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Philip Levine

Philip Levine opening Broward campaign office Saturday

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is opening up another office for his gubernatorial campaign on Saturday in Broward County.

The new regional office, located in Plantation, is the fourth one for the South Florida Democrat. His other offices are in Kissimmee, St. Petersburg and Tampa.

The campaign said it’ll kick off the opening with a 3 pm event where Levine will speak to supporters, volunteers and locals on “his bold, progressive vision to move Florida forward” as well as Broward’s importance in the primary and general elections.

The office address is 8320 W Sunrise Blvd., Suite 204.

Once the office opening wraps, the campaign said Levine will head to Miami, where he will participate in candidate forum put on by Avanse Asanm, a movement aimed at boosting “volunteerism, commitment, connectivity, and investment in the Haitian Community” among Haitian American Millennials.

The forum is set to start at 4:30 pm at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Terrace. The Levine campaign said he will speak at 5:45 pm.

Also slated speak at the Avanse Asanm event is Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is also running in the Democratic Primary for governor.

The group says the candidates “will be discussing student debt reduction, living wages, affordable workforce housing, transportation, immigration, and more.”

The other two major Democrats in the race, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Orlando-area businessman Chris King, will not be in attendance.

Jacksonville Democrats slam Andrew Gillum over ‘secret money attacks’ on Gwen Graham

The campaign between Andrew Gillum and Gwen Graham is starting to get ugly, and “dark money” is helping it along.

An attack on Graham comes from The Collective Super PAC, a group reportedly related to Collective Future, which had donated $235,000 to Gillum’s independent political committee, Forward Florida, through April.

The Collective Super PAC is spending $782,000 in Florida, starting with a commercial attacking Graham as a fake progressive, according to POLITICO reports.

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

Predictably, Graham is “disgusted that Andrew Gillum would allow a secret-money group to run a false attack against a fellow Democrat,” and Gillum’s side disclaimed responsibility for the ad.

Local Graham surrogates in Jacksonville have their thoughts — and they aren’t favorable to Gillum.

Two Jacksonville Democrats on the City Council, Tommy Hazouri and Garrett Dennis, don’t think that Gillum has done enough to distance his campaign from what are being called by the Graham campaign “secret money attacks.”

“Andrew Gillum isn’t telling the truth about Gwen Graham’s record and he knows it. Gwen never trashed Obamacare — she is the only candidate in this race who voted to save it from Republican attacks,” Dennis said. “Andrew Gillum supported her campaign for Congress and stood by her side — until deciding he wanted to advance his own political career. Now he’s selling out progressives and endorsing secret-money super PACs to attack another Democrat. Florida Democrats expect better than this.”

“Democrats in Jacksonville, Democrats in Florida, and Democrats across the country are tired of secret money silencing voters,” Hazouri said. “We deserve a leader with integrity. We want a candidate who stands up for progressive values, like LGBT and civil rights, fights to protect our environment, and will restore public education. That candidate is Gwen Graham, and that’s why I am proud to support her. Andrew Gillum should take responsibility for this disgusting attack and demand that it be taken off the air.”

Gillum, of course, can’t make such demands on an independent political committee.

Duval County School Board member Warren Jones, best known for decades on the Jacksonville City Council, was likewise umbraged.

“Gwen Graham leads by example. She is running a positive campaign, based off of her progressive record, and I am proud to support her. I know that when she’s governor, Gwen will restore public school funding and bring learning back into our classrooms again,” Jones said. “That’s what this election should be about: how to make Florida better for everyone and listening to the people of Florida. That’s what Gwen did in Congress, and that’s what she’ll do as governor.”

Graham and Gillum have spent much of the campaign avoiding personal attacks. However, with Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine surging in polls and cash on hand, it’s clear that the two realize that their only path forward involves taking the other one out.

Material from Florida Politics’ Scott Powers was used in this post. 

Andrew Gillum campaign denounces name calling after supporter calls Gwen Graham a ‘skank’

With mounting pressure from Democrats and EMILY’s List, the campaign of Andrew Gillum on Thursday denounced “name calling” by supporters and sought to distance itself from Sunshine State News writer Leslie Wimes who on Thursday was defending calling Gwen Graham a “skank.”

Any relationship between Wimes, who declares her whole-hearted support for Gillum and is often quoted as a surrogate, and the campaign appeared to be strained or broken Thursday after EMILY’s List weighed in, following Democrats who earlier had condemned her for calling Graham that and also a “porcelain princess,” and who had urged Gillum to also denounce her.

The campaign did not explicitly denounce her Thursday, but went further than it had Wednesday when James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat first reported on the name-calling and the growing blowback, which started from a couple of of Wimes tweets about Graham.

“Leslie is not an employee of the campaign,” the Gillum campaign stated.

