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Another state lawmaker, Patrick Henry, backs Andrew Gillum

Democratic state Rep. Patrick Henry of Daytona Beach has thrown his support behind Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the 2018 governor’s race.

Henry is a first-term representative.

“Mayor Gillum will bring bold and needed leadership to our state’s most pressing issues including a stagnant economy that produces too many low-wage jobs, a health care system that leaves too many behind and a chronically underfunded education system,” Henry stated in a news release issued by Gillum’s campaign.

Gillum faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King for the Democratic nomination.

“Representative Henry’s support means the world to me,” Gillum stated in the release. “He has quickly made a name for himself in the legislature by serving the people of Volusia County with integrity and passion, and I’m proud to have his endorsement. Floridians are facing many imposing challenges, but with the help of leaders like Representative Henry, we can have the courage to finally lean in and address them.”

Florida Man thoughts on Georgia’s special election

Florida Man Steve Schale

Pretty close to exactly 12 years ago, I took the reins of the political operation of the Florida House Democratic Caucus. During my three years there, we picked up nine Republican districts, including two swing seat Special Elections, including a special in a ruby-red type district like Georgia 06.

We made the decision to play in this race for one after passing on a few other specials. Why? We had exactly the right candidate — and we had exactly the right GOP opponent.

It was in late 2007, and GOP State Representative Bob Allen had just resigned, the details of which I will leave to The Google. His district, in Brevard County, wasn’t exactly home team territory, but like GA 06, had one or two markers that at least piqued my attention.

The Republicans had a four-way primary, and in the process nominated arguably the worst possible candidate. one the Orlando Sentinel called “woefully unprepared” who “lacks even the basic knowledge of how Florida’s tax structure or its school system works.”

Needless to say, that ad wrote itself.

On the other side, we had basically the unicorn candidate, a well-regarded City Commissioner from the district’s population center, Tony Sasso. Sasso was a pure progressive on environmental issues, which gave him base bona fides, but was libertarian on enough issues to win over some right-leaning swing voters, and reasonable enough as a Commissioner to give moderate voters comfort. He was a well-liked known commodity.

Even with this perfect storm — the perfect candidate on our side, the perfect opponent, and the perfect setup for the race (again, you can Google it), we had to claw our way to a very narrow win.

For those of you who know me well, you know my basic political sandbox: Candidates matter. There were probably 25,000 other Democrats in that state House seat that would have lost, and with all respect to my friend Tony, we probably would have lost had the GOP just nominated a decent candidate.

So, what does this have to do with GA 06?

Keep in mind, over 70 Republicans in Congress come from seats better than this one, meaning GA 06 is the kind of place where everything has to be perfect. In fact, there is only one Democratic Member of Congress in a seat more Republican than Georgia 06, and not a single Republican in one similar for the other side.

For Florida readers, here are two markers: At R+8, GA 06 is more Republican than Dennis Ross and Mike Bilirakis‘ district, and more Republican than Ted Deutch‘s seat is Democratic. In terms of partisan voting, it is about equally partisan as Debbie Wasserman Schultz‘s seat. In other words, to win, literally everything has to be perfect — and even then, it’s often not enough.

And it wasn’t.

Taking nothing away from the campaign — I knew a lot of really smart people who did good work, and for the good of the cause, I think the party had to make some kind of an effort there (30 million was well beyond the point of diminishing returns), the basic matchup was uphill. Jon Ossoff, while an impressive young man, started out hardly more than a generic Democrat. The first time I spoke to one of my very smart Atlanta friends about Ossoff, she peppered her praise with a fair number of “but” to describe his weaknesses. Back when I was a candidate recruiter, I went out of my way to walk away from candidates whose qualities had to be modified by the word “but,” especially in seats like this.

Karen Handel, on paper, was a proven commodity. Take ideology and everything else off the test, and she wins the bio test. I don’t know if a more proven candidate, either some kind of prominent business leader, or prior elected, would have done better, but my gut says the odds are pretty decent. I was definitely in the camp that our best shot here was in the big primary.

Even in districts like this, the road to 45-47 percent, with enough money and a good enough candidate, can be smooth. But the road from there to 50+1 can be like climbing Everest without oxygen — sure it can be done, but it requires a really amazing climber and a fair amount of luck. Gwen Graham getting over the top in Florida 02 in 2014 (R+5 seat) when several others had come just short is a good example of this.

