Gwen Graham Archives - Page 2 of 84 - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Ron DeSantis, Andrew Gillum wins are nothing less than astonishing

If Florida voters wanted a contrast in the election for Governor, they have it. The differences between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis in the November election couldn’t be dramatic – and it goes far beyond the fact Gillum now stands one election win away from being the first black Governor in the state’s history.

He is a hard-left, progressive candidate who didn’t play it safe in the campaign and was continually overlooked, but he never went away. He shocked pollsters, pundits, and everyone but himself Tuesday night in winning the Democratic primary.

DeSantis is the anointed acolyte of Donald Trump who surged on the president’s endorsement and blew out Adam Putnam, the one-time heir apparent to the governor’s mansion, to secure the Republican nomination.

DeSantis had a 20-plus point lead in the polls leading to Election Day with his complete embrace of the president and his policies.

It is set up as a national referendum on the president, and maybe it was always going to be that – just not like this, though.

Gillum lagged well behind early in the polls. Even as he surged at the end behind a populist and positive message of change against the status quo, he was basically dismissed by the pundits.

DeSantis cruised in the closing days of the primary, seemingly at ease and assured.

Gillum?

He ran hard the entire way.

He didn’t have enough money, at least until a late infusion of cash from George Soros, progressive billionaire Tom Steyer, and Collective PAC, a group dedicated to electing African-Americans.

He didn’t have enough experience.

It wasn’t his “time” in 2018. Maybe later.

But something about his campaign connected with voters. His upbeat message, his unabashed progressive platform – it all worked and set up the November showdown against DeSantis and/or Trump, depending on how you view the race.

Yes, Florida politics rarely ceases to astonish, and we greet this morning with the news that the son of a bus driver is now the Democratic nominee for Governor.

Gillum never stopped believing, even if most others did.

Even as late polls showed Gillum was surging, he still trailed Gwen Graham by 5 points. She was trying to make history, too, by becoming the first woman to hold Florida’s top office.

So, what happened?

An endorsement by Bernie Sanders certainly helped. Gillum pushes a populist agenda – a $1 billion increased commitment to public education. Increased vocational training. A ban on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks, and tougher background checks.

He will actually use the words “climate change” from the Governor’s pulpit if elected.

He proposes raising corporate taxes or, as he calls it, “ask the richest corporations to pay a little more of their fair share.”

It is a reliably progressively agenda, against what is sure to be a 180-degree opposite in DeSantis.

But let’s leave the policy wonk stuff for another day and focus on what we just saw.

While Gillum might have been mayor of Florida’s capital city, he still was largely an unknown through the rest of the state. He called himself the only “non-millionaire” in the race. It’s true he was out-moneyed by billionaires Philip Levine and Jeff Greene.

Graham had a famous last name; her father, Bob Graham, served both as Governor of Florida and in the U.S. Senate.

How could the son of a bus driver overcome that?

It started with a message that resonated. His Democratic rivals stressed many of the same points, but Gillum’s progressive and “why not now?” platform seemed to connect. Voters clearly saw him as the face and voice of change they were looking for.

It’s a remarkable achievement to get this far.

The journey isn’t done, though.

To break 20 years of Republican rule in Tallahassee, Gillum will have to convince a statewide electorate that he is more than a fresh face and more than just the latest face of history. It will be his challenge to prove he has answers as well as a great story.

Tuesday was a night for Gillum and his supporters to celebrate and reflect. They have accomplished something that wasn’t supposed to happen. They proved the experts wrong. They believed when few others did.

The son of a bus driver is the Democratic nominee for Governor in Florida.

They made history. But as the primary result proved, anyone who believes Andrew Gillum is satisfied with getting that far is mistaken.

Andrew Gillum becomes Florida’s first African-American Democratic nominee for governor

Andrew Gillum made history Tuesday night, becoming the first black candidate to win the Democratic nomination for Governor in Florida.

He will face Republican Ron DeSantis in November. 

Gillum, the Tallahassee Mayor, had been considered a longshot in the five-way primary. He secured more than 30 percent of the vote. Gwen Graham finished at 31.4 percent.

The only known scientific prediction of a Gillum win was an internal poll released by his campaign last week, that projected he would cruise to victory with a 10-point lead. Most polls showed Graham and Levine at the top, with Gillum in third or fourth. A poll released by Florida Politics on Monday had him second behind Graham.

According to Gillum’s campaign, the candidate was witnessing a last-minute surge.

Predating the Gillum buzz was news that billionaire Tom Steyer’s progressive NextGen super PAC announced it would be dumping cash into and providing ground support for Gillum’s bid. That added to the support already coming in from progressive billionaire George Soros.

In August, Bernie Sanders, the U.S. Senator from Vermont and former presidential candidate, endorsed Gillum and followed up with two rallies alongside the Mayor to help him win over progressives in the Sunshine State.

Sanders chimed in again after the results were official.

“What has made Andrew’s campaign so powerful is that he’s not just working hard to win an election, he has laid out a vision for a new course for the state of Florida and our country,” Sanders said. “No one person can take on the economic and political elites on their own.”

