Gwen Graham – Page 2 – Florida Politics

Gwen Graham tops Democratic rivals in outside contributions, but not June fundraising

With a combined haul of more than $633,000 for her campaign and independent political committee, and with all of it coming from outside donors – sort of – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is declaring her early June fundraising swamped her four Aug. 28 primary opponents.

Graham’s campaign is reporting it raised $152,291 and her independent committee Gwen Graham for Florida brought in another $481,350 during the just-posted campaign finance reporting period of June 1-22.

Graham’s campaign hailed that total as more than all four of her Democratic primary opponents raised from supporters combined during the same period.

“Florida Democrats get it. With Donald Trump in the White House and a woman’s right to choose on the line, they know we can’t afford to lose this election,” Campaign Manager Julia Woodward stated in a news release. “Florida Democrats know Gwen Graham is the best candidate to finally take back our state, which is why they’re supporting our campaign more than all of our primary opponents, combined.”

Yet those bragging rights comes with a few caveats that fuzz over the full financial pictures for any of the Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls.

First, her Democratic rivals Jeff Greene, Philip Levine, and Chris King all bolstered their campaigns with big personal checks that Graham’s campaign is discounting because they’re not donations from supporters. As a result, in the end each of them brought in far more money in the 22-day period than Graham managed.

Second, while rival Andrew Gillum did not raise much at all from June 1-22, his Forward Florida independent political committee cashed contributors’ checks totaling $451,000 just in the next three or four days.

Third, while technically all of Graham’s money came from outside contributors, the biggest of those was her father, former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who donated $250,000 to the Gwen Graham for Florida political committee on the last day of the reporting period.

End result: Palm Beach businessman Greene raised $3.6 million during the period, all of it donated from his own bank account; former Miami Beach Mayor Levine raised more than $1.2 million during the period for his campaign and his independent committee All About Florida, including $1 million he lent his campaign; Winter Park businessman King raised $815,489 combined for his official campaign and his independent committee Rise and Lead, including $800,000 for his campaign; and Tallahassee Mayor Gillum managed just a paltry $108,778 in total contributions before his independent committee Forward Florida cashed the late-June checks from New York billioniare George Soros, the Barbara A. Stiefel Trust, and a couple of others.

Strictly counting outside contributions, including that of Bob Graham, former U.S. Rep. Graham’s total of $633,641 for June 1-22 compared with just $358,674 brought in by the other four candidates and their committees.

Graham also finished the period with more cash on hand than any other candidate. Graham had $3.7 million in the bank — $2 million more than her next closest competitor, at the end of the day on June 22.

“While other candidates are increasingly relying on out-of-state billionaires, secret money and their personal bank accounts, Gwen is continuing to widen her lead in grassroots supporters who are donating $5, $10, or $25 at a time,” Woodward stated. “This is more than just a campaign for governor, this is a movement to restore our public schools, conserve our environment, and protect our access to health care — and we’re going to win because we have real Floridians supporting our fight.”

Philip Levine adds to his South Florida endorsements list

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine added the backing of eight more local leaders to his list of South Florida endorsements.

Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach, announced the endorsements Tuesday of Lake Worth Vice-Mayor Andy Amoroso, Miami Beach commissioners Ricky Arriola and Micky Steinberg, Boynton Beach Commissioner Justin Katz, former Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl, Aventura Commissioner Robert Shelley, Golden Beach Mayor Glenn Singer, and Aventura Mayor Enid Weisman.

The endorsements add to his buffer of local support against the emergence of fellow South Florida businessman Jeff Greene in the battle for the Aug. 28 Democratic primary in the governor’s race. Also in the race are Winter Park businessman Chris King, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

“Mayor Levine has the executive experience necessary to bring Florida into the future,” Weisman stated in a news release issued by Levine’s campaign. “He is a public servant in the truest sense of the word, and he would serve Florida with the same honor and integrity that he did on Miami Beach. I’m proud to stand with him as he seeks to return a government in Tallahassee to the people.”