I don’t think Democrats should get too down on this one, or Republicans get too excited. Districts like this show that the map in 2018 is likely to be fairly broad. Take away the money spent in the seat, and I think most Dems would rightfully feel very good about it. As we saw in South Carolina tonight, there are a lot of places that are more interesting than they normally are.

Which gets back to the lesson. One of the biggest forgotten lessons of 2006 is the importance of recruitment. My side will never have the money to go toe-to-toe with Republicans everywhere. We have to have the “better” candidate in a lot of places to win, particularly due to gerrymandering that means we have to win more seats on GOP turf than they do on ours. At the Congressional level, the DCCC in 2006 fielded a rock-star slate of candidates. At the legislative cycle, in a year when we picked up seven GOP-held seats and held two Democratic open seats, we had the “better” candidate in almost every instance. We also recruited broadly, trying to find the best candidates we could in as many plausible seats as possible, to compete broadly, to give ourselves lots of options — and when the wave happened, the map blew wide-open. Had we not put the work in on the recruitment side — occasionally in places where a Democratic candidate had already filed, at best we would have gone plus 2 or 3, even with the wave.

At the same time, if we had more money, our +7 year might have been +10 or more.

Ossoff clearly has a bright future and would have won in a lot of places last night. But in many ways, his was a candidacy created from whole cloth, and funding and turnout operations alone won’t get just anyone across the line — especially somewhere like GA08. Even in this hyperpartisan environment, campaigns aren’t simply plug-and-play operations — they are choices.

When folks ask me what the national and state party should be doing, my answer is simple: Two things, recruit high-quality candidates and register voters.

And if Democrats expect to have success in November 2018, that is the work that must be done between now and then.

N.Y. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand hearts Gwen Graham for Governor

Gwen Graham scored a major national endorsement Tuesday when New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced backing Graham’s campaign for Florida governor.

“I am proud to join thousands of others in supporting Gwen Graham, a strong progressive leader, for Governor of Florida. In the age of Trump, we need courageous leaders like Gwen who will always put people over politics and aren’t afraid to stand up to anybody to do what is right,” Gillibrand said. “For her strength and leadership skills, her fortitude and passion, I offer my strongest endorsement of Democrat Gwen Graham for Governor of Florida. Take it from me: with Gwen Graham as governor, Florida will have a champion for progressive values in the Governor’s office.”

In the immediate aftermath of last year’s presidential election, Gillibrand was on the short list of potential Democrats to run for president in 2020. However, she quashed that talk early last month saying definitively she was ruling out such a run.

Nevertheless, it’s a big get for Graham, currently involved in a three-way race for the 2018 Democratic nomination against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King.

“After almost 20 years of Republican rule and with Donald Trump in the White House, Florida needs a governor who will stand up for our values and fight to strengthen public education, expand access to health care, and protect civil rights,” Graham said. “Senator Gillibrand is a warrior in Washington fighting for our shared values. Kirsten’s support and the support of women from across the country who share our mission to turn Florida blue is humbling and driving our campaign forward.”

Graham has previously earned the endorsement of Emily’s List, the national political action committee that backs pro-choice Democratic female candidates for office.

In the statement accompanying the announcement of Gillibrand’s endorsement, the Graham campaign made sure to mention that she earned a 100 percent rating from both NARAL and Planned Parenthood and co-sponsored legislation to renew the battle for an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Matt Caldwell releases video highlighting #2LaneTravels Work Days Tour

Rep. Matt Caldwell spent Friday afternoon elbow deep in shark carcasses.

The North Fort Myers Republican heaved the sharks onto a scale, weighed them and packed them back in ice, preparing them to be shipped. It was a dirty job in an industry that he will oversee if elected Agriculture Commissioner in 2018.

Caldwell kicked off his #2LaneTravels Work Days at Key Largo Fisheries in Key Largo on Friday. The statewide tour is a chance for Caldwell to showcase the industries that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversees.

“The Commissioner of Agriculture oversees all the blue collar jobs in Florida. If I’m going to be in charge of overseeing and regulating these jobs, I need to understand what goes into it,” said Caldwell. “The people who end up at top are the ones who started in the mail room. For me, the same thing is true here, if I can do the best job I can … if I’m blessed to come out on top, I have to understand (the jobs).”

Work days are a political tradition in the Sunshine State. Bob Graham, the state’s former Democratic governor and senator, made them a staple of his political career.

“Everyone knows Gov. Graham and his work days,” said Caldwell. “(It showed he) wasn’t afraid of doing hard work and was committed to understanding Florida top to bottom.”