Gillum told a crowd in Tallahassee following his victory that the race wasn’t about him.

“It never has been, and it never will be. This race is about every last single one of us,” he said. “Those of us inside this room. Those outside of this room. Those who voted for me. Those who didn’t vote at all. And those who didn’t vote for me because they are Republicans. But I want to be their governor, too.”

Graham, a former member of Congress and the lone woman in the race, entered the field in May 2017. A former Leon County school district lawyer and self-described “PTA mom,” she made an early campaign promise to fight for public education.

A key component of Graham’s strategy included the resurrection of “workdays,” an approach that proved successful for her father, former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham. She traveled across the state and completed day-to-day tasks alongside working Floridians, speaking to voters and hearing their concerns along the way.

“I was expecting to give a much different speech tonight,” she said Tuesday night after the election.

Graham urged her supporters to “put all of our efforts behind Andrew Gillum,” pledging to do whatever she could to help him defeat DeSantis.

“This election is about the future of Florida,” she said, reiterating a campaign theme. “That’s what we were fighting for. It was never about the candidate.”

Aiding Graham’s bid for the Governor’s Mansion was a slew of endorsements from respected party leaders in highly populated areas across the state. Helping to fund Graham’s campaign was support from the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, and other public education interests. She was also aided by women-focused groups Emily’s List, Ruth’s List and the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women. NARAL, one of the nation’s largest pro-choice political action committees, also endorsed Graham.

Levine, the successful businessman and former Mayor of Miami Beach, waged an enormous television and ground campaign in his bid for the Democratic nod. He attempted to establish himself early on with voters, launching a television ad in November — well before any candidate for either party went on air. His 14 satellite campaign offices helped his campaign access every region in the state.

Congratulating Gillum on his primary victory, Levine called the Tallahassee mayor “a fierce fighter who has what it takes to lead our state forward, and he can count on my help every step of the way.”

Levine touted support from celebrities, with endorsements and ads coming from Shaquille O’Neal, Ray Allen and musician Uncle Luke.

Outspoken on gun control like his party opponents, Levine secured support from parents of students killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. He launched ads ahead of the primary promising to increase gun control.

Notably, Levine spent a bit of time painting himself as an adversary to President Donald Trump. He described the statewide race for Governor as one for “the soul of the nation,” and reminded Floridians of his staunch support for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Levine’s targeting of climate change issues as Mayor also helped shape his platform for Governor.

Billionaire Jeff Greene, the late entry into the race, had missed prior debates and months of campaigning for the election. Despite spending heavily on television and traveling across the state, his campaign appeared to falter in the week leading up to Tuesday. He pulled television ads for a brief period, then alerted media on Monday he would watch the election results unfold privately with his family — instead of hosting a pre-planned public event.

Greene had sought also to paint himself in an anti-Trump light, but was criticized every step of his campaign for his former cordiality with the President.

Businessman Chris King, of Winter Park, ultimately failed to gain support from the electorate, evidenced by his consistently low polling numbers. Despite this, King campaigned actively and helped shape the narratives of the campaign, at times being a trendsetting candidate. He was the first to publicly announce he would not accept contributions from sugar-related interests and was a loud voice for gun reform and affordable housing initiatives.

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

It’s not the party, it’s the after party: Where to find Tampa Bay candidates on Election Night

On Tuesday, election night parties will be held all over Florida.

For some, it’s a chance to pop some champagne corks, celebrate and gear up for the general election. For others, it will be a somewhat more somber affair, the last hurrah of a long, hard-fought primary campaign.

Want to party like a politician? Here’s a rundown of where some candidates will be as the polls close.

Governor

Republican Adam Putnam will celebrate election night at the Terrace Hotel, 329 East Main Street, Lakeland. Media Set Up: 6 p.m.; doors open: 6:30 p.m. Media must RSVP by August 28 at noon to meredithb@adamputnam.com. Visit AdamPutnam.com for more information.

Democrat Gwen Graham and Team Graham will host their election night party starting 8 p.m., The Social, 54 N Orange Ave. in Orlando. Those able to attend can RSVP to Casey at casey@gwengraham.com. Please include: “Election Night” in the subject line.

Democrat Philip Levine will hold an election night watch party at his campaign headquarters, 7:30 p.m., 2215 NW 1st Place, Miami. There will be parking accommodations and a workspace for members of the media. Media can RSVP to Max@MayorPhilipLevine.com.

Democrat Andrew Gillum is hosting his watch party at the Hotel Duval, 415 N. Monroe Street, Tallahassee. Risers, multi-box, and filing station will all be available on a first come, first served basis to RSVP’d media. Media load in begins at 5:30 p.m.

Democrat Chris King and his campaign will join supporters for an election night party at the Alfond Inn, 300 E New England Ave, in Winter Park. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., registered media will have access at 5 p.m.

