Gwen Graham – Florida Politics

Underdog Chris King vows to compete for Northeast Florida votes

Chris King, an entrepreneur from Orlando running for Governort, returned to Jacksonville Thursday, his second straight day in Northeast Florida.

Florida Politics caught up with the Democrat ahead of his closed press visit to a church in the Springfield neighborhood, where the progressive political neophyte pitched his policy positions to faith leaders from the region.

King, who has television ads airing in the area, has been canvassing the state with his “Turning the Tide” tour, a push for criminal justice reform that includes opposition to mass incarceration, the death penalty, and private prisons; advocacy of cannabis legalization; voting rights restoration; and “ending the school-to-prison pipeline.”

His final stop on that 11-day “criminal justice” tour was Thursday evening at Florida Coastal School of Law.

In third or fourth place in most polls, King has concentrated his efforts below the I-4 corridor for most of the campaign.

However, there may be some hope yet. As he notes, a new Florida Atlantic University poll has King in a strong third place, within six points of first.

He sees room to grow, and that room is in Northeast Florida.

“I’m dedicated over the next three months to be here a lot,” King enthused. “In fact, it was one of the first markets where we went up on television. We went up in five markets, and Jacksonville is one of them. We think our message resonates in North Florida and the Jacksonville market.”

FP asked King, who is running in the progressive lane of the field with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, if he had any concern that they were cannibalizing each other’s votes.

He did not.

“I have had the ability to get progressives excited on some of my stances,” King said, “such as criminal justice, mass incarceration, the death penalty, and marijuana legalization. But I also have a real deep-seated economic vision for the state, which is another lane of voters I’m fighting for.”

King noted the “economy is not working for a lot of families,” even as “the wealthy and well-connected” flourish.

King went on to appraise his opponents.

When asked about Gwen Graham, the moderate in the race, King asserted that “voters want fresh ideas and new leadership.”

“Almost 50 percent of the voters are undecided,” King said, “we’ve got three candidates in the race who voters have known for years and years, their families for decades. I’m the only real new candidate in the race … something different” from the pack.

“What makes me different from Andrew Gillum or Gwen Graham or Philip Levine,” King asserted, “is my willingness to be pretty bold and visionary on the big ideas of Florida.”

Gwen Graham adds political director Monica Rodrigues, two others to team

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has hired Monica Rodrigues to be her campaign’s political director and also added , Ed Rodriguez, and Jenny Busby to head the policy, and operations teams, Graham’s campaign announced Thursday.

Rodrigues, of Miami Beach, previously served as the communication director and development director for Enroll America, helping with the enrollment of 1.9 million Floridians in Obamacare.

A former Navy corpsman and Iraq War veteran, Rodriguez joins the campaign’s deputy policy director. He has previously worked for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America as a legislative associate in the organization’s Washington, D.C. policy team, and also has experiences as a legislative staffer in the U.S. Senate and as a political consultant for Solidarity Strategies.

Busby joins as the operations director. She previously worked as a staffer to U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, and also has worked for the Democratic Party and state Sen. Nan Rich.

“Monica, Ed, and Jenny are all motivated, dedicated young Floridians who joined our team because they care about our state and making the future brighter for their generation,” Graham stated in a news release. “With their help, we’re going to continue talking with more Floridians across the state about restoring our public schools, protecting our environment, and creating an economy that works for everyone.”

Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, faces businessman Chris King, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the August 28 Democratic Primary. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and  Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

For Gwen Graham, the ‘North Florida Way’ is the path to becoming Governor

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham found herself on familiar turf Monday evening, addressing Duval County Democrats.

Graham’s campaign in Northeast Florida has been buoyed in recent months by endorsements from several regionally-prominent Democrats: State Rep. Tracie Davis, Jacksonville City Councilmen Garrett Dennis and Tommy Hazouri, Duval County School Board member Warren Jones, and former Mayor Jake Godbold.

Many of those endorsements came months ago, before the ad blitz and poll surge of Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Graham seemed like an inevitable choice for the nomination before Levine’s television ad buys. In recent weeks, both private and public surveys have shown that Levine is ahead of Graham in voter-rich regions of the state, such as South Florida and the Tampa area.