The other endorsers tackled key Democratic issues in their praise for Levine.

Amoroso highlighted Levine’s support for the LGBTQ community.

Arriola addressed his focus on building a 21st-century economy. Katz said Levine would be a champion for public schools.

Keechl expressed confidence that Levine would support local governments against state government pre-emption efforts.

Singer praised Levine’s understanding about and commitment to address climate change and sea-level rise.

Shelley spoke of Levine’s grassroots support. Steinberg spoke as a working mother confident in Levine’s commitment to public schools.

In the release, Levine stated:

“This election is so crucial for the future of Florida — it will decide the direction our state goes in for years to come. As I’ve traveled and met with community leaders and residents, I’ve heard the same thing from people from Pensacola to Little Haiti — it’s time for new leadership in Florida that respects the will and priorities of the people. I’m thrilled to have the endorsement of such honorable public servants and look forward to working alongside them, and the people of Florida, to come together and make history by flipping our state blue for the first time in twenty years.”

Gwen Graham strikes tone of civility: ‘I am committed to being a uniter in this state.’

As voters and politicians spent the recent weeks discussing civility, and then discussing the discussion about civility, Gwen Graham made clear her position in a conversation with Florida Politics at the Leadership Blue conference in Hollywood.

“I know that as Governor, I’m going to face a lot of people who disagree with me. And I am committed to being a uniter in this state.”

Both sides of the political aisle have seen political debates ratchet up in intensity in recent years. Graham says she’s dismayed by that development.

“Even in disagreement, you can find a way to not do that in a way that is ugly, negative, and divisive.”

It’s likely that even if Graham does become the first Democratic governor in Florida in 20 years, she’ll be dealing with a Republican legislature. But she says she’s prepared to not let that reality turn into legislative gridlock.

“I’m someone that enjoys getting people around a table who often don’t agree with each other, and figure out a way for them to talk to one another. We’ve got to have the ability to talk to one another, and through those conversations find where we can find common ground.”

It’s clear which side of that table Graham will be sitting on, however, as she made clear her desire to advocate for liberal policies.

Graham seemed most proud of her stances on education, touting the endorsement of the Florida Education Association. “They know what my commitment is to public education in the state of Florida. It’s the backbone of my campaign.”

Graham highlighted a few issues at the top of her to-do list regarding education reform, such as the end of high-stakes standardized testing.

“We do have to have a way to make sure that the students are tracked so that we know if they’re growing or not. But that’s not what this high-stakes testing has been doing. Teachers don’t even get the information about the testing results until the summer after their kids have already graduated. So it’s purely being used for punitive measures to determine which schools they’re going to give extra money to.”

She also promised to eliminate the grading of public schools. “I don’t think the grading of our schools is anything but degrading to those kids who happen to not live in the certain area where their school is an ‘A’ or a ‘B.’ And we’ve got to make sure every child knows that their school is supported.”

Graham also promised to raise teacher pay, but did not put a hard number on the proposal. “We certainly want to be above the national average.” She said schools should be provided enough resources to raise teacher pay consistently.

Graham then spoke about major events which have occurred throughout the campaign which she says have shaped the race.

“In a long campaign, it’s amazing how things occur that change the dynamics.”

She pointed to two items in particular: the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School and its effect on the conversation around gun safety, and the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy calling into question the future of Roe v. Wade.

The latter issue is of special importance to Graham as she pushed to become Florida’s first woman governor.

“I think women understand that we do not have enough women leaders fighting for our own health care rights.”

And she highlighted what a Republican win might mean if Roe v. Wade is indeed overturned.

“I watched the Republican debate a few nights ago and was appalled at the response of both Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis of this issue. They talked about the heartbeat bill. We know what that means. It means that their goal would be to take away a woman’s right to choose. And that’s not going to happen on my watch.”

Graham says the stakes are high, and urged all voters to take the process seriously.