Gov. Rick Scott held several work days during his first term in office, including selling doughnuts in Jacksonville and working as a park ranger at Hillsborough River State Park. Gwen Graham, a former U.S. and Democratic candidate for governor, is following in her father’s footsteps and doing her own workdays, including installing rooftop solar panels.

For Caldwell, the work days serve a dual purpose. While it helps it him better understand Florida, he’s also hopeful it will help Floridians better understand what the Agriculture Commissioner does.

“When you go around and try to explain to people who aren’t farmers, I remind them of the show ‘Dirty Jobs,’” he said. “Pretty much everything he does is what the Commissioner’s Office oversees.”

Caldwell said he expects future work days to include working on cattle ranches, with timber crews, and in tire shops.

Caldwell is one of four Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2018. Sen. Denise Grimsley, former state Rep. Baxter Troutman, and Paul Paulson have also filed to run.

Putnam, who can’t run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits, is running for governor.

Chris King brings home his ‘progressive entrepreneur’ campaign message

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and affordable housing developer Chris King pitches this scenario to Democratic crowds hungry for a rare statewide victory, and a blue governor’s office for the first time in 20 years:

“If you can imagine the gubernatorial debate of 2018, late October, we have a Republican, and we have a Democrat. And the time always comes where the Republican looks at the Democrat and says to the state of Florida, ‘You can’t trust this Democrat.’ Right? ‘This is a tax-and-spend liberal. They can’t create jobs. They can’t build businesses. They will ride this economy dead!’ It happens every time!” King, of Winter Park, said before a gathering of about 200 Democrats at the Orange County party’s monthly executive committee meeting Monday night.

“If I’m your nominee, I will be able to say in that moment, with the whole state watching, ‘On the contrary: not this Democrat! This Democrat created successful businesses, created jobs, delivered profit to investors, served customers. And this Democrat did all of that while honoring his progressive values,'” King continued.

“And then I’ll be able to look at the Republican in that moment, and say, ‘Mr. [Adam] Putnam, or Mr. [Richard] Corcoran, or Mr. [Jack] Latvala,’ or whoever comes out on top, ‘It was your party that rode this economy down, that created an affordable housing crisis. It was your party that said no to Medicaid expansion. It was your party that steered this party to the back of the pack,'” King continued. “And I will ask for the wheel back, and I will take it back, in 2018.”

And with that presentation, King, who built a fortune with development companies he insists he and his brother built from scratch, sought to distance himself from both his Democratic challengers, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, as well as the Republicans.

It’s a continuation of the “progressive entrepreneur” theme King initiated when he kicked off his campaign in Orlando two months ago. King criticizes Florida Republicans for overseeing a drop in inflation-adjusted wages and benefits, or doing nothing about it, and for, he said, leading Florida to place at the bottom of the nation’s 10 most populous states in per-capita income, productivity, gross domestic product, and mental health care services.

He pledges an economic program that would focus on minimum wage increases; steering capital to “home-grown” small businesses, rather than offering financial incentives to, as he said, set up low-wage satellite offices in Florida; creating workforce training institutes in community colleges; and using the state’s affordable housing trust fund for affordable housing.

King also ran through his commitments to all the rest of the state Democrats’ principal platform planks, including re-instilling respect and support for public schools and teachers; seeking health care for all, including accepting Medicaid expansion money; pushing adoption of the Florida Comprehensive Workforce Act, banning discrimination against the LGBTQ community; and staunchly supporting environmental protections and the development of solar and other alternative energies, including his pledge to take no campaign money from the sugar industry.

Yet while the environmental pledges may have drawn the loudest ovation, King’s “progressive entrepreneur” was the centerpiece of his campaign, and of his speech Monday night. He said it is based on his own business practices and philosophy, which he said provides living wages, full health care paid for by the company, and bonuses, for every employee, while the companies are “heavily philanthropic.”

“You can be a progressive, and believe in equality, and opportunity, and fairness, and justice, and care for the neediest among us. You can also marry that to entrepreneurship, to integrity, and hard work, and discipline, and stewartship. When those things are brought together, I’ve found in business it was a magical formula,” King said. “In government, it can be a game-changer for the Democratic Party.”

Gwen Graham taps Julia Gill Woodward to serve as campaign manager

Gwen Graham has tapped a longtime aide to run her 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

Julia Gill Woodward is taking over the reins of Graham’s gubernatorial campaign. Woodward has a long history with the former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee, serving both on her 2014 congressional campaign and working as her chief of staff.