In Jacksonville, Graham — once seen as a prohibitive frontrunner for the nomination — made at least one “comeback kid” posture, noting that in her 2014 race for Congress, some political reporters bet against her and others said she couldn’t win.

Graham also noted her commitment to progressive ideals in the remarks, including education, public option for health care, and gun control measures, before saying that “these things don’t matter if you can’t win.”

Graham espoused a commitment to the “67 county strategy,” a phrase also used by Levine. While a candidate has to do well in South Florida and the I-4 Corridor, “elections are won or lost north of Orlando.”

And Graham insisted that went beyond just Jacksonville, noting that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “did well in Duval but got beaten badly west of here,” by way of making the case that the key is to “not get beaten so badly in places where Democrats have lost in the past.”

Graham wouldn’t speculate as to whether Levine could or couldn’t win 67 counties when asked.

“Look at the data, and you will see: the reality is you have to do well everywhere,” Graham added. “You can’t write off any part of the state and think there’s a path to victory.”

“I don’t pay attention to polls. The only poll I pay attention to is the people of Florida and the ones that I feel every day. The personal poll of the connection and excitement about having a Governor again in Tallahassee [who] will work for them every day,” Graham said.

She’s not feeling any urgency about getting spots on television either, saying she will be “on TV when it’s the right time to be on TV.”

Even as Levine has surged in the polls, Graham and her local endorsers most visibly messaged of late against not the front-runner, but against a third-party group supportive of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum that shredded Graham for being insufficiently progressive.

Earlier in May, the Collective Super PAC spent $782,000 on an ad attacking Graham as a fake progressive.

The ad says Graham voted against Obamacare and for the Keystone Pipeline, essentially stooging for Republicans at the expense of President Barack Obama.

Graham was “disgusted that Andrew Gillum would allow a secret-money group to run a false attack against a fellow Democrat,” and her Jacksonville Democrat surrogates likewise were appropriately umbraged.

Graham was no less disgusted Monday, saying — when asked about the “fake progressive” charge” that she’s “not a fake anything.”

“My disappointment in that … is that Democrats attacking Democrats is not what we should be doing,” Graham said.

“I’m very disappointed that there is that going on in this race,” Graham added, saying the attack was a “counterproductive” distraction from the post-primary inevitability of “full-out attack having people understand that the future of Florida is at stake.”

The proxy war between Graham and Gillum adherents, however, came at the expense of either candidate messaging against Levine, an increasingly urgent priority with the primary quickly approaching.

We asked Graham if Gillum and Chris King, both generally not keeping up with Graham and Levine in polls, if those two candidates were effectively stalking horses for Levine with questions about their political viability going forward.

“They will have to make decisions about their own campaigns,” Graham said, noting that she respects “anyone who wishes to offer themselves for public service.”

Graham does have the cash on hand lead, but lacks Levine’s ability to self-finance at will.

Democrats in Jacksonville and beyond are watching with ever-increasing interest, to see if Graham can or will take control of the narrative of this race.

Ultimately, the sales pitch for Graham seems to pivot on electability, and an ability to carry the Democratic message to places that haven’t listened in a number of election cycles.

Philip Levine adds campaign directors in Miami, North Florida

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine has added two more area directors to his campaign with the additions of Megan Sirjane-Samples as north Florida area director and Chris Hudtwalcker as Miami-Dade area director.

Sirjane-Samples previously served as a legislative advocate for the Florida League of Cities, helping to craft the League’s legislative policy statements and assisting on research and analysis of legislative and policy issues to provide league management and local government officials with information on state and municipal policies, laws, budgets, and operations.

Hudtwalcker worked as a legislative assistant to Democratic state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, managing the senator’s legislative and political affairs. Hudtwalcker also worked as Rodriguez’s campaign manager during the 2016 election, working with staff to implement a successful strategy to secure Florida’s 37th Senate District in one of the most competitive races of the cycle.

Levine is battling with Gwen Graham, Chis King, and Andrew Gillum for the August 28 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. The leading Republicans are Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis.

“With the addition of Megan and Chris to Team Levine, we are continuing to build the campaign infrastructure best equipped to achieve success in the primary and general elections and flip the Florida Governor’s Office blue,” Levine’s Campaign Manager Matthew Van Name, stated in a news release. “The presence of our area directors throughout the state’s regions allows our team to have roots in communities across Florida and enables us to reach voters in all 67 counties.”