“To be clear, the mayor and our campaign denounce name-calling, and we agree with EMILY’s List on that point. Our supporters should stick to the Congresswoman’s record,” Communications Director Geoff Burgan stated.

Wimes could not be immediately reached to respond, but she laid out a new blast on Graham and on anyone offended by the “skank” description in a column published Thursday on Sunshine State News.

Burgan’s latest comment is a step further than the response he provided Call on Wednesday, which stated, “This race should be about the Congresswoman & the Mayor’s differences in record, not about name calling from any supporters.”

The new response came after EMILY’s List, the powerful national progressive woman’s campaign organization, called on Gillum Thursday to “make clear to his supporters that negative, gendered attacks have no place in political discourse.”

“Instead of calling for an end to sexist attacks on Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum has obfuscated and perpetuated the negativity. It is time for him to do the right thing and tell his supporters that use of attacks like this or any other nasty way of demeaning a woman in leadership has no place in our democracy,” Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, stated in a news release.

It’s one of two spats between the Graham and Gillum campaigns involving third-party activities that erupted in the past couple of days, the other involving an attack commercial from The Collective Super PAC, tied to another group, Collective Future, which has been funneling dark money into Gillum’s independent political committee, Forward Florida.

EMILY’s List weighed in on that one too.

Wimes replied to the initial criticisms with a column Thursday morning headlined, “Skank, Oh, My!” in which she declared, “That one word has completely consumed Gwen Graham’s campaign and her supporters and it has been fun to watch! How can a candidate claim to be tough on guns, stand up to the Republicans on education or anything else for that matter, yet crumble over the word ‘skank?’

“They called on Andrew Gillum to denounce me. Why? I don’t work for his campaign. He doesn’t control what I say or do. Let’s say he denounces that. I’m just going to come back and call her something else. Then what are they going to do?” she added.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “skank” as: “an unpleasant person, especially a woman who has sex with a lot of different people.”

Graham’s campaign responded by focusing on The Collective’s commercial, and by renewing its call for Gillum to run a positive campaign.

“Andrew Gillum should tell his out-of-state group, The Collective, to take down their false negative ad attacking Gwen. Live up to your words about dark money politics, start running a positive campaign,” Communications Director Matt Harringer stated.

New Andrew Gillum ad pushes ‘bold progressive platform’ from son of a construction worker

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum‘s new digital ad lays out the six key planks in what he calls a ‘bold, progressive platform,’ delivered from the son of a construction worker and a school bus driver.

With shots of him in front of school buses, with his family, as mayor of Tallahassee, and in various campaign moments, the one-minute ad “Our Moment & Path to Victory” is the third digital ad his campaign has released recently under a six-figure advertising buy.

“I’m running for governor for anyone who has been told that they don’t belong, for anyone who has ever been told that they don’t deserve a chance, because Power cedes nothing without a demand,” the Tallahassee mayor states in the ad. “It’s our moment, it’s our time to demand.”

And then he lays out the planks: affordable healthcare and Medicare for all; an assault weapons ban; a $15 minimum wage; a $50,000 starting salary for teachers; equal pay for equal work; and for Florida’s largest corporations to pay more taxes, what he calls a “fair share.”

“I believe this bold, progressive platform is our only path to victory,” he declares.

Gillum faces former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and businessman Chris King in seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor.

Gwen Graham digital ad focuses on PTA mom, schools lawyer

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is turning to her life as the PTA mom and as a school district lawyer in her latest digital ad, which her campaign is reporting is backed by a significant though unspecified advertising buy.

The two-minute, 13-second video is a quick biography of her, touching on her relationship with her father, former Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham, her early career, her children, her divorce, her second marriage, and her careers as a lawyer, PTA president, counsel for the Leon County School District, and in Congress.

But the themes seeks to portray her as an everywoman, and something of a political moderate, almost acknowledging contrasts with her Democratic rivals, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who occasionally have attacked her for not being enough of a progressive for Democrats’ tastes. Gillum’s campaign took such a shot Thursday.

“As a mom and as a woman, you’re juggling a lot. Just making sure that you’re doing the best job at your professional responsibilities, but also making sure your kids have all they need at home,” Graham says in the video.

“I’m not a career politician,” she contends during a segment on her term in Congress representing north Florida, 2014-’16. “I built relationships and friendships across the aisle, and as a result I was able to get things done for the people of Florida.”

Her campaign said she is placing “a significant buy behind the ad across various digital platforms to share her positive message and story with Florida Democratic voters.”

Chris King adds campaign staff for Tampa Bay, Central Florida

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is expanding his campaign’s presence in the I-4 corridor with the appointments of regional directors from Tampa Bay and Brevard County, the campaign announced Thursday.