“This is so important for the future of the state.”

Jeff Greene talks Democratic primary from Leadership Blue conference

Jeff Greene is the newest Democrat to enter the Florida governor’s race. And as he tries to play catch-up, the billionaire is sharing his thoughts on the primary race, including some tough talk about his opponents.

Greene was one of several Democratic candidates for Governor to appear at this weekend’s Leadership Blue conference at The Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood.

During an interview with Florida Politics, Greene responded to criticism by Andrew Gillum and some Democratic activists, who are skeptical of a billionaire jumping into the race for governor.

But to hear Greene tell it, his wealth isn’t a burden for Democratic voters, but rather a plus.

“I don’t owe a penny to anybody. The only special interest group I owe anything to is the people of Florida.”

In fact, Greene turned the attacks back toward Gillum, who has received support from billionaires George Soros and, more recently, Tom Steyer.

“I know Tom Steyer. I know George Soros. They don’t just give people money because they feel like, ‘Oh he’s a great guy, here’s the money. Do whatever you want.’ You are going to be their agent.”

He continued the critique, saying, “If you want to have Florida be managed by George Soros and whatever he wants, regardless of whether the governor likes it, and Tom Steyer, then you can go with Andrew Gillum.”

On the issues, Greene was clearly most focused on education, coming back to the need for reform.

In terms of what he would do for Florida, Greene pointed to New Jersey, which improved its middling education numbers and now is now second in the country, according to one rankings system.

“Two years of high-quality, universal pre-K for every three- and four-year-old in the state. It’s not that expensive.” He pitched the elimination of vouchers to private schools as a way to pay for the program.

Greene also said he would push to equalize the way education money was spent throughout the state.

“Unfortunately your zip code, where you’re born, will determine in a lot of ways where your life goes.”

And when speaking about other issues, Greene often found a way to tie them back to improving the state’s school system. “A lot of the problems that we have are direct derivatives of our failures in education.”

He argued better schools would help wages, attract innovative companies to the state, and reduce the amount of people resorting to crime and getting caught up in the criminal justice system.

Greene did highlight ways he would push for criminal justice reform, including the elimination of mandatory minimums and private prisons.

But the reality is, Greene still trails Philip Levine and Gwen Graham in the polls. Asked how he would come out on top, Greene remarked, “undecideds are leading the polls. So we’re going to get those undecided voters.”

And once again, he used that fact to take aim at his opponents.

“No one knows who Philip Levine and Gwen Graham are. And those that do have not been inspired by them.”

Voters will have their say on that during the August 28 primary.

Democratic gubernatorial campaigns hold meet-and-greet with activists

Voters and activists have packed The Diplomat Hotel through the weekend during the Democrats’ Leadership Blue summit. Saturday, they got their chance to meet the campaigns up close.

Volunteers, and even some of the candidates, set up to meet with party loyalists and give their pitch on why their team will be the winning team come August.

Jessica Cottrill, a volunteer for the Chris King campaign, was particularly passionate. “I’ve been around politics since I was eight years old. And I’ve never been this driven, this excited by any candidate.” She said only Barack Obama’s presidential run in 2008 came close.

When asked what drove her support for King, Cottrill said, “He doesn’t say things unless he’s really invested time and studied the information. He’s just brilliant.”

The most raucous group of supporters belonged to the Levine campaign, who flooded the room around the candidate as he entered.

But Levine volunteers said that enthusiasm isn’t just a coordinated stunt. It comes from the atmosphere inside the campaign.

“He is someone that all of us really, truly believe in. And that is why we have so much excitement coming from our team,” said Marissa Weiner.

Kevin Simauchi, another Levine volunteer, added, “The campaign is a family. Everyone looks out for each other.”

During a visit to Jeff Greene’s section, the candidate himself jumped in, sounding confident in his position in the race. He noted Levine, the self-described frontrunner of the race, running nearly even with Gwen Graham in some polls. “Not that impressive after a year of campaigning.”