Democrat Jeff Greene hosts his party beginning 7:30 p.m. at Tideline Ocean Resort — Malcom Ballroom (Upstairs), 2842 S Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach. Malt box, media riser will be available for broadcast journalists — all inquiries on logistics for media — please contact Kraig Pomrenke at (870) 351-1165. Parking available for media trucks; RSVP at press@jeffgreeneforflorida.com. will be watching returns from his home, with family.

Attorney General

Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody will hold her election night festivities at the Floridan Palace Hotel Grand Ballroom Florida, 905 N. Florida Ave. in Tampa. Doors open at 6 p.m. Registered media will have access at 4 p.m. and must be set up by 5:30 p.m.

Democratic candidate Ryan Torrens will host the “People’s Lawyer Primary election night Watch Party” at Sociedad La Union Marti Maceo Club, Ybor City’s historic Afro-Cuban club. That’s at 6 p.m.. 1226 E 7th Ave., Tampa.

Agriculture Commissioner

Republican state Sen. Denise Grimsley holds her watch party event at the Best Western Heritage Inn & Suites, 2727 US Highway 17 N, Bowling Green. Doors open at 7 p.m.

U.S. House

CD 19

Democrat David Holden invites supporters and friends to watch returns beginning 6 p.m., Lansdowne Street Pub, 24851 S Tamiami Trail, Bonita Springs.

Florida Senate

SD 16

Florida House

HD 64

Incumbent Republican James Grant will be holding a “Primary Election Victory Party” at 6:30 p.m., Catch Twenty Three, 10103 Montague St, Tampa.

HD 66

HD 70

Incumbent Democrat Wengay “Newt” Newton will hold his celebration at 6 p.m., 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House, 400 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg.

County races

Pinellas County Commission

It’s not the party, it’s the after party: Where to find candidates on Election Night

On Tuesday, Election Night parties will be held all over Florida.

For some, it’s a chance to pop some champagne corks, celebrate and gear up for the general election. For others, it will be a somewhat more somber affair, the last hurrah of a long, hard-fought primary campaign.

Want to party like a politician? Here’s a rundown of where many candidates will be as the polls close.

Governor

Republican Adam Putnam will celebrate election night at the Terrace Hotel, 329 East Main Street, Lakeland. Media Set Up: 6 p.m.; doors open: 6:30 p.m. Media must RSVP by August 28 at noon to meredithb@adamputnam.com. Visit AdamPutnam.com for more information.

Republican Ron DeSantis holds his election night celebration beginning 6 p.m. at the Rosen Shingle Creek 9939 Universal Boulevard, Orlando. To register, visit the Eventbrite page.

Democrat Gwen Graham and Team Graham will host their election night party starting 8 p.m., The Social, 54 N Orange Ave. in Orlando. Those able to attend can RSVP to Casey at casey@gwengraham.com. Please include: “Election Night” in the subject line.

Democrat Philip Levine will hold an election night watch party at his campaign headquarters, 7:30 p.m., 2215 NW 1st Place, Miami. There will be parking accommodations and a workspace for members of the media. Media can RSVP to Max@MayorPhilipLevine.com.

Democrat Andrew Gillum is hosting his watch party at the Hotel Duval, 415 N. Monroe Street, Tallahassee. Risers, multi-box, and filing station will all be available on a first come, first served basis to RSVP’d media. Media load in begins at 5:30 p.m.

Democrat Chris King and his campaign will join supporters for an election night party at the Alfond Inn, 300 E New England Ave, in Winter Park. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., registered media will have access at 5 p.m.

Democrat Jeff Greene hosts his party beginning 7:30 p.m. at Tideline Ocean Resort — Malcom Ballroom (Upstairs), 2842 S Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach. Malt box, media riser will be available for broadcast journalists — all inquiries on logistics for media — please contact Kraig Pomrenke at (870) 351-1165. Parking available for media trucks; RSVP at press@jeffgreeneforflorida.com. will be watching returns from his home, with family.

Attorney General

Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody will hold her election night festivities at the Floridan Palace Hotel Grand Ballroom Florida, 905 N. Florida Ave. in Tampa. Doors open at 6 p.m. Registered media will have access at 4 p.m. and must be set up by 5:30 p.m.

Democratic candidate Ryan Torrens will host the “People’s Lawyer Primary election night Watch Party” at Sociedad La Union Marti Maceo Club, Ybor City’s historic Afro-Cuban club. That’s at 6 p.m. 1226 E 7th Ave., Tampa.

Agriculture Commissioner

Democrat Nikki Fried will be at The Waverly Las Olas, 7 p.m., 110 N. Federal Hwy., #100, Fort Lauderdale. For more info or RSVP, call (954) 734-3799.

Republican state Sen. Denise Grimsley holds her watch party event at the Best Western Heritage Inn & Suites, 2727 US Highway 17 N, Bowling Green. Doors open at 7 p.m.

U.S. House

CD 2

Democrat Brandon Peters holds his election night watch party starting 7 p.m. at Midtown Caboose, 1406 N. Meridian Rd., Tallahassee.

