Gwen Graham Archives - Page 7 of 84 - Florida Politics

Philip Levine launches new ad that looks beyond primary

Gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, bouyed to the top of the Democratic heap in the latest poll, is launching a new TV commercial that appears aimed at showdowns with Republicans and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, rather than his Aug. 28 primary opponents.

The new 30-second spot “The Challenge,” launched Friday, appears more focused on Aug. 29 and beyond, pairing DeSantis and President Donald Trump as status quo for problems ranging from the environmental threats of offshore drilling to the rise of hate groups.

“If Trump and DeSantis win, nothing will change,” Levine says in the ad. “If we do, we take back our state.”

Nonetheless, Levine’s Campaign Senior Adviser Christian Ulvert characterized the commercial as a primary election appeal to Democratic voters. The latest poll put Levine up slightly on former U.S Rep. Gwen Graham, and up considerably on the others, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum running third, businessman Jeff Greene fourth, and businessman Chris King fifth.

“2018 is a fight for the future of our state and as Florida Democrats come together to rise to the challenge, we need a candidate who has what it takes to win when so much is on the line,” Ulvert stated in a news release.

DeSantis is paired with Trump even though he, too, must win a primary, against Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, long the Republican frontrunner until Trump endorsed DeSantis. DeSantis has been leading almost all recent polls.

The ad does go through the roll of many of the basic Democratic issues in this primary season: “We cannot have drilling,” Levine insists. “Our schools need help. And so do our teachers,” he follows up. “If we don’t expand Medicaid, women and children will suffer,” he continues. “Florida needs stronger gun laws, and we have to stop the hatred that’s tearing us apart.

Then the montage of frightening images of such things as oil spills and hate groups gives way to video of DeSantis and Trump.

Gwen Graham touts progressive bona fides in latest ad

As primary opponent Andrew Gillum stumps with Sen. Bernie SandersGwen Graham is reminding Democratic voters of her own progressive bona fides ahead of a South Florida GOTV tour with teachers.

A media release from Graham’s campaign says a new ad spotlights Graham’s positions on “Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, Clean Energy — after defeating the NRA and a Republican incumbent.”

The narration depicts Graham as the avatar of Florida’s “fresh, bold start.”

“In Congress, one Democrat who voted eight times to stop Republicans from repealing Obamacare. One Democrat who earned a one-hundred-percent rating from Planned Parenthood for protecting women’s health. One Democrat who voted for President Obama’s Clean Energy Plan,” the copy asserts.

“Faced down hundreds-of-thousands spent against her by the NRA and beat a Republican to win a seat in Congress,” the ad continues. “Wanna end twenty years of Republican rule? She’s the one: Democrat Gwen Graham.”

The ad is deliberately positive, intended to stand out from the negative ads on the airwaves, Graham’s campaign asserts.

For Graham, the messaging is natural.

“Our public schools, our environment, and our rights are all on the ballot,” Graham said. “In Congress, I stood up for our shared values — to protect health care, women and our state’s natural treasures. Together, we are going to end 20 years of one-party Republican rule and bring those values back to Tallahassee.”

Jeff Greene launches new political committee

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene has pumped $22.45 million of his own cash into his gubernatorial campaign account, but recent filings with the Florida Division of Elections show he may start piling money into a political committee.

On July 31, Greene filed a “statement of solicitation” to use money raised by the Florida Defense Fund — currently nothing — to back his bid to be Governor.

Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida first reported news of Greene’s political committee.

Every other candidate running for Governor has an affiliated political committee, and for most, it’s the source of most of their capital. Political committees don’t impose contribution limits on donors like official campaign accounts, which in the case of statewide races limit donors to a maximum aggregate contribution of $3,000 for each election.

Thus far, all the cash Greene has put into his campaign has gone to his campaign account, and for good reason. Starting July 14, 45 days out from the primary election, all statewide candidates were eligible for “lowest unit rate” pricing on TV and radio advertising.

The catch? The money had to come from a campaign account, not a political committee. That’s not to say political committee dollars are useless; they can still cover things like media production costs, direct mail campaigns or, in the case of many candidates, cut massive checks to the state party, which will, in turn, provide the campaign with “in-kind” benefits such as staffing or polling.

And there’s nothing stopping them from paying for ads at full price, either.

That still doesn’t quite explain the mystery behind Greene’s political committee.

