As 2017 sets and the 2018 election year begins to dawn, Gwen Graham clearly is contemplating what it means to be a woman in the Florida governor’s race in an era of time when gender issues have been sparked aflame by the recent flurry of sexual harassment and assault cases and the #MeToo movement.
Elections this year have shown powerful effects of women’s votes in Virginia and Alabama, with the flurry of sexual harassment cases and the #MeToo movement, in which women throughout the world began telling their stories on social media and elsewhere of experiences with sexual harassment and sexual abuse, falling in between those elections.
“I think being a woman is an advantage, particularly at this time, because I can understand a perspective that [men,] I just think it’s difficult to walk in the shoes of woman who has lived in a man’s world,” she said.
“Everywhere I go, everywhere I go, and this is pre- the #MeToo movement, pre-Virginia, pre-Alabama, I feel that women are engaged, and this is in a bipartisan way. I go all over the state and I have women say, ‘I’m a Republican, and I can’t wait to vote for you,’ Graham said Monday. “I think it’s a recognition of what I represent, and as a woman as well, is a type of leadership that is something that we can all feel positive about.”
Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, was in Orlando Monday to perform one of her “Work Days” at the Second Harvest Food Bank, volunteering a shift to help bring in donated food and prepare it for distribution to churches and pantries throughout Central Florida to help feed the needy.
Like all the candidates, Graham’s bigger challenge will be to expand beyond her natural constituencies. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate, has unabashedly been trying to lock up Florida’s rural and small-town voters, and the state’s big business community. Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has earned strong support from many leaders of Florida’s African-American community. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is of South Florida, where the lion’s share of Florida’s Democrats live, and also appeals to business leaders willing to support a Democrat. Winter Park Democrat Chris King also seeks to appeal to the business community and to younger voters, since he is of them. That’s the base for their 2017 starts. They all would need more.
To date only Putnam has broken out with any signs of dominance, both in fundraising and in statewide polls, and his “Up and Adam” breakfasts, as ubiquitous as Graham’s Work Days, have given him hand-to-hand, and face-to-face time with voters, scores at a time, throughout the state. Levine, the newest major candidate, has shown early robust fundraising and already is using his money to run television commercials to expand his name recognition within and beyond South Florida.
Graham also is counting on her base expanding through her message on issues, particularly public education, the environment, the economy, and investing in the state’s infrastructure, but also because of her family’s legacy. The Graham brand remains strong, she said, due to her father Bob Graham‘s eight years as governor in the 1970s and ’80s, and his 18 years in the U.S. Senate in from 1987 to 2005. People remember, she said, and she’s not discounting what she said is the fond response she daily receives from her father’s supporters.
But if the 2018 elections are as affected by women voters as 2017 suggests, it may be because women can provide a different kind of leadership, something that voters across the board hunger for, Graham said.
“I think one of the things that’s important about the #MeToo issue is the recognition of imbalance of power. And why it’s so important we elect more women into leadership positions. I think women bring a different leadership approach than men,” she said.
Thomas, also a state government lawyer under former Gov. Charlie Crist, relocated to Pinellas County after spending years in the state capital.
Florida Bar records now show a Palm Harbor address. She works for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs under President Trump.
She ran unsuccessfully last year for the 2nd Congressional District in north Florida, which had been held by Democrat GwenGraham butwas redrawn after a redistricting challenge. Graham bowed out of a second term and now is running for governor.
Panama City urological surgeon Neal Dunn bested Thomas and another candidate in the Republican primary, then went on to win the now GOP-leaning district.
Others the JNC recommended to Scott include Pinellas attorney Brian Battaglia, who lost a 2014 bid to become circuit judge to Kimberly Sharpe; andDustin Anderson, a Tarpon Springs attorney also running for circuit judge in 2018.
Scott still has more than a month to decide who he will select. The other candidates are Ronald Gregory, Nathaniel B. Kidder,Christopher LaBruzzo, Kelly McKnight, Nancy Meyer, Matthew Perry, Frederick Pollack andDorothy Vaccaro.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham, a former member of Congress herself, on Friday attacked U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz for his campaign to get the FBI investigated and to halt the bureau’s investigation of President Donald Trump, then challenged her Republican rivals to state their positions.
Graham, of Tallahassee, took to Twitter first, calling out, “Matt Gaetz, what are you so afraid of?”
Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, has been one of the leaders in a Republican congressional effort to both get an investigation of how the FBI looked into Hillary Clinton allegations of misconduct last year, and to get Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired for what Gaetz and the other Republicans in the effort contend has been a partisan, biased “witch hunt” investigation of alleged connections between Trump, his election campaign team, his White House staff, and Russia.
“Calls to fire him undermine the fundamental rule of law,” Graham tweeted. “The special counsel and DOJ must be allowed to investigate – even the president – without partisan interference.”
Gaetz office did not immediately respond to an inquiry about Graham’s tweets.
She then went after Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The former is the leading Republican candidate in the governor’s race, the latter a likely major candidate. That included a mash-up picture of Corcoran and Putnam standing with Gaetz, who stands behind a podium with a Trump campaign sign.
“Congressman @MattGaetz asked Republicans to join his attacks against Robert Mueller. Do @AdamPutnam and @RichardCorcoran stand with Gaetz or do they stand with the rule of law? Floridians deserve to know,” Graham tweeted.
In a press release her campaign then put out, Graham also went after another potential major Republican gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach. Both Gaetz and DeSantis flew with Trump to Pensacola last week and joined him at a campaign rally there which, in part, was aimed at supporting Roy Moore in the neighboring Alabama U.S. Senate race.
“Today Congressman Matt Gaetz called on his Republican colleagues to join him in a partisan campaign to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Floridians deserve to know, do their leaders stand with Gaetz or with the rule of law?” Graham stated in the news release. “Adam Putnam and Richard Corcoran won’t be able to hide from the president and his connections to Russia forever — they must answer whether or not they stand with Matt Gaetz against Robert Mueller.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King on Friday decried an item in the GOP tax bill that would hit Puerto Rico with a new excise tax on goods shipped from the island to the states.
The proposed 20 percent tax on shipped goods is meant to discourage and punish American companies that export their jobs overseas to foreign-incorporated subsidiaries, then import the goods from those factories back to the United States. But it applies to companies that set up manufacturing subsidiaries in Puerto Rico as well.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and other officials there have warned that the tax would hit Puerto Rico’s economy hard at a time that it’s already trying to recover from the double disasters of Hurricane Maria in September and the collapse that followed the 2016 declaration that the commonwealth’s government could no longer pay its debts.
“While there are many reasons to be deeply suspicious of this legislation that seems poised to benefit our country’s wealthiest people and corporations, there is a provision in this new law that could be catastrophic for Puerto Rico,” King said.
King, who faces former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee in seeking the 2018 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor, called attention to the provision Friday in the state that has received tens of thousands of Puerto Rican migrants just this fall.
King contended the tax would counter previous federal tax provisions that had turned Puerto Rico into a medical manufacturing hub. Drug and medical device makers have invested billions into the island, creating thousands of jobs and accounting for about half of the island’s economic output, he wrote in a blog post, and they would now be hampered with the excise tax if it stays in the bill.
“As a candidate hoping to serve as Florida’s next governor, I strongly urge our leaders in Washington to vote against the tax bill, and especially the harsh Puerto Rican excise tax,” King wrote. “There is no reason to place this burden on the people of Puerto Rico in their hour of need.”
The real work began soon after Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry took office. There was the “heavy lift” in Tallahassee, one that required Curry and allies to make the sale to the Senate and the House.
From there, a referendum in 2016 — passed with 65 percent of the vote.
After that, the unions had to agree to terms — that was done, more or less, before winter 2017 ended.
Then, council approval — a fait accompli … after all, it wasn’t like those deals were going to be sent back to the table.
As CFO Mike Weinstein said, the savings add up to “$1.4B less out of the general fund over the next 15 years,” and “without that revenue” from the half-cent sales tax, the city would have “difficulty matching revenue to expenses.”
So that’s the reality.
Worth watching: how the city handles the out years, as savings from the pension reform are consumed by workforce raises.
Corrine Brown goes down
Former Rep. Brown had the worst year of her life. She was convicted on 18 counts related to the One Door for Education scheme. And then she received five years in prison — though she is fighting that sentence.
The sentencing essentially gave voice to the jury’s verdict, with Judge Timothy Corrigan noting that Brown’s comments were “reprehensible” at times, such as when she said the Pulse massacre happened because the FBI was too busy investigating her.
Brown got a sentence that reflected a spirit of “general deterrence,” a sentence “in the mainstream” of public corruption cases in recent years. In other words, the judge did not go easy on her.
“A sentence of probation for a member of Congress convicted of 18 counts would not be sufficient,” Corrigan said.