Democrat Bob Rackleff will be at Waterworks — which will be serving “Blue Wave” cocktails — beginning 7 p.m., 1133 Thomasville Rd, Tallahassee. Register at the event’s Facebook page.

CD 5

Incumbent Democrat Al Lawson’s campaign office is holding a watch party at 7:30 p.m., 1680 Dunn Ave., Jacksonville.

CD 6

Democrat Nancy Soderberg will join supporters and volunteers for an election night event starting 7 p.m., Rock Bottom Brewery, 1864 Victory Circle, Building K, Daytona Beach.

Dr. Stephen Sevigny will hold a gathering for supporters of Sevigny for Congress at Frappes, 123 W. Granada Blvd., Ormond Beach, beginning shortly after polls close at 7 p.m.

CD 9

Incumbent Democrat Darren Soto is hosting his election watch party at 7 p.m., Ramada Gateway Hotel, 7470 Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy. 192, Kissimmee.

CD 18

Incumbent Republican Brian Mast‘s event will be in Martin County, 6 p.m., Flagler Place, 201 S.W. Flagler Ave., Stuart.

Democratic challenger Lauren Baer will hold an event at her office, 7 p.m., 1200 Town Center Dr., Suite 119, Juniper. For more info or RSVP, call (203) 747-4777.

CD 19

Democrat David Holden invites supporters and friends to watch returns beginning 6 p.m., Lansdowne Street Pub, 24851 S Tamiami Trail, Bonita Springs.

CD 27

Democratic state Rep. David Richardson will be at the Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center beginning 6 p.m., 1465 SW. 8th St., #106, Miami. To RSVP or for more information, call (305) 853-6616.

Republican Maria Elvira Salazar will watch the GOP Primary Election with family and friends at  8 p.m. in her campaign headquarters, 3701 SW 87th Avenue, Miami. She will give remarks following the results of the election. For more info or RSVP, email press@mariaelvira.com or call (305) 972-2270.

Florida Senate

SD 16

SD 30

Incumbent Democrat Bobby Powell asks supporters to visit (after the vote) beginning 7 p.m., ER Bradley’s Saloon, 104 N Clematis St., West Palm Beach. RSVP by emailing votebobbypowell@gmail.com.

SD 34

Incumbent Democrat Gary Farmer will be watching results beginning 7 p.m., O Lounge, 333 East Las Olas Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale. For more info or RSVP, call (954) 646-3903.

Florida House

HD 36

Democrat David Perez will be at the Firefighter Building, 8000 NW. 21st St., Doral. For more info or RSVP, call (786) 255-5791.

HD 64

Incumbent Republican James Grant will be holding a “Primary Election Victory Party” at 6:30 p.m., Catch Twenty Three, 10103 Montague St, Tampa. More info is on Grant’s Facebook page.

HD 66

HD 70

Incumbent Democrat Wengay “Newt” Newton will hold his celebration at 6 p.m., 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House, 400 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg.

HD 79

HD 81

Democrat Tina Polsky is holding her election night event beginning 7 p.m., Miller Ale House, 9244 Glades Rd., Boca Raton. For more info or RSVP, call (609) 335-8226.

HD 89

Democrat Jim Bonfiglio will celebrate with supporters at his home, 7 p.m., 5616 N. Ocean Blvd., Ocean Ridge. For more info or RSVP, call (561) 262-1622.

HD 98

Democrat Andrew Dolberg will hold his watch party beginning 7 p.m., Bokampers Plantation, 1280 S. Pine Island Rd., Plantation. For more info or RSVP, call (954) 651-5954.

HD 105

Democrat Javier Estevez is holding his election night party to celebrate with his supporters, 7 p.m., 8502 SW 146 Court, Miami. for more info or RSVP, call (305) 297-6069 or email Javier@Javier2018.com.

Broward County Mayor

Broward County Vice Mayor Mark Bogen‘s watch party begins 7 p.m., Muddy Waters Restaurant, 2237 Hillsboro Blvd., Deerfield Beach. For more info or RSVP, call (702) 210-7545.

Orange County Mayor

Pinellas County Commission

Franklin County Tax Collector

Broward County School Board

Lori Alhadeff, the mother of a student killed in the Parkland school shooting, is holding her election night watch party at the Watercrest Clubhouse, 7 p.m., 11131 Watercrest Cir. W., Parkland. For more info, call (609) 335-8226.

Florida Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber will hold a primary election watch party at its Tallahassee office, 136 S. Bronough St. Festivities begin at 6:30 p.m.

Brevard County Democratic Party

Brevard Democrats are holding three watch parties, each starting at 7 p.m.: Harbor Isles Clubhouse, 600 S. Brevard Ave., Cocoa Beach (potluck/BYOB); Pour 4 Wine & Beer Bar, 3555 Bayside Lakes Blvd., Palm Bay (free pizza); Colors Restaurant & Lounge, 4910 Stack Blvd. SE, Melbourne.

Orange County Democratic Party

New Florida Vision

The activist group, which mobilized more than 150,000 Black and Latino voters to the polls for Democrat Andrew Gillum, is calling all supporters to watch results starting at 6 p.m., Grand Cafe, 12389 Pembroke Rd, Pembroke Pines.