Philip Levine

Poll: Philip Levine maintains lead among Tampa Bay Democrats

Another month, another poll, another win trumpeted by Philip Levine’s gubernatorial campaign.

A Public Policy Polling survey, released first to Florida Politics, again shows the former mayor of Miami Beach  atop the primary field among Tampa Bay Democrats. The poll was commissioned by Levine’s senior adviser, Christian Ulvert.

He’s the pick for a full third of voters, while his three rivals combine to 32 percent support. Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham accounts for most of that at 19 percent, followed by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 8 percent and Orlando-area businessman Chris King at 5 percent.

At 35 percent, “unsure” reign as the top choice for likely voters remains unbroken, though the share has shrunk by a few points since the last Tampa Bay poll, which showed Levine polling at 32 percent followed by Graham at 18 percent.

The survey showed the South Florida Democrat firmly in the No. 1 spot among men and women, young and old, and in each of the five counties surveyed – Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota and Pasco. Graham, was the No. 2 pick in all categories and Gillum was firmly in third. Despite a few ties with King in the crosstabs, he never slipped to the back of the pack.

Though the top-of-page results are nearly identical to last month’s edition, there were some gains that’ll be met with glee at Levine’s headquarters, none more so than name recognition.

As of mid-May, 54 percent of Tampa Bay Democrats have now heard enough about Levine to form an opinion – a 6-point gain from the last poll – and he’s seen in a favorable light by a margin of 45-8. That puts him 17 points ahead of Graham in name recognition and in another league from Gillum and King.

The same number of respondents indicated they’d see one of Levine’s TV commercials, an 8-point gain. Among those who had, he scored plus-53 in favorability, 61-8. That’s certain to be seen as a good return on Levine’s “investments,” which have shown no sign of slowing down, and have little reason to with the Aug. 28 primary fast approaching.

Graham polled 30-7 in the favorability measure, with 63 percent unsure about the North Florida Democrat. Gillum followed at 16-7 and King continued to be the least-known of the four major Democrats, earning a neutral favorability score with 86 percent of Tampa Bay Democrats unsure of their opinion or unaware of his candidacy.

Hillsborough County and Pinellas County were each home to a third of those polled, while the remaining 33 percent was split between Manatee, Pasco and Sarasota.

The age breakdown showed 49 percent of respondents in the 65-and-up bracket, 40 percent between 45 and 65, and 12 percent aged 18 to 45. The race breakdown showed 69 percent of those polled were white, 16 percent were black and 10 percent were Hispanic or Latino. The gender split was 57-43, with women in the majority.

Levine’s support peaked among young voters and men. Graham’s No. 2 showing put her behind Levine by 17 points among women, 11 points among men, 20 points among younger voters, and 13 points among middle-aged and older voters.

Levine’s results breached 40 percent in Manatee and came in only a point lower in Sarasota. He beat his 33 percent overall score by a point in Pasco, too. Still, those counties combined have 50,000 fewer registered Democrats than Hillsborough, which produced his weakest (though still leading) showing in the five-county area.

Pinellas was by far the best county for Graham. The 25 percent share she earned there was 8 points ahead of her results in Hillsborough, her next-best county.

Gillum broke double digits in Hillsborough and Pasco, while only 5 percent of Pinellas voters backed him; King hovered around 5 percent in all but Manatee, where his support came in at 1 percent. Gillum and King supporters tended to be middle-aged, with Gillum polling a few points higher with men than women. King’s backers were twice as likely to be women.

The PPP poll contacted 581 likely Democratic voters by phone on May 15 and 16.

Gwen Graham vows to get housing money into communities

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham accused the Republican-led Florida government of neglecting the needs of affordable housing and vowed to change that with full funding of the state’s Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund and efforts to get housing money quickly into communities.

“When I get into office I am going to take a hard look at where we are spending our resources, and what we need to do. I’m not naive. I know it’s going to be tough. There are going to be a lot of challenges Florida has not faced in a very long time, and housing is one of them,” she said. “We’re going to have to be creative about how we get resources into communities to begin to immediately address these shortages.”