Lisa Perry, a leader in Tampa Bay area progressive activism, will serve as the King campaign’s Tampa Bay regional director. Before joining the King campaign, Perry served as Pinellas County chair for Women’s March Florida, mobilizing thousands of volunteers and activists around key progressive issues. Perry also organized for the Florida Immigrant Coalition and the “Fight for $15” movement.

Tess Martin, a grassroots organizer for progressive causes and organizations across Florida, will serve as Central Florida regional director. Martin is co-founder and president of “Speak Out Brevard” and managed Sanjay Patel’s campaign in Florida’s 8th Congressional District earlier this year.

King faces former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in seeking the August 28 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. His campaign points out he is the only Democratic candidate from the I-4 corridor, though Graham, from Tallahassee, has set up campaign headquarters in Orlando.

“We’re excited to grow our capacity in the crucial I-4 corridor to help spread Chris King’s message of fresh ideas and new leadership that rejects the conventional politics of the past,” King’s campaign manager Zach Learner stated in a news release. “Tess and Lisa will help share Chris’s bold, progressive solutions with Democrats in Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area who want leaders with the courage to stand up to special interests like Big Sugar and the NRA.”

Gwen Graham calls out Andrew Gillum over dark money after new outside attack ad

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham expressed disgust toward Democratic rival Andrew Gillum Thursday after an outside group backing Gillum launched an attack ad against Graham.

Graham’s response includes a reminder that Gillum had previously expressed a warning about “dark money” coming into the gubernatorial race, and she called him out on allowing dark money to attack her on his behalf, while her surrogates went so far as to accuse him of coordinating the attack.

The attack comes from The Collective Super PAC, a group reportedly related to Collective Future, which had donated $235,000 to Gillum’s independent political committee, Forward Florida, through April. The Collective Super PAC is spending $782,000 in Florida, starting with a commercial attacking Graham as a fake progressive, according to POLITICO reports.

“I am disgusted that Andrew Gillum would allow a secret-money group to run a false attack against a fellow Democrat,” Graham stated in a news release Thursday morning.

In reply, Gillum’s campaign did not respond directly to Graham’s campaign’s assertions that Gillum was coordinating the attacks, or that he could or should have any say over what The Collective PAC is doing. However, the campaign didn’t disagree with the attacks either.

“In this race no candidate will be able to run from their voting record, but if we had a choice in this ad, we’d want Mayor Gillum’s progressive record to be the focus. The Graham campaign seems to be uncomfortable with her own voting record,” Gillum’s Communications Director Geoff Burgan said in a written response.

Graham and Gillum both are chasing former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the Democratic gubernatorial race polls, with Graham most commonly appearing a close second and Gillum a distant third, followed by Winter Park businessman Chris King.

Graham’s campaign statement included a reminder that Gillum appeared to repudiate dark money on a Twitter post.

“It’s only a matter of time before we see dark money flowing into Florida to silence the voices of Florida voters,” Gillum tweeted on Feb. 13.

While Collective Future might be described as a dark money organization since it does not report its donors, Collective Super PAC does report its donors. Through the first quarter of this year, its biggest contributor is New York progressive activist billionaire George Soros, who gave it $70,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets web portal. However, FEC filings still show the PAC had only raised $167,000 through March, so the sources of the rest of the money now being spent on the current Florida campaign are not yet disclosed. Planned Parenthood and a small handful of other donors also contributed. Soros also is the single largest backer of Gillum’s Forward Florida committee, having donated $450,000.

The ad in question, which POLITICO said is running on TV in the West Palm Beach market and on selected cable channels across the state, declares that “Gwen Graham says she is the progressive Democrat for governor. But while in Congress she voted against President Obama 52 percent of the time. Graham trashed Obamacare. Voted with the big banks. And she voted for the Keystone XL pipeline — twice. Graham stood with Republican leaders over President Obama and Florida Democrats. Gwen Graham is not the progressive she claims to be.”

Graham’s surrogates defended her from the attacks and demanded that Gillum tell Collective Super PAC to back off.

“Andrew Gillum looked the other way when his supporter called Gwen Graham a disgusting, sexist slur. Now he’s embracing secret money to slander Graham’s record,” state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando stated in Graham’s release. “These type of dirty tricks have no place in our state or our party and he should immediately call for the ad to be taken down.”

“Andrew Gillum is clearly coordinating this negative, false attack against Gwen Graham and he must demand it is taken off the air immediately. Florida voters deserve better than this. There is no place for secret money PACs interfering in our elections,” state Rep. Barbara Watson of Miami Gardens stated in Graham’s release. “Gwen has a record of fighting to support President Obama’s progressive policies and is the only candidate in this race who voted to defend the Affordable Care Act, protect consumer protections and support the President’s Clean Power Plan.”

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham

Gwen Graham clears $1M in April, has $4.7M on hand

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham’s gubernatorial campaign announced Wednesday that its April fundraising efforts yielded more than $1 million — her best total since filing for the race one year ago.