According to his financial disclosure, a required document for all candidates, he’s worth $3.3 billion, and while much of that wealth is tied up in LLCs that handle his many rental properties across the country, he does have a lot of liquidity — his personal bank accounts were stocked with $230.7 million on May 31.

It’s possible that he’s planning for some of his companies to start moving in cash rather than expending his personal funds, and it’s also possible that it’s being set up to deliver on Greene’s promise to fund down-ballot Democrats if he is elected as the gubernatorial nominee.

The committee’s statement of organization, though boilerplate, lends credence to that theory, as it lists its scope as including: “candidate and ballot issues, statewide, legislative, multidistrict, countywide and municipal elections.”

Either way, Greene is pumping millions into his bid with no signs of slowing down before the primary election is in the books. Current polls put him in contention for fourth place alongside Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum while former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is at the top with a slim lead over former Congresswoman Gwen Graham.

The primary election is Aug. 28. The next finance report for Florida Defense Fund is due Aug. 17.

Jeff Greene pledges to stand against bigotry, racism, hatred

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene said Thursday that his Jewish identity triggers revulsion for the levels of tolerance President Donald Trump exhibited toward rising hate groups, and he vowed not to tolerate any bigotry, racism, or hatred in Florida if elected governor.

Greene was speaking Thursday morning before a gathering at the Roth Jewish Family Center in Maitland, in an event organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. He sharply criticized the President’s response to the Charlottesville, Virginia, rallies by neo-Nazis and white supremacists last year and since as affronts to all and something he felt personally.

“With the president saying, ‘There’s good people on both sides,’ it made me sick to my stomach,” Greene said. “I have a very, very deep and strong Jewish identity, and I can tell you if I’m governor of Florida I would never tolerate any kind of bigotry, racism or hatred in this state.”

The declaration came up almost as an aside as Greene was offering his thoughts on Israel. That discussion led him to offer some faint praise toward Trump for supporting that country but also some light criticism of the hard-line approach toward security shared by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and Trump.

Greene faces Democrat Philip Levine, who’s also Jewish, plus Gwen Graham, Chris King, and Andrew Gillum in the Aug. 28 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

“Obviously, we’re all happy when Donald Trump is getting along with Bibi, which is better than the alternative,” Greene said when asked about Israel.

Greene noted that he has been to Israel many times, including as a student studying there for six months and more recently. He has met with both Netanyahu and the late former Israel President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

“I think moving the capital to Jerusalem sounds great, but we’ll see. Hopefully, it doesn’t backfire and we have more problems,” Greene said.

He cautioned that the plight of Palestinians must be considered, saying, “we can’t just ignore what’s there.”

“I’m glad that the President says, ‘I’m standing with Israel.’ But … we still have to have solutions. And that’s the problem. The way to solve the problem is to give them hope,” Greene said.

“You know, you go to the West Bank and visit businesses there who are doing well: They’re not interested in blowing anything up. They want their kids to have educations and iPhones and become pediatricians,” Greene said. “In Gaza, it’s pretty hopeless. And we have to figure out a way … of getting the whole Middle East behind making Gaza successful economically, so that people aren’t as interested in throwing bombs.”

Then he added, “But as long as they have textbooks that talk about taking Israel off the map, we have a problem, as long as they have streets named after bombers.”

As his praise continues to haunt, Jeff Greene insists, ‘Donald Trump can’t stand me’

With rival Philip Levine still trying to hang President Donald Trump around his neck, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene lashed back again Thursday morning, insisting that he detests his Palm Beach neighbor, and vice versa.

“Donald Trump can’t stand me,” Greene said. “I know him. I don’t have much of a relationship with him. I haven’t had lunch or dinner with him. But I’ve met him many, many times. He knows if I’m Governor of Florida I’m not going to be his friend.”

The issue of Greene’s attitude toward Trump has been a major undercurrent in Greene’s campaign since even before he entered the race in mid-June, with him frequently having to defend his statement on FOX Business News, shortly after the 2016 election, calling Trump “a great guy” and offering support.

Some of the other Democrats running, Chris King, Gwen Graham and Andrew Gillum, also have at least raised eyebrows about the comment in debates and campaign statements.

Greene’s former support of the President continues to haunt, coming up as a hot topic from a professed undecided voter who challenged Greene over it Thursday during a stop in Central Florida.