As part of her ongoing “WorkDays” program that has her work in someone else’s job for a day, Graham spent Friday installing windows, calking floor baseboards and painting for a Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando housing construction project in Apopka. The Arbor Bend subdivision will include 34 new affordable homes when it is complete. Many already are finished and occupied.

While praising Habitat for Humanity, she conceded “It is a drop in the bucket” as a response to the state’s affordable housing needs.

Graham stressed the affordable housing crisis in the greater Orlando area, saying it ranked third worst in the nation behind Los Angeles and Las Vegas, adding, “and it’s only getting worse.”

It’s a topic that her rival Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King, an Orlando entrepreneur whose projects include affordable housing, has pushed from the first day of his campaign last year. Like King, Graham expressed frustration that the state’s fund for affordable housing has been raided annually for other budgetary purposes, rather than spent on affordable housing.

They also face Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the August 28 Democratic primary. The leading Republicans are Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

“The Republicans who control Tallahassee have stolen more than $2 billion of Floridians’ tax dollars from the affordable housing trust to pay for their own special projects,” Graham stated in a news release. “If more of the politicians in Tallahassee spent a day working to construct affordable housing, they’d see just how much more we could accomplish working together on progressive solutions to help Florida families. They’d quit stealing from the trust fund and invest in Florida.”

Andrew Gillum releases poll showing him picking up ‘informed Democrats” votes

The campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is releasing results of an internal poll Wednesday that shows him tied with Gwen Graham and within striking distance of frontrunner Philip Levine – and leading among Democrats after the pollsters provided pitches for each candidate and asked again.

The poll finds what all others have been saying to date, that a majority of Democrats still don’t know the candidates, most haven’t made up their minds, and more than a few who have decided are waffling on their choices. Yet the campaign for the Tallahassee Mayor Gillum maintains that it also shows that people are beginning to make up their minds, and that he’s well positioned once voters are informed.

“This latest poll shows that with a little more than 100 days until primary day, Mayor Gillum is prepared to jump into the lead,” Geoff Burgan, Gillum’s campaign communications contended in a news release.

“As we continue educating voters about his background as the son of a bus driver and construction worker, and his bold, progressive agenda to invest more than $1 billion in our public schools and students, give teachers and support staff the raise they deserve, and make quality health care a constitutional right for all Floridians, Mayor Gillum is poised to win this wide-open primary,” Burgan added.

The on-line poll was conducted by Change Research of 1,107 likely Democratic primary voters in Florida between May 8-11 last week. Change Research applied its proprietary “Bias Correct” method to yelled a representative sample, according to the Gillum campaign.

The findings of all voters asked whom they would vote for gave Levine, the former Miami Beach mayor, 20 percent; Gillum and Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, 13 percent each; and Chris King, the Winter Park entrepreneur 3 percent. Fifty-two percent of the likely Democratic voters surveyed said they were undecided.

After receiving brief pitches and photographs of each candidate, provided by the pollsters, a second question on whom the respondents would vote for gave Gillum 35 percent, Graham 23 percent, Levine 20 percent, and King 10 percent, with 13 percent remaining unsure, the Gillum campaign reported.

Favorability ratings questions found that Levine, who’s been airing statewide television commercials since January, is the only candidate of whom a majority of Democratic voters have heard. Levine’s favorable ratings totaled 44 percent, including 16 percent finding him very favorable; while a total of 15 percent of those surveyed gave him unfavorable ratings, including 5 percent who found him very unfavorable. Another 41 percent don’t know him.

Gillum, whose been running digital ads on the internet, had total favorable ratings of 32 percent (with 14 percent very favorable) and total unfavorable ratings of 13 percent (including 4 percent very unfavorable.) Yet 55 percent said they had “never heard of him.”

Graham, who’s also been relying on internet advertising to date, had the the best favorable/unfavorable ratio, with 36 percent saying they hold favorable opinions (14 percent saying very favorable) of her, and only 11 percent having unfavorable (including 3 percent very unfavorable) opinions of her. Fifty-three percent said they never heard of her.

King, who is beginning statewide television commercials this week, came in with 21 percent favorable ratings (including 5 percent very favorable) and 14 percent unfavorable (including 4 percent very unfavorable.) Sixty-five percent of those polled said they never heard of him.