Lois Frankel endorses Gwen Graham in West Palm Beach

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel had two messages for voters Tuesday at a West Palm Beach event for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

Make sure you remember to vote before the polls close and when you do, make sure it’s for Graham.

Frankel, who represents Florida’s 21st Congressional District, formally endorsed Graham at Tuesday’s get-out-the-vote event outside City Hall.

Despite a steady stream of showers threatening to interrupt the event, Frankel and other Graham supporters were resolute about the importance of today’s election.

“It’s time to end 20 years of Republican rule in Tallahassee,” Frankel said. “I know she’s been surging in the polls but we can’t take a single thing for granted.”

Recent polls have shown Graham with leads of various sizes heading into Tuesday’s vote. But Graham said the only thing that matters is the decision voters make on Election Day.

“Please get out and vote. I would be honored to have your support,” Graham added.

Graham is competing with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

But Frankel argued the other Democrats won’t be as effective standing up on major issues such as abortion rights, gun control and pushing back against the President’s actions.

“Trust me, I have seen the dangerous policies of Donald Trump,” Frankel said. She says Graham is the best candidate “to protect us here at home.”

“My commitment to this state every single day in this race has been to listen and to learn from the people of Florida to have the information necessary when we’re Governor to work up every day working hard for the people of Florida,” Graham said.

“Now let’s go out and win this.”

Style for the 21st century candidate (Hint: It doesn’t include a navy blue suit)

When he looks at action shots from this summer’s Republican and Democratic gubernatorial debates, Arron Gober can’t help but shake his head.

The Tallahassee-based custom clothier is very, very disappointed at the sartorial choices made by the majority of the candidates from both parties, doing his own call-and-response commentary.

“What do you see? You see dark, navy blue suits, right? Do they have any personality to them? Not really. Do they look like they have for the last 30 years? They do, don’t they?”

Of the seven, only Democrats Jeff Greene in a greyish suit and Gwen Graham wearing black and white broke the mold.

Gober implores candidates to throw out the tropes about “power” colors and rules about what reads well on television — and embrace a softer, friendlier, more approachable palette.

Which still includes blue. And maybe some subtle check patterns.

“Royal is a little-more-friendly shade; you can even get into things like your blue/gray,” he points out. And if they’re not ready to put the navy out to pasture, choose a pattern that softens it with a blue that’s a couple shades lighter.

Candidates should also update their thinking on what works for television beyond the single-colored coat and plain white shirt. “That was what everybody was told to wear, but what do we have today that throws off everything that they were taught? High Definition. Before that you couldn’t wear a small checked shirt because it would cause lines to go bzzzzzt,” he says. “Not on high definition; now you can see the pores, you can see the makeup on the face when you look at all of them because they all have it on there.” Pattern, it seems, is no longer the camera’s bogeyman.

Gober sat down in his capital city atelier and gave Florida Politics commentary on each of the gubernatorial candidates and some suggestions for how Election Day’s two survivors might up their wardrobe game in the General:

Adam Putnam

“I do like the way Putnam started out with his ads (but) I think it should have progressed into a more governor-type look. His message was there, but when I see him in work pants and a Columbia shirt every day in my Facebook ads, I’m still seeing an agriculture commissioner.”

Ron Desantis

“Ron DeSantis, he’s been in Washington for three terms. He looks like it; he looks like the rest of the guys there. They’re all red powerful ties, yellow powerful ties — the old power colors.”

Gwen Graham

“Gwen’s kind of the wild card, she has incredible style; I’ve watched her for years. She tends to know how to dress for every event. Speaking about the white jacket she wore for the Democratic debate he said, “I wouldn’t have picked that out — unless you wanted good guys wear white hats, maybe that’s what that’s for. But as a rule, she’s appropriate in a lot of things she wears when she goes from dresses to skirts to pantsuits to suits.”

Phillip Levine

“Mayor Levine, he knows what he’s doing. He’s been mayor for a long time and dresses very appropriately, but what we see in the debate … they’re all stuck in navy blue suits.”

Andrew Gillum

“Out of all of them, Andrew is one of the Top 2 dressers. He knows it’s a position, it’s a title and you’ve got to kind of dress into that. But when you see him on the campaign trail, he’s got the Andrew Gillum shirt on with a pair of nice dress slacks. And then when you see him at a FAMU game he’s decked out in FAMU attire. He gets it.”

Still, Gober was disappointed that Gillum chose the throwback navy suit for the debate. “If you’re going to be the progressive candidate, which he is, then his dress should be progressive also. It should be much more friendly, much more toned down too, even going into a soft coat — which has no shoulder pads to it — elbow patches, the works … It should be something really kind of fun that will represent him. But then when he’s governor and he’s meeting with U.S. senators, put the shirt and tie on and you know he looks really good in it.”