“As a ninth-generation Floridian, Julia Woodward knows this state as well as anyone,” said Graham in a statement. “In 2014, she guided our team to victory in one of the most competitive races in the entire country. I’m confident, under her leadership, we will be ready to defeat any Republican and turn Florida blue.”

A Florida State University graduate, Woodward served ran Graham’s 2014 congressional campaign. She stayed on with Graham, a Democrat from Tallahassee, once she was elected, serving as her chief of staff. Her husband even gained notoriety for doing a backflip during the biennial office lottery, a good luck charm  since Graham was picked sixth and got her first choice of office.

Before joining the Graham campaign, she spent a year as the deputy campaign manager and the finance director for Keith Fitzgerald’s 2012 congressional bid. She also served stints as the statewide political director for Loranne Ausley’s CFO bid and the deputy finance director for the Florida Democratic Party.

While Woodward has effectively been running the campaign since Graham announced her bid, the announcement that she is taking over formally in the role of campaign manager comes a little over a month after the departure of Beth Matuga. The Democratic operative left the Florida Democratic Party’s Senate Victory arm to work for Graham, but left shortly after Graham’s campaign launched.

Phil Levine laying low in gubernatorial race

As Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and Chris King talked issues to a packed ballroom in their first Democratic gubernatorial forum Saturday at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Phil Levine was nowhere to be seen.

The Miami Beach Mayor isn’t officially running for anything (right now), so he’s on a different wavelength than his would-be Democratic competitors.

“I’m still thinking, I’m still exploring,” he said Saturday night, right before the commencement of official festivities at the FDP’s Leadership Blue Gala.

Of course, the question might be how well Levine might be received in a Democratic forum, considering he talked openly in Tampa last month of running as an independent.

On Saturday, he was trotting out what has become his adopted title — Radical Centrist.

“We’ll see where my product sells best,” is all he would say when asked if he was serious about going the indie route.

So far, Levine’s not making any commitments, saying only: “I should have some interesting news in the fall.”

The 55-year-old mayor was accompanied by his date, Caro Muriano. The two recently engaged, and are expecting a child.

 

Email insights: Gwen Graham shares her dad’s lessons of inspiration, political courage

Father’s Day is a time where kids (of all ages) honor the leading man in their lives; devoted dads who provide inspiration and love.

Gwen Graham knows a thing or two about inspirational fathers; her dad is former Governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham – a North Florida political legend beloved by many.

For Gwen, Bob Graham – pulling double duty as a father and Florida’s Governor – was a constant lesson in courage and encouragement.

“The example he set for me, as his daughter, about problem-solving and cooperation in politics are lessons I carry with me to this day,” Gwen writes. “Perhaps the most important thing I learned from him was to have courage in the face of politics.”

Graham – who is seeking her father’s old job as Florida Governor – says the state could use more “Bob Graham-style governing” as he was a progressive champion “before it was popular.”

“He stood up for our progressive values: like advancing women’s rights, protecting our environment, and he had the courage to oppose the war in Iraq,” she writes. “Dad always did what was right for Florida, regardless of the politics.”

Gwen also knows the value of sticking to your political guns: “I was attacked by lobbyists and special interests when I supported President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to shut down and clean up coal-fired power plants.”

Facing a potentially grueling statewide campaign, having the courage of conviction – and a supportive father who knows the ropes – is undoubtedly valuable.

And as she seeks her own legacy as a prospective governor, having a daughter such as Gwen, Bob Graham is indeed blessed this Father’s Day.

Florida Democratic Gala draws big stage, love fest for gubernatorial hopefuls

With another fourteen months to go before Florida Democrats choose their gubernatorial nominee, the most talked-about potential candidate wasn’t at the Leadership Blue Gala, one of the Party’s biggest events.

And he won’t decide if he’ll even run until (maybe) next year.

Nevertheless, Saturday afternoon’s forum in Hollywood — between Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and Chris King — was the biggest stage this year for grassroots Democrats to evaluate who might best be the one to end the 20-year exile from the governor’s mansion.

The FDP’s Leadership Blue Gala, taking place at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, was a “forum,” not a debate, emphasized Progressive Caucus Chair Susan Smith.

However, it became a veritable love fest (literally) between the three candidates.

“I love you,” Graham told Gillum at one point, before looking at King and saying that while she doesn’t know him as well, she loved him as well.