“This campaign is fueled by Floridians and grassroots supporters who are passionate about sharing Gwen’s positive message and dreams for Florida. Democrats are tired of dirty campaigns and outside secret-money groups interfering in elections,” campaign manager Julia Woodward said.

“Gwen is a progressive, a mother and a public servant with a proven track record of standing up for our values and getting things done. As a candidate, she will unite Democrats across our state. As governor, she will bring Floridians together and move Florida forward.”

Graham’s fundraising reports are not yet viewable through the Florida Division of Elections website, though her campaign said it ended the month with more than $4.7 million in the bank between her campaign and committee, Gwen Graham for Florida.

That’s a $700,000 increase from her on hand total at the end of March, when the North Florida Democrat brought in $660,000. The new numbers put her total fundraising close to the $7.5 million mark.

According to the announcement, Graham brought in more than $330,000 for her campaign and more than $670,000 for her committee.

The unofficial tally on the committee website shows several high-dollar contributions in April. Gainesville retiree Gladys Cofrin, Coral Gables attorney Hugh Culverhouse, Lynn Haven contractor James Finch, and EMILY’s List PAC each chipped in $100,000 last month, while Jacksonville attorney Wayne Hogan gave $50,000.

The committee site also shows more than $145,000 spending, including a $120,000 check to the Florida Democratic Party and a $17,400 payment to the Indian Riverkeeper. That donation was due to a campaign pledge Graham made not to accept donations from the sugar industry.

The April finance reports keep Graham solidly in the No. 2 spot in the four-way Democratic Primary to replace termed-out Gov. Rick Scott.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine leads the primary field with about $13.5 million raised, including $2 million last month. Levine’s total is buoyed by at least $2.8 million in candidate loans.

Coming in behind Graham is Orlando-area businessman Chris King with $4.6 million raised to date. He added $515,000 in April, including $405,000 of his own money. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is bringing up the rear with around $3 million in total fundraising after bringing in $447,000 between his campaign and committee accounts last month.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican, still leads the overall field by a mile. His $2 million effort in April brought his total to the precipice of the $29 million mark. His Republican Primary challenger, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, hasn’t announced April fundraising numbers but he had raised $7 million and had $6.5 million at the ready at the end of March.

Primary Election Day is Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

Philip Levine, Ron DeSantis with slight leads in gubernatorial primaries, new poll shows

The race for Florida governor is tight on both sides of the aisle, with Democrat Philip Levine and Republican Ron DeSantis barely edging out the opposition in their respective primaries.

That’s according to a new poll from Florida Atlantic University’s Business and Economics Polling Initiative.

However, a plurality of registered voters in both parties is undecided, with 43 percent unsure who they’ll support in the Republican primary and 42 percent not yet committing to a Democrat.

That means candidates have plenty of voters to pick up between now and August 28.

Among registered Republicans who say they’ve made up their mind, 16 percent support DeSantis. Adam Putnam is right behind with 15 percent support. No other Republican candidate currently has double-digit support, according to the poll.

On the Democratic side, Levine leads Gwen Graham by the same margin, 16 percent to 15 percent. Chris King sits in third with 10 percent of the vote.

Looking at likely voters increases the front-runners’ leads, but not by much. Likely voters have DeSantis leading Putnam 20 percent to 17 percent, and Levine over Graham 18 percent to 15 percent.

The poll surveyed 1,000 registered voters in Florida from May 4-7. Overall 34 percent of those surveyed were Republicans, 34 percent were Democrats and 32 percent were independents. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

Reacting to the results, BEPI Director Dr. Monica Escaleras says nothing is certain with more than four months to go until the primaries, especially with so many voters still undecided.

“It is not unusual to have so many undecided voters at this early stage, as even the leading candidates are still introducing themselves to much of Florida,” adding that the “race for governor remains wide open.”

Chris King pumps up campaign fund with $405,000

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King provided another $405,000 of his own money to his campaign in April, pushing his drive’s take to  $514,623 for the month, his campaign announced Tuesday.

The April haul, which included $109,623 from individual donors, was split between King’s official campaign account, which took in a total of $416,773 in April, and his political committee, Rise and Lead, which brought in $97,850.

King’s total raised to date is $4,626,237, and he ended April with $2,476,895 cash in hand, his campaign reported Tuesday. The Florida Division of Elections has not yet posted the April reports.

King, a Winter Park entrepreneur, had previously contributed more than $1.76 million to his campaign.

“As voters begin to tune into the governor’s race, our campaign is continuing to build support across Florida for Chris’s new leadership and fresh ideas,” Chris King for Florida senior adviser Omar Khan stated in a news release. “This race is wide open and we will have the necessary resources to share Chris’s bold, progressive message with voters who are hungry for change.”

King faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the August 28 Democratic primary.

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