Sixty-two percent of the Democrats surveyed said the state was on the wrong track, with 13 percent saying it was on the right track.

When asked to rate President Donald Trump on a scale of 1-10, 84 percent of the Democratic voters surveyed gave him a “1.” Four percent gave him a “10.”

Chris King hits TV with progressive-themed ad

Orlando businessman Chris King, who consistently polls behind at least two of the four other Democratic gubernatorial candidates in the 2018 election, is airing a new 30-second ad Wednesday in television markets peppered across the state.

King is the second Democrat in the Governor’s race to break into TV. The other, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, was also the first gubernatorial candidate to air a TV ad when his affiliated political committee in November dished out $800,000 for a 30-second spot. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate, hit cable waves for the first time in April.

The ad demonstrates the King campaign’s ability to capitalize on momentum; the spot follows just one day after the candidate unveiled an ambitious, progressive and multi-faceted criminal justice plan — which attracted the attention of some of the state’s largest media outlets.

King’s ad is set to air in Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, Panama City and West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce television markets.

The ad opens with a waiter asking a politician if he’d like more sugar. The politician responds, “Yes, of course!” And the waiter fills the politician’s cup with an excessive amount of sugar.

Then, in a voiceover, King is heard saying, “It’s the same old politics. Big Sugar buys influence in Tallahassee and pollutes our environment.” When he enters the frame, he says, “I’m Chris King and I won’t take a dime from them.”

The message is intended to highlight King’s sugar-free stance, which he declared almost immediately after entering the race. All of the Democratic candidates have since announced they would not take money affiliated with the sugar industry. Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, however, received $17,400 for her congressional campaign from what’s been described as ‘big sugar,’ but donated that money to the Indian Riverkeeper and pledged to not take any more money from the sugar industry. 

The rest of the ad is made up of calls for progressive policies, including the expansion of Medicaid, funding for affordable housing and making community college and public trade school free.

“If you want new leadership and fresh ideas,” King says at the end of the commercial. “I’m ready to fight for you.”

Chris King: Ban death penalty, legalize pot, restore rights, close private prisons

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King laid claim Tuesday to the the Democrats’ most far-ranging criminal justice reform platform by vowing to seek to end the death penalty, legalize marijuana, restore felons’ voter rights, and close Florida’s private prisons.

The six-point plan, which also called for reducing incarceration rates and investing in schools to close what King termed the “school to prison pipeline,” is the broadest package yet proposed by Democratic gubernatorial candidates, though they all have pushed various justice reform issues, particularly Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

King, the Winter Park entrepreneur who’s been running a distant fourth behind Gillum, Philip Levine, and Gwen Graham in Democratic polls, unveiled the plan at the first stop of what he’s calling his “Turning the Tide” tour, at a roundtable discussion in St. Petersburg Tuesday.

“Florida needs fresh ideas and new leadership to reform its broken criminal justice system,” King stated in a news release issued afterwards by his campaign. “‘Turning the tide’ means reforming a system that needlessly criminalizes tens of thousands of nonviolent men and women in Florida. I reject the conventional politics of just seeking incremental change – we’ve got to fight for bold, progressive ideas to make our justice system fair while keeping Floridians safe.”

Perhaps the biggest and most daring of the policy positions is his call for ending the death penalty in Florida. King, a devote evangelical who often cites his faith in his speeches, has been opposed to the death penalty a long time, according to his campaign.

It’s an issue that divided much of Florida last year when Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala sought to ban the death penalty in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, eventually losing an extremely hostile fight with Gov. Rick Scott and others in the Florida Supreme Court. Yet some public opinion polls indicated that Ayala, and now King, might have majorities of voters behind the position.

King’s campaign said he would decline to issue death warrants as death row inmates come up for executions, and would seek commutations of death row sentences through the Florida Cabinet.

The campaign also said he would use “all legislative and constitutional avenues” to seek the end capital punishment in Florida and replace the state’s ultimate punishment with life imprisonment without parole, and that he would use his line-item veto pen to reject appropriations for the operations of death penalties.

With Tuesday’s platform unveiling, King also became the second Democratic candidate, after Gillum, to call for the complete legalization of marijuana in Florida.