“The public had a right to expect,” Judge Corrigan said, that Brown would not “abuse public trust and responsibility … this was a crime borne of entitlement and greed … bad business.”
We shall see where the appeal leads, but the odds are good Brown will be in orange in a matter of weeks.
Audrey Gibson ascendant
In November, State Sen. Gibson won a narrow 8-7 vote of Senate Democrats to become Senate Democratic Leader Designate for the 2018-2020 legislative term.
Gibson will succeed current Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II when his term ends next November.
“I look forward to working with Caucus members on their priorities and ensuring their voices are heard on legislation impacting all Floridians. I am also excited about bringing in new Democrat Senators to the Florida Senate to create a legislative balance in the Chamber,” said Gibson.
Gibson, meanwhile, may face a primary challenge from Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.
We asked Brown what the case would be for running against a caucus leader, assuming Gibson doesn’t run against Lawson. And how he would match her fundraising and endorsements.
“All actions will be taken under consideration,” Brown said.
Time will tell if this challenge happens.
Rob Bradley helms appropriations
November also saw state Sen. Bradley move into the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“I’m just focused on getting the job done with as little drama as possible. There’s been enough drama in politics lately. It’s time to just roll up our sleeves and get the job done,” Bradley said, noting that he’s not new to the appropriations game.
“I’ve spent a lot of my Senate career working in the Appropriations arena,” Bradley noted, “having chaired three different budget subcommittees.”
Bradley is already reaping specific benefits of his role; his political committee raised $124,000 in November — a record high for him.
As well, the region is poised to reap benefits this session, via priority environmental bills headed to Appropriations.
SB 204 approves spending at least $75 million a year on springs projects and $50 million annually on projects related to the restoration of the St. Johns River and its tributaries, as well as the Keystone Heights Lake Region.
Along with Sens. Bradley and Gibson, Northeast Florida has hope in the House in the form of state Rep. Renner.
For the Palm Coast Republican, the path to winning June’s 2022 Florida House Speaker election in Orlando — with 16 votes in the first round — was not a sure thing.
But it’s a good thing.
State Rep. Clay Yarborough, the former Jacksonville City Council President who was one of those 16 Renner votes, noted that the outcome lined up with his count.
Yarborough saw “tremendous positives” for the region and the city both — positives that will be seen before 2022, as in the years leading up to Renner’s Speakership, he will be in “conversations with leadership,” and his “place at the table” will help him advocate for regional priorities.
The region, Yarborough said, can be “lining stuff up” that takes years to realize — a generational opportunity for Northeast Florida.
Considering state Sen. Travis Hutson — whose territory overlaps with part of Renner’s House district — is also in the leadership discussion, the region may be positioned to score wins, necessary as legacy costs and infrastructure burdens pile up.
HRO, at last
Valentine’s Day was especially happy for Jacksonville’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, for that was the day the Jacksonville City Council passed the Human Rights Ordinance.
The expansion would add sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to the list of protected categories under the ordinance, which ensures that people aren’t discriminated against in the workplace, the housing market, or public accommodations (restrooms, locker rooms, and so on).
Curry returned the bill to the city council without his signature; the bill is now law.
“As your Mayor, I promised to convene community conversations about discrimination. At the conclusion of those conversations, I exercised an executive action to implement a clear policy for City of Jacksonville employees and contractors. I said then and continue to believe additional legislation was unnecessary. But this evening, a supermajority of the City Council decided otherwise. This supermajority, representatives of the people from both parties and every corner of the city, made their will clear,” Curry said in a statement.
Despite all the drama leading up to it, there have been just two claims — housing discrimination — made since it passed.
There is, meanwhile, a movement toward a citizen referendum to repeal it. Time will tell if that goes anywhere.
There was a certain irony in the unanimous vote, given the fractiousness of the Finance Committee during August budget hearings — when members said they felt “targeted” by a poll from Sheriff Mike Williams’ political committee that said people wanted more cops on the street.
Curry built a political machine to get into office, and he did so even with many GOP officeholders backing his Democratic opponent’s re-election effort.
In the office are some of the best operators working the room — and he has become increasingly adept at giving Council members photo opportunities, the kind that allows them to take credit for something tangible happening in their districts.
And it is by no means clear that he will even face a challenge in 2019 — not bad, especially given the Democratic registration advantage in Dirty Duval.