Trump’s power in the primary has been well documented as his endorsement of Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis helped rocket him toward the top heading into the Aug. 28 primaries, and Democrats are battling over the negative power Trump has with Democrats.

Greene has launched multiple TV ads, mailers and public statements trying to counter that with his declarations that as Governor he would be Trump’s worst nightmare; then to counter Levine’s TV ads reminding every one of Greene’s statements; then to punch back, charging that Levine, too, had made at least conciliatory if not praising comments about Trump, even though Levine was a front-line campaign surrogate for Democrat Hillary Clinton in that race.

“Obviously, if you Google you’ll see all the [anti-Trump] stuff I did during the [2016] campaign,” Greene insisted.

Yet the issue still is resonating with Democratic voters, to the point that it might take a hostile Trump tweet to remove it from Greene.

It came up Thursday when Greene was speaking to a gathering at the Roth Jewish Family Center in Maitland, in an event organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, from an audience member who’d seen Levine’s ad, and was concerned.

Greene brushed off the initial comment, again, as something respectful that someone should say whenever a new president takes office.

“Unfortunately that quote is being thrown all over the place,” Greene said. “It’s par for the course.”

Bob Buckhorn goes all-in for Gwen Graham

Speculation has been out there for months that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn would make an interesting candidate for Florida’s Lieutenant Governor. That’s not likely to subside when he formally endorses Democrat Gwen Graham at a news conference Thursday afternoon in Tampa.

But do endorsements matter in statewide races?

I mean, OK — this is a political site, so this ought to be a layup. But honestly, name the state’s second-in-command without resorting to Google.

Pssst …. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

So, does Buckhorn’s thumbs-up to Graham really help her campaign, regardless of what is or isn’t in it for him?

Maybe it helps a little bit, but Graham has to stand on her own and the polls show an increasing number of people believe she is doing that. She is widening her lead, she is bringing in money, and at this point ,her candidacy for the Democratic nomination seems to be taking on an air of inevitability.

Obligatory disclaimer: Since the 2016 election, I will not only wait until the final votes are cast, it might be a good idea to wait until the election is certified before declaring a winner.

But if Graham is the nominee, does Buckhorn help her?

Well, he has been a popular Mayor during his two terms in Tampa. He got a lot of good things done in his city.

He is a gifted public speaker, capable of soaring oratory. However, his endorsement would be tantamount to speaking to the choir in Tampa, which is reliably Democratic. It also wouldn’t matter two hoots out in suburban eastern Hillsborough County, where the political sentiment is reliably red.

Buckhorn was a solid foot soldier for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but he could be a bit of a maverick when he believed it suited the city’s purpose. He drew some criticism from Democrats for his willingness to work with Gov. Rick Scott on issues that he believed benefitted Tampa.

That led to this statement from Scott’s office to the Tampa Bay Times on their relationship: “I have appreciated working with Mayor Bob Buckhorn and all of Tampa’s elected leadership to take the bay area’s economy to the next level. By focusing on transportation, public safety and education, we’ve been able to find real solutions for families and deliver results.”

That didn’t stop Buckhorn from direct criticism of President Donald Trump’s recent appearance in Tampa though, referring to it as the “venom and vitriol tour.”

Although Buckhorn likes the limelight and rarely shies away from a microphone, he has a lot of experience working behind the scenes as a member of Tampa’s city government.

He can break legs if needed, cajole when it’s called for, and he has a gift for making the person he is speaking with feel like they are the most important person in the room.

Graham might find that quality appealing in a running mate.

His endorsement probably isn’t a difference-maker at this point, but it does telegraph his readiness to suit up and put on his game face.

And if Graham is looking for a strong running mate with an eye toward making things happen in the Legislature down the road, Buckhorn checks a lot of boxes.

He had been mentioned as a likely candidate for Governor before announcing he wouldn’t run. That was a good decision because the groundswell he needed to have wasn’t happening.

But as his endorsement confirms, Bob Buckhorn still has the itch to play politics at the state’s highest level. I’ve known the guy for a long time and I’ll just say this — he’s got game.

Republican Governors Association starts spending spree in Florida

The GOP has held the Governor’s Mansion since the election of Jeb Bush in 1998, and the Republican Governors Association is spending big bucks to keep it that way.

