to victory in the primary.

Gillum frequently points out that his party has lost each of the last two governor’s races in Florida by fewer than 70,000 votes, despite having what he described as “good candidates” he actively worked to help elect.

“What we have failed to do is to turn out the very base of voters that we need if we want to win. They’re largely black voters, brown voters, younger voters and poor voters,” he told the News Service in a recent interview.

But, the mayor conceded, those voters are also “a different and difficult constituency to motivate and organize,” especially because they tend to stay home during midterm elections.

That’s where grass-roots aid comes in from groups like NextGen, the group backed by Steyer that targets young voters; the Florida Immigrant Rights Coalition; Color of Change; New Florida Majority; and a slew of other organizations that target minority voters.

“We are ecstatic about Andrew’s victory. It shows that Democratic voters are looking for someone who shares the experiences and values that they do and are looking for people who stand up and tell the truth and run an authentic and unapologetic campaign,” Olivia Bercow, a spokeswoman for NextGen America, told the News Service.

NextGen issued more than 300,000 text messages, knocked on 80,000 doors and made “a crazy amount of calls” on Gillum’s behalf, Bercow said.

“So we will be doubling down on those efforts to make sure that Andrew is elected in November and defeats Ron DeSantis,” she said. “We’re definitely in this race for the long haul.”

Stricter gun laws, more strident environmental policies and more spending on education were among the issues Gillum stressed during his year-long campaign for governor.

In an interview Wednesday morning with CNN, Gillum said his primary victory proved “we can run wholly on our values.”

“We can talk to people in a commonsensical way about the issues that confront them. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in the rural Panhandle of Florida, in the I-4 corridor, in the very populous, very diverse South Florida, if you work in multiple jobs to make ends meet, you’re not happy,” he said. “What my candidacy offered was, quite frankly, a foil for all those issues to say, you know what, we can talk about those issues, excite voters, and give them something to vote for, and not just against.”

Among registered voters in Florida, Democrats and Republicans are almost evenly split, and those with no party affiliation — who are shut out of voting in primaries — make up about 27 percent of the electorate.

Gillum’s challenge in November lies in wooing independent voters and more mainstream Democrats, according to experts.

“He’s going to have to put together an Obama-esque coalition. He can’t just do it with progressives. He can’t just do it with African-Americans. The key is to look at Hispanic voters in Florida. Who’s going to be his running mate? You’re going to have to energize this growing group of moderate Hispanics,” University of Florida political-science professor Daniel Smith told the News Service.

Gillum will have to “try to define himself to a broader general electorate than Democratic primary super voters” to pull off a November win, Smith predicted.

The key for Gillum, as with most Democratic candidates in midterm election years like 2018, is to “get the base out,” said Florida Democratic consultant Matthew Isbell, who supported Graham.

“At the end of the day, you don’t know what the white moderate independents are going to do. You need to get your base out because DeSantis is certainly going to galvanize his base,” Isbell said.

Gillum can sway white, working-class voters by emphasizing that the GOP, which has had control of the governor’s mansion and the state Legislature for nearly two decades, “hasn’t done much for them,” and that “the quality of life has eroded under their watch,” Isbell advised.

Gillum needs to generate excitement among Democrats and gin up animosity toward DeSantis, who is “a pretty strong bogeyman for progressives and moderates,” Isbell said.

“This is a test. The argument from progressives was that you needed a dynamic candidate to bring people out. Well, now is the test. This is the laboratory of that test. In the third-largest state of the nation, we have nominated a dynamic liberal who excites a lot of people. The question now is, will they show up?” Isbell said.

PredictIt sours on Democratic flip after Andrew Gillum nomination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

American Bridge launches first anti-Ron DeSantis ad of the fall

Calling Ron DeSantis a “yes man” for President Donald Trump, the Democratic super PAC American Bridge is launching the first attack ad of the Florida fall governor’s race, with an internet video mocking DeSantis’s praise for the president.

The 54-second video, “DeSantis: Trump’s Yes Man,” signals that while Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum may be vowing to not make Trump much of an issue this fall, outside Democratic groups will be more than happy to do so on Gillum’s behalf.

The video shows clips of DeSantis praising Trump, each followed by clips of Trump saying or doing something that mocks DeSantis’s statement. The issues run from Trump’s frequent golf outings to his relationship with Russia President Vladimir Putin.

American Bridge, closely associated with the Democratic Party and heavily funded by New York billionaire George Soros, contends in a news release that the ad is part of a campaign aimed at painting DeSantis as someone focused on appeasing Trump, “not helping Florida families.”

It begins running Wednesday on social media in Tampa, Orlando, and Miami and American Bridge said it is targeted to swing voters.

“Ron DeSantis has been a spineless yes-man for Donald Trump in Washington, and he’d continue to be one as Governor,” American Bridge spokesperson Zach Hudson stated in the news release. “Ron DeSantis voted for Trump’s tax giveaway to the wealthy, supported Trump’s plan to take away health care from millions of Floridians, and seems more interested in defending Trump from a Washington television studio than improving the lives of Florida families. This November, Florida voters will elect a Governor who will finally put Florida first, not a Trump yes-man like Ron DeSantis.”