A representative from the Andrew Gillum campaign highlighted recent signs that the campaign is gaining steam.

“It’s going great. We’ve got lots of momentum going right now,” said David Metellus, Deputy Field Director with the Gillum campaign.

He referenced recent campaign events as well as the endorsement and financial support of billionaire Tom Steyer.

“We have a great group of volunteers,” he added, noting it will will be that group which puts the campaign over the top.

Graham saw similar excitement at last night’s “Women for Graham” rally. And the Democrats are looking for this sort of passion, as they seek to take over the governorship for the first time this century.

Despite their campaigns’ respective confidence, only one will be successful comes August 28, when Democrats head to the polls to choose their nominee.

Maggie Hassan fires up Gwen Graham rally in Hollywood

“Go, Gwen, go!”

That was the chant du jour as Gwen Graham supporters gathered together in Hollywood Friday night to cheer on their candidate.

The rally took place at the Leadership Blue event at The Diplomat Hotel. One of the most prominent attendees was New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, who announced her endorsement of Graham earlier in the day.

Hassan was joined by several other high-profile women who have endorsed Graham’s campaign for governor.

Among the speakers were state Reps. Kristin Jacobs, Amy Mercado, and Barbara Watson. Graham’s mother and former Florida First Lady Adele Graham was also on hand to stump for the candidate.

A prominent theme throughout the speeches was Graham’s potential status as the state’s first female governor. It was billed as a “Women for Graham” event, after all. But Hassan also tried to highlight Graham’s overall strength as a candidate.

“While Gwen’s perspective as a women, and her experience as a women is important, it is not her gender that qualifies her. It’s her values, and priorities, and record. Gwen Graham has them all.”

The recent retirement announcement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy also earned attention in the room, as some have argued it could pave the way to Roe v. Wade being overturned.

Graham’s mother, Adele, asked, “If the Supreme Court rules against Roe v. Wade, do you realize that all of those decision will move from the federal area to the state area? It will up to the governor of Florida to implement the new laws. That is a huge reason why you need Governor Gwen Graham.”

“This is about our bodies,” echoed Hassan. “This is about our rights. This is about our liberty. Our liberty is at stake, and we have to vote like it.”

Graham’s supporters highlighted the spate of women entering politics in the age of Trump, spurred on by events such as the Women’s March.

“We are seeing an unprecedented wave of female candidates, women across this nation, who are leading the fight to stand up for our values and to make progress,” said Hassan.

While those stumping for Graham, sought to inspire and motivate those supporters in the room, Graham’s speech in part painted a stark contrast between her and another Republican potentially heading the state.

“After 20 years of Republican rule in Florida, the state has run out of time. Our soul, the soul of our state, has been crushed under all of these horrible decisions that have been made in the last 20 years.”

She made clear that the stakes in 2018 are huge, calling it the most important election of her lifetime.

“This election is going to determine whether Florida has the bright future that we all want for each other.”

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham

Maggie Hassan endorses Gwen Graham for Governor

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham announced Friday that New Hampshire U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan will endorse her bid in the Democratic primary for Governor.

The Graham campaign said the former Granite State Governor will publicly back Graham during a Women for Graham Leadership Blue kick-off rally Friday night.

“Gwen’s life of service and her progressive record in Congress shows us what her priorities will be as governor. She is committed to restoring Florida’s promise to public schools, defending Florida’s natural treasures, and providing health care for all Floridians. After 20 years of one-party Republican rule, Florida families need a mom like Gwen who will fight for real change and work across the aisle to make progress,” Hassan said.

“Throughout our country’s history, there have been fewer women governors than there are states. It’s a small group, but come this November, I believe we will see a spike in our membership with Gwen Graham leading the way.”

Hassan’s elevation to the U.S. Senate is somewhat reminiscent of Graham’s 2014 campaign for Congress — she unseated incumbent U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte in a close election two years ago. In 2014, Graham defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in the old CD 2 by about a point.