Kids Hope, not Kids Hype
Jacksonville Children’s programs were reformed this year, with the Jacksonville Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission being rolled up into a new board — Kids Hope Alliance.
The City Council debate was fractious, of course, with objections from Council President Anna Brosche and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis to the pace of pushing the legislation through and the need for a new organization at all.
Six of the seven board picks sailed through Council this week, with Brosche and Dennis voting against one who violated the in-county residency requirement that was part of the ordinance.
However, look for Brosche to be a factor going forward — she is slated to become the Council liaison to the board.
Brosche vs. Curry
The most interesting power play of the year has been the battle between Council President Brosche and Mayor Curry.
Recall that Brosche beat administration ally, John Crescimbeni, in a pitched battle for the presidency in the spring.
Much of the noise from Crescimbeni supporters came back to the Council veteran being more “ready to lead” than third-year member Brosche, given his experience on the Council and in the VP role.
One interesting wrinkle in the race: what seemed to be a certain commonality among many of Crescimbeni’s supporters — primarily older, white males.
Did issues of youth, gender, and other demographic demarcations sway their positions?
“I certainly picked up on what you said … I had not picked up on it until you pointed it out,” Brosche added. “You pointed it out well in terms of the picture that was made. I didn’t necessarily reach that conclusion … at the outset.”
Brosche and Curry have clashed, both on her insufficiently optimistic read on pension reform, and her skepticism on the Kids Hope Alliance.
Expect that friction to be constant as long as both are in City Hall.
JAXPORT Puerto Rico relief update
A new message from JAXPORT Executive Vice President Roy Schleicher gives a December update on Puerto Rico relief efforts.
Thanks to the generous Northeast Florida donors, Schleicher says JAXPORT relief partners distributed 500,000 pounds of goods to more than 20 towns and municipalities throughout the island territory devastated by Hurricane Maria.
With roads and bridges still washed out or in disrepair, making moving large trucks difficult, many of these goods needed to be moved inland by small trucks and cars, going directly to those in need.
Donations also helped with transportation costs to send 13 full-sized shipping containers full of basics such as food, water, batteries and hygiene items from Jacksonville to San Juan. The JAXPORT shipment was over and above those from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government agencies, and did not include other relief containers organized and transported by groups outside of the JAXPORT-related network.
Residents of Northeast Florida and other areas gathered supplies in the containers, which were then sent to JAXPORT for shipment to Puerto Rico. All the supplies collected traveled to Puerto Rico via the Port of Jacksonville, the No. 1 commercial trade partner with the island.
Going forward, JAXPORT has begun discussions on the best way to continue Puerto Rican hurricane relief during the next stages of their recovery, seeing a need for support remains as the island rebuilds.
Again, Schleicher gives thanks for the donations, which put Jacksonville’s “unrivaled transportation and logistics know-how to work, quickly and efficiently,” to provide emergency aid when it was needed most.
“Along with my heartfelt thanks to all of you,” he says “I would like to specifically send my deep appreciation to [Haskell Co. CEO] Steve Halverson, who did not hesitate for a moment when asked if he could organize help for those suffering after the hurricane … Aqua Gulf Transport, Inc., Todos con Puerto Rico, TOTE Maritime and Trailer Bridge worked together to deliver hurricane relief supplies to Comerio, Puerto Rico. The town’s Mayor, Josian Santiago, and his wife received the container.”
Political preview Jacksonville: Media’s view of the 2018 Session
Members of the Jacksonville and Capitol Press Corps will offer a special preview of the upcoming 2018 Florida Legislative Session hosted by the Fiorentino Group, Tucker/Hall, and Rogers Towers.
Scheduled Friday, January 5 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. at The River Club, 1 Independent Dr., the exclusive, invitation-only luncheon will provide an opportunity to hear top Florida political journalists on what they see on the legislative horizon, with a chance for the audience to ‘turn the table’ and ask questions.
Panelists include Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times; Mike Clark of the Florida Times-Union; Matt Dixon of POLITICO; our own A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics and Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.
Attendees will join Jacksonville business and community leaders for a complimentary lunch and insightful preview of the upcoming Legislative Session. Complimentary parking is available. Registration is at events.r20.constantcontact.com.
To close, some good news …
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a] guaranteed a winning season and b] are playoff bound.
As someone who covered the team on game day for close to a decade of futility, it’s incredible to see one of the best defenses ever assembled in teal and black.
And Blake Bortles — who has taken his share of static — conquered the learning curve and has excelled, even with his top two wideouts on the shelf.