Jeff Greene

“I do believe Greene has some style and taste. Obviously, he’s a billionaire. But I did notice a lot of his suits had pleated pants, which are way out of date. Of all of them, he’s got one of the better senses of color. You can see it because he tries different things. He could use a little better fit and a little better coordination with ties, but those are all minor details. Greene’s image file is filled with step-and-repeat shots from Palm Beach fundraisers, where he’s wearing more colorful, casual garb which gets Gober’s approval: “He dresses appropriately for where he lives and the company that he keeps.”

Chris King

“I didn’t address King. I didn’t even know he was in the race. I almost would say it’s like the campaign, he’s not really there. But he looks fine. He falls into the exact same thing (navy blue) the rest of them do.”

Steve Vancore: Finding the ‘blue wave’ elusive in Florida’s primary

Steve Vancore learned the political operative game at the knee of legendary practitioner Marian Johnson some 30 years ago, at Florida Lawyers Action Group.

Today, he’s one of Florida’s leading political consultants and pollsters, operating as a partner in VancoreJones Communications, and teaches media application at Florida State University.

He even made the Influence 100 list of Florida’s biggest political heavyweights. We chatted with Vancore Monday by telephone. He was in Broward County, where he was tending to clients, and talked about what he’ll look for on Tuesday. These remarks have been edited for length and clarity.

FP: What are you looking for in the primaries?

SV: I’m trying to see whether there’s any early evidence of a blue wave. We see it nationally. We’ve seen specks of it in Florida, for example with the election of Margaret Good (in HD 72).

We’re looking to see, are Democrats especially motivated? Thus far, there’s no evidence either way — for it or against it.

FP: You’re looking at early voting?

SV: What I’m looking at is a combination of early and absentee voting (now called vote-by-mail). What evidence is there that Democrats are more enthusiastic? People are pushing out data to suit their ends. But right now, there are no data to suggest one way or the other.

Let me give you an example. Somebody put out this weekend that 250,000 more Democrats have voted in this year’s primaries thus far than voted in 2014, the last midterm primaries. That’s very misleading, because of three factors.

One factor is that that there are so many more Democrats as the state continues to grow by 1,000 people a day. There are more Democrats and there are more Republicans and more independents. Comparing raw numbers to four years ago is misleading.

I can tell you that, since book closing in 2016, there have been more than 200,000 more registered Democrats. There have been more than 260,000 more registered Republicans. But the point is, it’s not evidence of a blue wave.

Two, more money has been spent in the Democratic primaries than has ever been spent in Florida history. When you have these gubernatorial races spending well over $100 million, of course there’s going to be a larger turnout. But it really isn’t that much larger.

Item three is that more people are voting with the convenience of early and absentee voting. In 2016, in the presidential general election, you saw 70 percent of people vote before Election Day. I think the number was 50 percent in 2014.

You take those three variables, I think, overall, you’re looking at 1 or 2 percent more in turnout. That’s not a blue wave.

FP: Are there any particular races you’re looking at? Let’s start with the governor’s race.

SV: I’m a pollster, so you always worry that you’re missing a major variable — something big that would cause your polling to be wrong. I’ll be looking at the margin of victory for Ron DeSantis, quite frankly.

There’s some evidence that, with the conviction and guilty plea (of, respectively, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and attorney Michael Cohen), that Trump’s numbers are eroding. But if DeSantis comes screaming out with above 60 percent of the vote, that shows serious, serious momentum.

I’m looking at the Gary Farmer race, a client of mine, (against Jim Waldman) because there’s been a lot of dark money mail coming out, tons of it, and it’s had no impact at all in the race.

FP: What are you looking for in the Democratic gubernatorial race?

SV: If Gwen Graham wins big, that would be some evidence of a number of things.

One, that she’s a tougher, better candidate than some people are giving her credit for. You have to keep in mind that about as much money has been spent negative-attacking her than she has spent on television.

Remember, a dark money PAC has been attacking her and helping Andrew Gillum. Jeff Greene has spent $6 million, $7 million, $8 million attacking her. If she comes out strong, that will show a very resilient candidate.

FP: What do you make of the dichotomy within the Democratic Party between the progressive wing — that would be Gillum — and the centrists — which is Graham? What are you looking for there?

SV: What you see a lot in Democratic primaries is two things. One, demographic alignment. That’s why Jeff Greene hurts Philip Levine. Levine was comfortably in the lead until Greene entered the race — and you have two demographically similar guys.

They’re about the same age, they’re both wealthy, they’re both Jewish, they’re both white — above-middle-age Jewish white guys from South Florida. So they divided that same swimming lane.

Gillum has done a very good job of occupying the Bernie lane — the progressive lane, we’ll call it; the younger lane. And then, he’s the black candidate. If you combine those, Andrew has a pretty good shot.

Can a centrist candidate win? Gwen did vote against Nancy Pelosi. She did vote for the Keystone XL pipeline. She occupies a little bit more toward the center — which positions her better for the general, one would think.

Here’s the dilemma for her. Let’s say she wins. Does she pick a centrist candidate — a mayor of a big city, a congressman, or something like that? Or does she pick somebody who looks like the base?