Graham enters the race as the candidate with the best name recognition; throughout the nearly 90-minute event, she separated herself as the public-education candidate.

“The education industry is rigged against our students,” Graham said. “After almost 20 years of Republican rule and under Rick Scott, Tallahassee has sold out our schools to the highest bidder. As governor, I will end high-stakes testing, end degrading school grades and end the lottery shell game. We’ll finally pay teachers what they deserve and make sure every student has an opportunity at success, no matter where they come from or where they live,” Graham said after the forum.

Gillum has been the most electric candidate on the circuit. A dynamic public speaker with a compelling personal story, the 37-year-old Tallahassee Mayor is staking himself out as the progressive choice.

“Can a progressive, whose values reflect in my opinion the majority of us win?” Gillum asked the audience. “In my opinion, it’s the only way we win, is by bringing those folks out to the ballot by telling them that we stand for them, too.”

King proved most interesting on Saturday, perhaps because it was his biggest stage yet for his nascent campaign.

“In my opinion,” he said, “I have double the burden to try to prove that I not only belong here, but that I can earn your trust as your next governor.” King then acknowledged he doesn’t have many long-standing relationships with political officials.

As the creator of the Elevation Financial Group, King developed a consortium of companies specializing in real estate investment, property management and property renovation. He talks relentlessly about how the state needs more affordable housing, chastising Republicans in Tallahassee for raiding the state’s affordable housing trust fund. “To

“To me, that is an attack on working families, it’s an attack on teachers, it’s an attack on law enforcement,” he said. “That is something the day that I’m elected governor.”

Gilliam spoke most passionately about the less fortunate: “We can’t focus our education system and improving the outcomes of our kids if the only jobs we’re creating in this state are low-wage jobs.”

“I’m for a higher minimum wage, I’m for the ‘Fight for $15,'” he continued, adding what the people really want is a working for a wage with dignity.

At one point, moderator Keith Fitzgerald asked the candidates what they felt is the biggest challenge facing Florida, the country and the world.

In her response, Graham name-checked the president, getting one of the night’s biggest cheers.

“The biggest challenge we have facing the United States without question is Donald Trump,” and that he was the biggest challenge facing the entire world, as well.

None of the candidates differed on core Democratic principles if elected governor, such as calling for the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, banning fracking and expanding Medicaid, but that may not be an option depending on what happens with the American Health Care Act in Washington D.C.

One interesting development occurred during the last question of the afternoon: Do the candidates support an open primary voting system, which would allow Republicans to vote in Democratic Party primaries and vice versa?

Party traditionalists frown on such a tactic, but Gillum and King enthusiastically embraced the idea.

Graham said she preferred a “Jungle Primary,” an election where candidates for the same elected office, regardless of respective political party, run against each other at once, instead of being segregated by political party.

Absent from Saturday’s was attorney and entrepreneur John Morgan, who has said he won’t make a decision about running for governor until 2018.

 

Gwen Graham picks up Nan Rich’s endorsement

As Florida Democrats gather for their Leadership Blue conference, gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has grabbed the endorsement of the former Democratic Senate minority leader who for many appeared to be the heart of the party during her failed 2014 run for governor.

Nan Rich, now a Broward County commissioner, has extended her endorsement to Graham, who faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King for the Democratic nomination in 2018.

“Gwen Graham has the integrity and ideas, the leadership qualities and real-life experiences to end the Republicans’ nearly two-decade hold on the governor’s office and put Florida on a progressive path forward,” Rich stated in a news release issued by Graham’s campaign.

“Gwen is the only Democrat for governor who has run against a Republican and won. Gwen is the only candidate for governor who has worked on the front lines of our public school system. She has been an advocate for women and children — and while in Congress she returned more than $2.5 million to seniors, veterans and families. Gwen is the only candidate for governor with a vision and actual plans to protect our environment and build an economy that works for everyone,” Rich added. “I’m thankful Gwen is carrying on her family’s tradition of public service, and like her parents, she truly cares about Florida and doing the right thing for Floridians.”

Rich served four years in the Florida House and eight years in the state Senate. Her 2014 bid for the Democrats’ nomination never gained traction against former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist who had switched parties, yet she hung in through the primary, intent on pushing Democratic policies.

“Nan Rich has spent her career in public service fighting for our shared progressive values and for Florida families,” Graham stated in the release. “I’m honored to have her support, and, as governor, I look forward to working work with Senator Rich to reverse the damage nearly two decades of one-party rule in Tallahassee has done to our state.”

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