The Graham campaign also highlighted some of Hassan’s accomplishments as New Hampshire’s governor, including expanding Medicaid, preserving funding for Planned Parenthood and vetoing “unsafe gun legislation.”

“Senator Hassan is a mom who entered public service as an advocate, fighting to ensure children with disabilities, like her own son, would have the same opportunities every other child has,” Graham said. “She’s a role model for all women, mothers, and public servants — and as governor, I will follow in her footsteps to fight for Florida’s public schools, protect our environment, and expand health care.”

Graham is one of five Democrats running for Governor. She faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, Orlando-area businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. Most polls put Graham and Levine at the top of the five-way race.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Florida Democrats: Republican debate a ‘right-wing circus’

Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis squared off in their first debate Thursday night and within minutes of the 6:30 p.m. start time, Florida Democrats had a lot to say.

That has a lot to do with the first question of a debate dominated by national issues rather than Florida-centric ones addressing the wedge issue to end all wedge issues: Abortion.

Now that President Donald Trump is slated to get a second Supreme Court appointment, Democrats fear — and many Republicans hope — that the issue can be relitigated in the nation’s high court.

The Florida Democratic Party spelled out those fears 10 minutes into the Republican debate with an email saying that if SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade, “Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis would lead Florida’s war on women.”

“Both candidates have spent their careers attacking women’s health and aligning themselves with some of the most anti-choice organizations in the country. And as governor, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, either candidate would likely sign legislation that would attack women’s health — and outlaw abortion in Florida,” FDP said, backing up their statement a truckload of links to articles detailing the two Republicans’ anti-choice records, including that both Putnam and DeSantis receiving 100 percent ratings from National Right to Life.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, a Democratic candidate for Governor, echoed FDP in a series of tweets shortly after the debate started.

Her campaign used those quotes in a post-debate news release touted her as the “only candidate in the seven-way race for governor with a legislative record of defending a woman’s right to choose,” as well as her 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood and endorsements from EMILY’s List and Ruth’s List.

Also on blast were the Republican candidate’s stances on guns, which have dominated much of the rhetoric in the Democratic race ever since the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, not to mention the mass shooting in Annapolis, MD, just hours before the debate.

Both candidates cast the blame for MSD on everything but the tool that carried it out, but Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, who often touts his successful court battle with the National Rifle Association on the campaign trail, didn’t need to wait to reheat Putnam’s most famous statement of the campaign season to date — that he’s a “proud NRA sellout.”

Orlando-area businessman Chris King also seized on his Republican rivals’ comments on guns, blasting Putnam specifically for his comments on the shooting du jour.

The Guv hopeful followed up after the debate wrapped with a statement lamenting the debate’s focus on the president, whose name popped up in many questions and nearly every response of the evening.

“Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis just spent 60 minutes one-upping each other on who’s the bigger Trump sycophant. From their NRA loyalty oaths to their fantasyland ideas to ban so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ in Florida (of which there are none), the first Republican debate wasn’t a race to the right — it was a race to the bottom,” he said.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who sits atop most polls in the five-way Democratic primary, hit his GOP opponents for their focus on blaming Barack Obama for everything from health care to, as Putnam asserted, the degradation of political discourse.

Most Democrats admonished Putnam and DeSantis for going “Full Trump” at the debate, and FDP chair Terrie Rizzo was among them. Her post-debate statement wasn’t one of frustration, however, but one of confidence and anticipation of Election Day.

“After tonight’s debate, I’ve never been more confident that Democrats will retake the Governor’s Mansion in November. This debate was a right-wing circus brought to you by Fox News and inspired by Donald Trump. Before a nationwide audience, Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis made clear that they only have one message: Trump, Trump, Trump,” she said.

“Both DeSantis and Putnam failed to substantively discuss issues they will have to address as Governor of Florida — like public education — and instead focused on divisive and demagogic rhetoric. In stark contrast to the Republican gubernatorial campaigns, Florida Democrats are standing up for public education, affordable health care and an economy that works for every one of us — and that’s why we are confident of victory in November.”