Look what happened to Hillary Clinton. Hillary picked Tim Kaine — an old white dude. Had she picked a progressive, then maybe the base would have turned out, but middle-class America would have said, “Oh, that’s not like us.” The Democratic winner, other than Andrew, would have that problem.

FP: And that’s the Democrats’ big problem — persuading people sympathetic to them to actually go vote.

SV: That’s a deep problem. Do you try to win over the middle, or do you try to win over the Bernie supporters?

FP: In the governor’s race, who has the best social media operation?

SV: Andrew Gillum, by a country mile.

The problem with social media, it’s far more limited than people want to believe. It gets negative really fast, and the next thing you know, everybody’s attacking. I looked at one poll that said Andrew Gillum was under water among millennials. Which speaks to the point that if you own social media, it may not necessarily a good thing.

It’s a great medium to reinforce voters; it’s a great medium to get your name ID out there. It’s not a very good persuasion medium. Especially when all the lunatics get on there and start screaming and yelling about you, and the next thing you know you’re in trouble.

An energized Andrew Gillum circles campaign back to Tallahassee

Andrew Gillum is gearing up for what could be a photo finish in the five-way Democratic gubernatorial race.

Some recent polls show Gillum in or tied at third. Some show him trailing worse. A poll released Monday had him second behind Gwen Graham. And an internal poll released by the Gillum camp last week suggested he was ahead big.

Statistical projections aside, Gillum on Monday evening reminded a crowd of students and supporters at Florida A&M, a historically black university in Tallahassee, that time is on their side on Tuesday — whatever the outcome may be.

Noted Gillum (accurately): On August 28, 1955, two white men in Mississippi killed Emmett Till. On the same day in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 2008, it was the last day of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president.

“You can imagine where I’m going with this,” he said to cheers. 

It’s coincidental. But superstition fits the bill for Gillum’s candidacy.

A mayor at the helm of a city beset by an ongoing FBI investigation and facing opponents with name recognition and deep pockets, Gillum had been considered a long shot.

But good news came in the eleventh hour for the Tallahassee mayor. Billionaire Tom Steyer’s progressive NextGen announced it would be dumping cash into and providing ground support for Gillum’s bid.

Then came Bernie Sanders, the U.S. Senator from Vermont, with an endorsement and two rallies meant to help Gillum win over progressive hearts in the Sunshine State.

Meanwhile, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene was rising in the polls. He unloaded on Philip Levine and Gwen Graham with television attack ads, forcing both to strike back on cable as well.

Greene’s campaign has since waned and he announced Monday that he’d watch the election results privately with his family. The attacks, meant to boost Greene, thwarted him and likely left wounds on Graham and Levine.

Gillum had come under criticism earlier this year for ties to dark money donations and negative ads targeting Graham from a PAC supporting his candidacy, but the Greene-Levine-Graham spats are fresher.

At his alma mater, Gillum avoided criticism of his closest opponents. But a surrogate — national Democratic strategist Angela Rye  addressed Graham directly.

While both candidates represent opportunities for history — the first black man or the first woman to be elected Governor of Florida — Rye suggested the former congresswoman’s legacy ties to the state shouldn’t “supersede” Gillum’s minority status, and by extension the interests of people of color everywhere. Graham’s father Bob Graham is a former U.S. Senator and Governor. 

“It might be her turn,” Rye said in reference to Gwen Graham. “But understand that it is Andrew Gillum’s time, because it’s our time.”  

She added: “We’ve suffered enough, we’ve bled enough, we’ve died enough, we’ve been hurt enough, we’ve been wounded enough — it is our time.”

Gillum was accompanied by his wife, R. Jai, with whom he attended FAMU. Also in attendance were black state Reps. Kamia Brown and Ramon Alexander, along with prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump and researcher and author Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.

Parked nearby was Gillum’s bus, boasting the “Bring It Home” campaign slogan. 

During the weekend, Gillum was corralling votes in South Florida, including at his birthplace Richmond Heights. Earlier Monday, he was in Alachua County, where he grew up.

He’ll participate in a march to the polls in the capital city on Tuesday morning and will later watch the election results unfold at Hotel Duval in downtown Tallahassee.

“It’s a homecoming,” Gillum said. “It’s bring it home. That’s what the bus says: ‘Bring It Home.'”

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Joe Henderson: After Florida primary election, time to swing back to the middle

Whatever results from Tuesday’s Florida primary election, we can be sure of one thing — the people who decide the primary’s outcome won’t be the ones who determine the winners in November.

That’s a flaw in Florida’s primary system that becomes increasingly apparent. Voters can only cast ballots for offices like the Governor if they are registered with a major party. There are about 13 million registered voters in Florida, and of those nearly 3.5 million have expressed no party affiliation.

While that shows a refreshing independent streak, it also freezes those people out of any say who gets nominated. Oh, they can still vote on local issues in the primary, including judgeships and some nonaffiliated local offices, but not the big stuff.