According to newly filed campaign finance reports, electioneering communications organization Florida Facts received a $2.45 million cash infusion from the Republican Governors Association on Aug. 2, and it quickly put the money to work with a $2.12 million media buy through California-based Target Enterprises and another $225,000 in spending for “professional services,” likely media production, through that firm and Maryland-based OnMessage, Inc.

OnMessage has been the preferred media consulting shop for term-limited Gov. Rick Scott since he burst onto the political scene in 2010. In his two gubernatorial campaigns, Scott’s campaign and committee accounts paid the Annapolis firm more than $14.3 million.

Florida Facts, which shares an address with the HQ of the Republican Governors Association, finished the reporting period with just under $100,000 in the bank.

There are currently 33 Republican governors, including Scott, in office nationwide, and 26 of those Republican-held seats will be on the ballot in 2018. In its quest to shore up candidates ahead of a possible “blue wave,” the RGA has reeled in record-breaking fundraising hauls, including $113 million so far in the 2018 cycle.

In Florida, the winner of the Aug. 28 Republican primary between U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will be the beneficiary of the Republican Governors Association’s spending.

The eventual Republican nominee will go up against one of five Democrats running for the job, with former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine currently atop the polls heading into the final leg of the nominating contest.

The general election is Nov. 6.

Poll: Philip Levine atop what’s looking like two-person race with Gwen Graham

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham are going down to the wire in what is starting to look like a two-person race in the Democratic primary battle to run for governor, with Levine holding a lead among the most likely of voters, a new poll shows.

The poll, from SEA Polling and Strategic Design, has Levine leading Graham by seven points among the most likely of Democratic primary voters, but just barely ahead of her among voters who already have cast ballots.

And the other three major Democratic candidates have fallen back, slipping toward out of reach of the top spot with voting already underway and just 13 days left before the Aug. 28 Election Day.

The SEA poll has Levine leading Graham 30 to 28 percent among those who already have voted, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum running a distant third with 15 percent, businessman Jeff Greene getting 14 percent; and businessman Chris King just 3 percent.

Among those voters who self-rated their chances of voting as five out of five, Levine opens up a lead on Graham, 31 percent to 24 percent, with Gillum and Greene back in the mid-to-low teens, and King still in the low single digits. Among all 600 Democratic voters surveyed by SEA, the relative standings and patterns remained the same: Levine, 27; Graham, 24; Gillum, 15; Greene, 13; and King, 3.

The poll was conducted Saturday through Tuesday, live interviews of 600 Democrats, with an overall margin of error of 4 percent. The poll was conducted for an undisclosed group of Democrats not directly affiliated with any of the five campaigns, according to SEA President Thomas Eldon.

The results show four trends from the previous two Democratic gubernatorial polls SEA conducted in early and late June, Levine and Gillum up; Graham and Greene down.

This is the first major poll publicly released since Greene launched his attack ads on Graham.

“Greene’s decision to go negative against Gwen Graham appears to have brought her back to the pack, but also seriously diminished his chances as he has dropped into the fourth place in the low teens,” Eldon stated in a memo.

Among factors still to be watched: Gillum’s grassroots campaign, aimed at stirring up voters among Democrats who normally don’t get out to primaries, especially in off-year elections; and Graham’s expectation to attract the votes of undecided women awakened by the #MeToo movement this year.

Yet they could cancel each other out. Eldon said that there appear to be “balloon” effects seen in the polling movements involving Levine and Greene as one pair, and Graham and Gillum as another: when one goes up, the other goes down, he said.

Democratic candidates talk local issues at gubernatorial forum

Several Florida gubernatorial candidates were on hand at The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood on Wednesday for a forum hosted by the Florida League of Mayors

Many of the state’s mayors were on hand for the forum, which was also held in cooperation with the Florida League of Cities and Leadership Florida.

Unsurprisingly, many of the questions honed in on how the candidates would work with mayors on local issues.

The main focus was on so-called “Home Rule powers.” Those powers come from Article VIII, Section 2(b), and essentially allow cities to enact local ordinances without prior state approval.

But advocates, including many of those mayors in attendance, worry those powers are being stomped over by the state government through the passage of pre-emption laws which seek to take authority away from local governments on various issues.

The conference came on the same day a new poll was released from SEA Polling and Strategic Design, showing Philip Levine with a lead over Gwen Graham. Both once again appeared at the head of the pack of candidates, with Andrew Gillum, Jeff Greene, and Chris King lagging behind.