“King believes the time has come to legalize marijuana for recreational use and tax it,” his campaign stated. “Criminalizing marijuana has resulted in increased spending in incarcerating non-serious offenders and strained relations with the police. For example, African Americans in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties are at least six times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as white people. King supports legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana for recreational use.”

Among King’s other proposals:

– Ending private prisons. “Rick Scott hands out private prison contracts like candy, promising that they will lower costs while not a single dollar of savings has been confirmed,” the release contended. “Private prisons in Florida absorb $142 million taxpayer dollars each year yet produce inexcusable conditions for prisoners and fail to lower the recidivism rate.”

– Restoration of voting rights. “King supports Amendment 4 to restore the rights of 1.6 million Floridians who haven’t had their civil and voting rights restored because no one who has paid their debt to society should be denied the right to vote,” the release stated. “Additionally, King supports reinstating reforms made by Gov. Charlie Crist attempting to stop delaying or outright ignoring requests by ex-felons for restoration of voting rights and other civil rights.”

– Reducing mass incarceration. “Florida’s crime and incarceration rates are in the top 10 nationally. King believes Florida’s goal should be to reduce mass incarceration by 25 percent in the next five years and 50 percent in the next 10 years with proper sentencing reform for non-violent offenders. To reduce mass incarceration, King supports eliminating harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes, instituting gain-time reform and pursuing civil citation programs,” the release stated.

– Ending the school-to-prison pipeline. King’s campaign contended the proposals would result in a $1.05 billion savings, which he would spend on K-12 education, colleges and universities, the justice system and corrections’ rehabilitation program,s and childcare and early childhood development.

Quentin James - The Collective Super PAC

In the face of criticism, The Collective super PAC strikes back

The Collective super PAC has taken a lot of flak over its attacks on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham and her supporters, and in a Tuesday op-ed its founder fired back.

Quentin James’ first order of business was to rebuff Graham’s claim that it was a “dark money” group by pointing out that all contributions it has received from its more than 6,000 individual donors can be viewed via the Federal Elections Commission website.

“We are not a shadow group conducting shady business. We are only seeking to educate Floridians on the truth about Graham,” he wrote.

And on the substance of those “truths” spread in Collective’s ad campaign – namely, that Graham was more in line with Republicans than Democrats during her one term in Congress – James is standing firm.

“Graham has proven us right: She is considering standing with a Republican in 2018. Politico reports that, ‘Graham is considering Republican David Jolly as a Florida gubernatorial running mate.’ It boggles the mind that she would even contemplate choosing a GOP running mate in the midst of a Democratic primary, but this is exactly what our advertisement points to — Graham is not the progressive she claims to be,” he wrote.

“Instead of launching baseless attacks on our organization, Graham and her allies should inform Floridians why she stood against President Obama 52 percent of the time, why she trashed Obamacare, why she voted with the big banks, why she voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline — twice — and why she’s considering a Republican running mate?”

So, what’s up with all the outrage directed at the Collective? Graham has called them out, and has gotten Jacksonville Democrats, Ruth’s List and three former Florida Democratic Party chairs, among others, to shame The Collective and call on Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to publicly denounce the group, which is backing him in the four-way primary for governor.

James said that’s a double standard – “an all-too-familiar reality” for groups that support black candidates.

“Some would have you to believe Graham is a victim in this situation and that she deserves support because of her biography, her family’s political legacy or her ability to be bipartisan,” he wrote.

“But I’d ask you to remember that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is the son of a bus driver and a construction worker who’s the first in his family to graduate from college. As a progressive leader he’s stood up to and beat the NRA. He has a plan to fix teacher pay and build and economy that works for all Floridians, and he won’t compromise our values to appeal to those who put profit over our collective wellbeing. Most important, Gillum knows math.”

His final point digs at Graham’s ability to inspire Democratic voters to turnout in the fall, saying his group doesn’t a Democrat with Graham’s background fits that mold.

“There is a lot at stake, and Florida Democrats must nominate someone who will inspire the base to vote in November. I believe Gillum is that choice, and The Collective Super PAC will unapologetically use every tool at its disposal to help him win the Democratic nomination and be elected governor in November,” he concluded.

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