And Leonard Fournette — a little bit Jerome Bettis, a little bit Todd Gurley. The kind of sledgehammer that breaks opposing defenses’ wills.
This year, for the first time in too long, the Jaguars matter in December. And beyond.
To quote the great Jackie Gleason … “How sweet it is!”
Despite a PolitiFact ruling six months ago that showed the Tallahassee Mayor’s campaign lied about the number of its supporters, Gillum and his staff are continuing to mislead voters and the press about the size of this fledgling operation.
On June 9, the Gillum for Governor campaign said: “We’re excited to have more than 7,000 contributors, the most in the race, and we’re raising the resources to compete in all 67 counties.”
Yet, last week, speaking at Cafe Con Tampa, Gillum reportedly said: “I want you to know that we’ve got over 11 thousand — last I counted — individual contributors.”
And last month, Gillum campaign representative Geoff Burgan told a reporter, “We’ve got more than 11,000 online donors …”
Neither claim is true.
According to the latest public fundraising reports, posted yesterday, Gillum actually has less than 8,500 unique donors between his campaign account and political committee — placing him well behind Adam Putnam and Gwen Graham, who each have more than 10,000 supporters.
The once-rising star Gillum exaggerated the number of supporters while speaking to the audience about the viability of his campaign. The campaign has been in the red for the past seventh months — and had its worst month ever in November, raising only $52,475 and spending more than $100,000.
In addition to having more supporters, Graham — with significant name recognition — also enjoys a seven-point lead over Gillum, as shown by the latest polling from Associated Industries of Florida: Graham with 24 percent, Gillum at 17 percent.
And now Gillum has less than $500,000 between his campaign and political committee; if the current trend continues, it’s difficult to see how the candidate survives until Election Day.
And it’s even harder to see how he wins, especially with made up supporters on the campaign trail.
In the race for Florida Governor, if anything, Gwen Graham is audacious.
As well as announcing a “strong fundraising streak” through November, a new email from the Democratic hopeful makes a bold declaration — her campaign “has more supporters” than any other candidate in the race, either Democratic or Republican.
That’s quite a statement for a Democrat in a state controlled by Republicans for the past 20 years.
“While [Republicans] Adam Putnam and Richard Corcoran continue to fill their campaigns with special interests’ donations, we are taking on Tallahassee’s self-serving politicians and building a grassroots campaign to put real Floridians back in charge of our state,” Graham said.
Graham is backing up her self-assurance with some solid numbers — more than $300,000 raised for eight consecutive months, bringing in more than $240,000 in her campaign account, as well as more than $100,000 for her political committee “Our Florida” — totaling more than $350,000 in November.
In her bid for Governor, the former North Florida congresswoman now has raised more than $4.36 million dollars, as with about $2.78 million on hand.
While those numbers are impressive, what about the statement of “more supporters than anyone else?”
Good question; Graham added more than 1,400 new grassroots donors in just the last month, meaning she now has more than 11,500 unique supporters — more people than any other candidate in the race.
According to Matt Harringer, Graham’s communications director, the numbers of supporters are solid — using state records — and speak for themselves. Among Democrats, Philip Levine has604; Andrew Gillum, 8,451 and Chris King, 1674. As for Republicans, Jack Latvala has2681; Putnam, 10,133 and Corcoran,569.
It is this metric that Graham’s campaign says will become the strong foundation to take the ultimate challenge in Florida — facing a Republican in the general election.
Graham takes a parting shot at “Tallahassee Republicans” who are preparing for the upcoming 2018 Legislative Session the same way they have for more than two decades — holding committee week fundraisers with lobbyists.
“While they’re partying in Tallahassee,” Graham says her campaign “traveling the state building support from real Floridians and talking about the issues that matter to them.’
This leads to her boldest statement of all — that she “will take back the governor’s office and set Florida on a brighter path forward.”
While it’s too early to tell how the Governor’s race will ultimately pan out, there’s little doubt Graham has an abundance of confidence in both herself and her campaign.
Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham is improving her standing in the early stages of the 2018 gubernatorial race, leading the three other Democratic candidates, according to a new poll out Monday.
She holds a seven-point lead over second place over Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
The poll, released by Associated Industries of Florida, a GOP-leaning business lobby, shows Graham with 24 percent, while Gillum is at 17 percent.
While the poll points to a Graham-Gillum race at the moment, the money does not favor the Gillum team, which has struggled to raise cash. By the end of October, he had raised $1.6 million total for his campaign.