There’s also the issue of the state passing mandates without providing proper funding. Local governments point to legislation passed after the Parkland shooting, which required resource officers in schools throughout the state.

Some local governments say that not enough state money was allocated to make that happen, which means local jurisdictions are stuck footing the remainder of the bill.

That dilemma was raised to each of the candidates present at Wednesday’s forum: Gillum, Graham, Greene, and Levine. King did not attend. Neither did Republicans Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam.

“Florida has an $89 billion budget,” Graham said. “On Nov. 7, I will be appointing an audit committee to tear through that budget, see where we’re spending our resources.”

Graham went on to promise to redirect funds toward more important areas, such as the funding of resource officers.

The other candidates agreed.

“Education in this state is a question of priorities,” Greene said. He too argued more of the state budget should be focused on education so as to help local communities bear some of the burden.

The candidates were also asked about the issue of Home Rule generally, and all promised to be a Governor that would respect local autonomy more so than their Republican predecessors.

“The reason why local governments exist is so that those local governments can reflect the values of the constituencies who elect them,” Gillum added.

“I believe that we’ve got to protect Home Rule because it’s foundational to the Democratic society that we live in. It’s the American way.”

Gillum highlighted his time as Tallahassee Mayor dealing with some of these issues, as did former Miami Beach Mayor Levine.

“The biggest issue I encountered, my God I encountered it all the time, was pre-emption,” Levine recalled.

He spoke about how Miami Beach dealt with Airbnb during his tenure as Mayor.

“The people of Miami Beach decided they don’t want it. But we have those folks up there in Tallahassee that want to dictate and tell us that we should have it.

He detailed his efforts to install steep fines for residents participating in short-term rentals, while arguing other cities should have the right to make the decision that’s best for them.

Graham one-upped her opponents, walking into the forum with a button reading, “I love Home Rule.”

“We’ve got to get back to respecting Home Rule and respecting all that you do in your cities,” she said to the lawmakers in attendance.

“Let cities work.”

Hospitality union launches ad bashing Gwen Graham on megamall

Florida’s major labor union for hospitality workers, UNITE HERE, is launching a new television and internet commercial attacking Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham over her family’s involvement in the American Dream Miami megamall.

The 30-second spot, “Mega Mall Millionaire Gwen Graham,” from the union’s political action committee, charges that she has a $14 million stake in her family company, which is selling land for the controversial mall being planned in Miami-Dade County.

“While Gwen and her family make millions, Florida will be stuck with poverty wage jobs, endangered wildlife, and massive traffic congestion,” a narrator charges in the ad.

And it charges that would be happening even though she is campaigning on improving wages and protecting the environment.

“Sorry Gwen, but actions speak louder than words,” the narrator concludes.

UNITE HERE, which represents more than 260,000 mostly service industry workers across the country including at least 30,000 hospitality workers at Walt Disney World, other Central Florida resorts, and in Miami, has endorsed one of Graham’s rivals, Philip Levine, in the Democratic gubernatorial race.

Most recent polls have shown Levine and Graham well on top of the pack of five major Democrats that also include Andrew Gillum, Chris King, and Jeff Greene. Levine, King and Greene also have attacked Graham for her relationship to the mall, Greene doing so in statewide TV commercials that Graham then countered with rebuttal TV commercials.

Graham’s positions: She stepped down from any involvement in her family’s businesses years ago; the Graham Companies are selling some of the land for the mall’s development, but otherwise are not involved; the mall’s site is actually well within the area already planned by Miami-Dade County for development, not anything that sprawls into unplanned territory.

American Dream received approval from the Miami-Dade County Commission in May after a contentious battle during which opponents, citing its proximity to the Everglades watershed and other factors, dubbed it the “American nightmare.” The mall is being developed by Triple Five Worldwide Group of Edmonton, Canada.

UNITE HERE already has attacked Graham and her family’s company over their involvement, with earlier statements supporting Greene’s attacks.

“We think that Gwen Graham can’t hide behind the fact that it’s her family who’s involved in the project,” Wendi Walsh, Secretary-Treasurer for UNITE HERE Local 355 in Miami, said in a news release. “She skirts the issue at every turn.”

In that release, the union said it is spending six figures to target more than 800,000 Democratic voters, mostly in South Florida. In addition to advertising on social media and websites, they’re buying 50 30-second ad spots during morning and evening shows on CNN, MSNBC, OWN and BET in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area.

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