Andrew Gillum says he won’t be taking bait on Donald Trump

In his first major, nationally-televised interview after his stunning victory Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum vowed to avoid chasing President Donald Trump bait in this fall’s campaign against Trump-backed Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis.

Instead, in a Wednesday morning appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the Tallahassee mayor pressed the campaign theme that led him to upset the far-better-known and far-better-financed Democrats: appealing to disenchanted Floridians about issues in their lives.

“We believe we’ve got to talk to Floridians, and largely to Floridians who have chosen not to participate in the political process because they don’t believe in it anymore,” Gillum said. “Talking about Donald Trump, and reminding folks of how bad he is and how unqualified he is for the job that he holds, doesn’t do anything to assure that they’re able to make ends meet, it doesn’t do anything to assure they get access to health care, a good education system, and 21st-century transportation, and a clean and good environment.

“What we’re going to do, however, is to stay very, very super-concentrated on what are the experiences, the everyday experiences of people in this state, and what we as the next governor can do to make their lives better,” Gillum said.

Gillum’s appearance follows his surprise victory built on the same messages, after he barnstormed the state’s churches, union halls and other small gatherings seeking to inspire voters who don’t normally turn out, who don’t show up in polls of “likely primary voters,” to turn out this time. They did, turning almost all the polls on their ears: Gillum 34 percent; Gwen Graham, 31 percent; Philip Levine, 20 percent; Jeff Greene, 10 percent.

“We focus on the people. first. who have been let down so many times by our political system,” Gillum said. “And in order for a candidate like me to win, I’ve got to be able to turn out those voters who are highly skeptical of the political process, don’t feel like it works for them anymore, and are looking for a champion, a voice. They want to be seen. They want to be heard. They want to see themselves reflected.

“And I think that’s what we did in this primary race, and I think that’s going to be critical to winning in the general. And that applies to rural Florida, suburban Florida, urban Florida,” he continued. “If your kids are being high-stakes tested, if you’ve gotta work multiple jobs, if your number-one concern is going bankrupt over an illness that could impact you any day of the week, then you want a governor like me that’s going to focus on that.”

Gillum did briefly take Trump bait, talking about how he believes Florida Puerto Ricans who fled Hurricane Maria feel disrespected by him, and how Haitian refugees feel disrespected.

“Without a doubt, we know that Donald Trump looms in the shadows here,” Gillum said. But then he said he did not want to focus on him.

He also briefly mentioned DeSantis, and also insisted he would not be taking the bait from him either.

“Ron DeSantis can talk about race, and liberalism and whatever he wants to. I’m going to be clearly focused on the issues that confront everyday Floridians.

Ron DeSantis handily wins Republican primary for Florida governor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Anthony Sabatini, Cynthia Brown emerge from HD 32 primary election

Three Republicans and two Democrats competed Tuesday for their party’s nomination to succeed former state Rep. Larry Metz, who gave up Lake County’s House District 32 in March to accept a judicial appointment from Gov. Rick Scott.

HD 32 has a hefty Republican lean, and the GOP fielded Shannon Elswick, Anthony Sabatini, and Monica L. Wofford to take over for Metz, who had held the district since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 election cycle.

With all precincts reporting, Sabatini led the Republican field with 47 percent of the vote, followed by Elswick at 29 percent and Wofford at 24 percent.

Sabatini, a 29-year-old Eustis City Commissioner and commissioned officer in the Florida Army National Guard, lagged substantially in fundraising, though his name recognition led to an easy win in the three-way primary.

Elswick was the fundraising leader with $92,360 in outside cash and another $10,000 in candidate loans, while Wofford, a businesswoman and author who runs her own training and consulting firm, cleared $85,512 for her bid. In the end, that didn’t matter.

All three Republicans vying for the seat had the second-from-the-top rating from the National Rifle Association, an “AQ,” and an “A” rating from anti-abortion group Florida Right to Life backing up their conservative credentials, with Sabatini’s prior experience in elected office serving as a key advantage over his primary rivals.

Sabatini is now nearly certain to succeed Metz — HD 32 is a Republican stronghold that went plus-15 for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

Still, there will be an election on Nov. 6, and while a “blue wave” isn’t likely to overcome the seawall of HD 32, two Democrats competed for the chance to give Lake County’s voters an option in the general.

Cynthia Brown a Groveland rancher and the former president of the American Shipbuilding Association, ran on a “Lake County” first platform and it paid off. With all precincts reporting, she held a dominant 65-35 percent lead over her lone competitor, Sheryl Needle Cohn, a Clermont author and playwright who works as a special needs educator at Groveland Elementary School.

Unlike the Republican side, the better funded candidate took the prize in the Democratic primary, though the amounts in play were much lower. Brown collected $15,590 from donors and staked her campaign with a $32,000 candidate loan. Cohn, meanwhile, raised $3,535 including a small amount of self-funding.

With the title card set for November, what remains to be seen is whether HD 32 Republicans flex their 10,000-voter registration advantage on Election Day, or Democrats in the district over-perform to show support for their first state House candidate since HD 32 was created.

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