“Always would like to have more, but it’s far from the whole story,” Geoff Burgan, a spokesperson for the campaign, said. “Florida history has borne that out.”
In that same time period, Graham’s raised $4 million and Chris King, a newcomer in Florida politics, pulled in $2.7 million for his campaign. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, though, has raised the most: somewhere in the ballpark of $7 million.
King and Levine each have 4 percent of the vote in the four-way race, according to the poll. Both trailing rumored Democratic gubernatorial candidate, prosecutor Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who has 6 percent of Floridians’ support in the poll.
Levine’s deep pockets are not to be underestimated, though. Money could soon boost Levine’s statewide name recognition in the race, and he is already working to do so by paying for bilingual TV advertisements.
To keep the momentum, Gillum is betting on the vote of African-Americans, a demographic with which he is leading, according to the new numbers. But as the 38-year-old runs on an “unapologetic progressive” platform, very liberal voters are narrowly favoring Graham (25-23) — not him.
“Name ID is higher for her, for now. Gillum is building real momentum on issues and clearly growing in his race,” Burgan said.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Winter Park businessman Chris King announced Friday that his campaign raised $100,000 in November and has more than $1.6 million on hand.
The November money brings King’s total fundraising to $2.77 million and gives him the third-place spot among the Democratic candidates vying to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine announced last week that he had raised another $1 million in November, for a total of more than $7 million raised to date, while former congresswoman Gwen Graham surpassed the $4 million mark in October and has not yet announced her November numbers.
The fourth major Democrat in the race, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, had $1.6 million in total fundraising at the end of October.
According to documents on his committee website King raised $45,250 last month through his committee, “Rise and Lead Florida.”
The largest donation to the committee came from one of the properties owned by King’s business, Serenity Towers on the St. Johns.
King’s campaign has not yet uploaded his November campaign finance report to the Florida Division of Elections, though through the end of October, King had raised $1.76 million through his campaign account and had about $1.15 million of that money on hand.
Tallahassee Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum doesn’t have a pick in the election Saturday for Florida Democratic Party chair, but he does believe the process needs serious reform.
“I think we’ve had too many instances of the pooh-bah’s of the party stepping in, chasing rules, creating all kinds of situations under which we can get our person into position, and then the grassroots and the folks who fight and work every day to build the apparatus of the party just have to take it,” he said Friday morning at Tampa’s Oxford Exchange in the weekly Cafe Con Tampa event.
Democratic Executive Committee Chairs Terrie Rizzo of Palm Beach County, Stacey Patel of Brevard County and Hillsborough County State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez are the three candidates up for the position to be decided in Orlando this weekend.
Gillum and the three other Democrats running for governor — Chris King, Philip Levine and Gwen Graham — are staying neutral in the race to succeed Stephen Bittel, who resigned last month following a report that he had made sexually demeaning comments to women.
Gillum said his hope was whoever is elected will begin to “modernize” the FDP, specifically alluding to the Byzantine way in which the party chooses its chair.
“I do believe we need one-person, one-vote,” he said to scattered applause.
The FDP currently uses a weighted system in deciding their election for state chair. That means the bigger counties have the most votes, with Miami-Dade having the most with 62 each for their two state committeeman and state committeewoman. Hillsborough County has 68, or 34 to their state committeeman (Russ Patterson) and state committeewoman (who happens to be Gonzalez).
By contrast, small Bradford County in northern Florida has only two overall votes, one each for their respective committee persons. A one-person, one-vote change would not reduce the number of votes that the larger counties have but would expand the number of voters in each county, meaning that the committeeman and committeewoman would not have the only votes.
“I get the full nature of it because we want to make sure that we get the full representation of these areas that are strongly Democratic, but I think that we can have individuals having those votes,” he said. “This idea of the weightiness of it I think makes it a little bit difficult for insurgent candidates to come from, frankly nowhere and choose to compete in this race to become the party chairperson.”
If there’s any “insurgent” in the race, it’s Patel, who only got in after making a public request on Facebook to see if there was grassroots support to help her campaign. She has been in the Florida Democratic Party for considerably less time than both Rizzo and Gonzalez.
Patel and Gonzalez each announced union endorsements Friday.
Gonzalez, a former attorney for AFSCME, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, formally endorsed her bid for party chair.
The National Nurses United (NNU), the most significant organization of registered nurses in the United States, announced Thursday they are backing Patel in the race.