New R. Jai Gillum video offers women’s perspective for Andrew Gillum

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum‘s campaign has released a second internet video starring his wife R. Jai Gillum, offering a woman’s perspective on her husband and the issues, and perhaps a subtle effort to suggest to Democratic women voters that there is an alternative to defaulting to vote for Gwen Graham.

In the new one-minute, 50-second video being released Thursday, “First Lady Gillum Hosts Women for Andrew Gillum,” R. Jai Gillum offers a much calmer demeanor than her sometimes fiery husband, as she meets with a group of women in a living room setting. [She is currently Tallahassee’s first lady to her husband’s role as mayor.]

R. Jai Gillum also declares that a candidate’s being African American, or being a woman, is not a reason for voters to pick someone. She then discusses briefly issues, notably abortion, education, attracting jobs, and children, saying that someone has to do something different in the governor’s mansion.

She is no stranger to public policy and politics, She works for the the Florida Dental Association’s Foundation and has significant public sector experience, including working in the administration of former Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the party’s 2010 nominee for governor.

With this video and the previous one, “Meet Florida’s Next First Lady: R. Jai Gillum!” she and her husband also are offering something the other four Democratic candidates, and the two major Republican candidates have not yet attempted to offer: a suggestion of a partnership, the unstated assumption that the candidate and the potential first lady come as a team. It also provides Andrew Gillum the opportunity to balance his often in-your-face style with her more intimate approach.

Gillum faces Graham, Jeff Greene, Philip Levine, and Chris King in the August 28 primary, while the Republicans are fielding Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis.

In the one-minute, 50-second new video she covertly addressing Graham’s advantage as the only woman in a five-way primary: “Yes, I know that African Americans would be proud to have the first African-American governor. And women would be proud to have a woman governor. But that is not why an educated electorate picks their leaders.”

In new ad, Gwen Graham vows to ‘take it back’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is unveiling a new online video that also will serve as her introduction at this weekend’s Florida Democratic Party conference decrying 20 years of Republican rule of Florida and declaring that if she’s elected governor Democrats will “Take it Back.”

The two-minute, 26-second video features dramatic music of pounding piano chords and drums as ominous images of Florida and Republicans give way to rapid-fire clips of Graham on the campaign trail, interrupted occasionally by slaps of text following the theme, “We Will Take Back” one aspect or another of Florida.

Along the way, Graham narrates, briefly pointing out: “It didn’t used to be that way.”

Graham then goes through her basic platform points on health care, public schools, gun control, and “for people to want the best for each other.”

There also are the obligatory shots of her father, former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, though he’s not explicitly identified. As those nostalgic pictures roll, she says, “I grew up in a household where public service meant caring about the people of the state and caring about the state itself. We’ve lost that, but we’re going to take it back.”

Graham created the video to be shown at the Democrats’ Leadership Blue event in Hollywood. Her rivals for the August 28 Democratic primary for governor, Andrew Gillum, Chris King, Philip Levine, and Jeff Greene also are expected to provide such videos.

Graham’s campaign also is announcing Thursday it will place an online buy behind the video to target Democrats in Hollywood over the weekend. Her campaign announced it is also holding a Leadership Blue “Women for Graham” kickoff party Friday night that will feature locally elected women, EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock, and a nationally known special guest who will announce her endorsement of Graham.

Among her points, Graham gets unusually feisty — for her — declaring, “As governor, I’m not going to allow Florida to be the testing lab for all of these right-wing charter school privatization models,” and “It’s B.S. that there’s nothing that we can do to get these weapons of war off our streets and out of our schools.”

And while the video includes no fewer than 15 shots of Graham’s trademark hugs, she also takes issue with her own generally civil behavior and reputation, stating, “do not mistake my friendliness for any single bit of lack of resolve.”

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