A system like that forces moderate candidates to run hard to the left or right in the primary because it’s understood that only the most dedicated voters will turn out for that. They are the ones most likely to have hard-line views about what they expect from their party’s nominee, and that forces candidates to sometimes go to extremes to show those folks they have the necessary chops (see Putnam, Adam).

After the primary fun, it’s often a shift back to moderation for the nominees.

After appealing to the hard-core voters in the party well enough to secure the nomination, the battle for those 3.5 million voters who will decide the election, as well as those registered with a party but didn’t vote in the primary, forces the conversation back to the middle.

Is this really the best way to conduct business, though?

In the Democratic primary, in particular, candidates made promises to the base that will be extremely difficult to keep if they eventually are elected.

Philip Levine, for instance, promised to raise teacher pay by $10,000 — a laudable sentiment, but likely impossible to accomplish without a significant tax increase and, well, you know how that goes.

Gwen Graham vowed to ban assault-style weapons by executive order. It sounds great, and she said the Governor has the authority to that. I would imagine significant numbers of other people, including many who are lawyers, likely would disagree.

Andrew Gillum, on his platform page, pledged he would “work to rebuild Florida’s education system so that we can make sure our kids are ready for Kindergarten earlier. By third grade, 100 percent of kids in our state should be reading at grade level and as they progress, learning critical thinking skills to compete.”

Absolutely a marvelous idea. He proposed a $1 billion additional investment in public schools to help make that happen, along with raising teacher pay, rebuilding crumbling schools, and so on. That sounds like a lot of money, but it wouldn’t even pay for the teacher raises he’s talking about.

Then there is Ron DeSantis, leading the polls for the GOP nomination.

He isn’t saying much at all unless the sentence can somehow be framed to include the words “Donald Trump.” I don’t know if you heard, but Trump endorsed DeSantis. At least for the nomination, that figures to be the only platform he needs.

Well, after the primary is done we’ll hit the reset button and watch as the pendulum swings toward those voters, possibly in the millions, who haven’t made up their minds. After all, they are the ones who will decide the election, and history suggests they can be hard to please.

Here’s Florida Politics’ final poll of the Democratic primary for Florida governor

Gwen Graham and Philip Levine have jostled for the top spot in the Democratic primary for Governor for months, but the final poll ahead of Tuesday’s election shows Graham is the clear front-runner for the nomination with a still-surging Andrew Gillum, not Levine, taking the No. 2 spot.

The St. Pete Polls survey, crowd-funded by Florida Politics’ readers, shows the former Congresswoman with 32 percent support among likely Democratic primary voters, followed by Gillum at 25 percent and Levine at 22 percent.

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene is barely clinging to a double-digit share of the vote, though he plans to keep his TV ads on the airwaves until the clock hits double zeroes. Orlando-area businessman Chris King, who has rarely broken the 10 percent threshold throughout his campaign, is floundering at 2 percent.

The poll results show a strong break toward Graham compared with other recent measures in the five-way race, where Levine held a razor-thin lead among early voters and was statistically tied with Graham among Democrats who were waiting to cast their ballot.

According to the new poll, there has been a tectonic shift as more early votes have landed.

More than half of those polled said they’ve already voted, and among that crowd, Graham was the clear favorite. She was the pick for a full third of early voters, while Gillum again took second place at 27 percent. Levine, who has poured millions into his bid, took third-place among those who’ve ticked a box, with 23 percent supporting the former Miami Beach Mayor.

The pecking order is the same among Democrats who are waiting for Election Day to exercise their franchise — Graham leads Gillum 30-23 percent, followed by Levine at 21 percent.

There is a ray of hope for Gillum and Levine: 8 percent of Democrats are still undecided, and 5 percent say they’re backing a second-tier candidate. However, there’s little time left to pound the pavement, and those voters would have to break decisively for one of the other candidates to strip Graham of her queen of the hill status.

One noteworthy trend this go-around: Gillum is now dominating his opponents among black Democrats, 49 percent of whom say they’re backing the Tallahassee Mayor.

Gillum has not come close to that level of support among black voters thus far. At the beginning of the month, only 23 percent of black Democrats were backing him, giving him a 1-point lead over Levine. Now, no other candidate even breaks out of the high teens.

Among white Democrats, Graham held 41-23 percent lead over Levine, with Gillum pulling 15 percent.

Broken down by age, Gillum leads among millennial voters with one-third support and he’s also the top pick among Gen-Xers, with 36 percent backing him followed by Graham 10 percentage points behind. Graham holds a 2-point edge over Gillum, 30-28 percent, in the 50- to 69-year-old bracket, while voters over 70 preferred her by a 15-point margin.

The winner of Tuesday’s election will go up against either U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis or Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in November. If polling on the GOP side of the race proves accurate, it looks as if DeSantis will win the Republican nomination with ease.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted through an automated phone call polling system on Aug. 25. It received 2,342 responses from Democratic voters who said they had voted or planned to vote in the primary election. The results were weighted to account for proportional differences between the respondents’ demographics and the demographics of the active Democratic primary voter population for the state of Florida.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

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