Hillary Clinton Archives - Page 2 of 176 - Florida Politics

PPP poll shows Jeremy Ring with 6-point lead on Jimmy Patronis

A new poll shows Democrat Chief Financial Officer candidate Jeremy Ring holding a 6-percent lead over Republican incumbent Jimmy Patronis.

The survey by Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling finds 40 percent of voters supporting Ring, compared to 34 backing Patronis, with 26 percent of voters still undecided.

More striking, the polling sample included a plurality of voters who supported Republican Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Of those surveyed, 46 percent voted for Trump compared to 45 percent who voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton. The remaining 9 percent voted for another candidate in the race or did not vote.

While PPP advertises itself as a Democratic polling outfit, FiveThirtyEight gives the outlet decent marks. The poll aggregating site issued PPP a grade of “B” and says the pollsters historically call races correctly 80 percent of the time.

Patronis, appointed to his position by Gov. Rick Scott, stands as the only incumbent running for a Cabinet post this year. He’s raised $1.9 million in contributions to his campaign, compared to less than $400,000 raised by Ring.

In recent days, the candidates largely attacked one another.

Patronis last week launched a website attacking the criminal history of many Ring donors and highlighting a recent incident of a Ring consultant allegedly impersonating Patronis to access personal records.

Ring returned volley days later with a website attacking Patronis donors and alleging favoritism on the part of the CFO.

The new PPP survey included an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, with each party’s voters making up 41 percent of those surveyed.

As far as gender, women make up 53 percent of the sample, men the other 47 percent. In terms of race, 68 percent identified as white, 15 percent as African-American and 13 percent Hispanic or Latino. About 45 percent of voters fell between age 45 and 65, with 35 percent older than that and 20 percent between age 18 and 45.

The poll found a high level of energy among voters. A full 68 percent of voters said they were very excited to cast ballots and another 15 percent were somewhat excited, with another 15 percent not excited and 2 percent unsure.

Hillary Clinton to campaign alongside Andrew Gillum

Hillary Clinton will stump with Andrew Gillum on Oct. 23 in South Florida, the Gillum campaign announced Thursday.

The former First Lady and former Secretary of State has a history with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gillum. In 2016, the Tallahassee Mayor spoke on stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. It was rumored then that Clinton considered Gillum a potential running mate.

“I’m honored to have Secretary Clinton join me in Florida next month,” Gillum said in a statement. “Hillary knows just what’s at stake in this election — affordable healthcare, a brighter future for our children — and that the choice in this election could not be clearer.”

With Clinton’s support, Gillum will have corralled behind his campaign the top-two Democratic presidential candidates from 2016. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders traveled to the Sunshine State for two rallies alongside Gillum before the primary election.

Sanders and Clinton faced off in Florida in 2016, and Clinton took nearly two-thirds of the vote. In the general election in Florida that year, President Donald Trump beat Clinton by just more than a percentage point.

Trump has fully endorsed Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis and orchestrated a Tampa campaign rally for the former congressman ahead of the Aug. 28 primary.

Stephen Lawson, DeSantis’ communications director, drew a parallel between the FBI examination into Clinton’s use of a private email server for official business and the ongoing FBI investigation in Tallahassee.

The two “are the perfect corruption combination,” Lawson said. He cited developments in the FBI investigation, including Gillum’s boat ride with undercover FBI agents and the more than $2 million approved by the city for Adam Corey, a lobbyist and former friend of Gillum’s at the center of the investigation.

“I’m sure they’ll have lots to talk about when it comes to criminal investigations and dealings with the FBI,” quipped Lawson.

Taryn Fenske, spokeswoman for the Florida chapter of Republican National Committee, suggested that bringing in Clinton could “alienate” Gillum’s “far-left base.”

“Clinton’s sudden reemergence and fundraising tour will do far more to hurt Gillum’s cause than help it,” Fenske said. “Gillum’s socialist base isn’t going to like him aligning with Clinton who is tainted by decades of controversy and failed policies.”

Bill Nelson ‘died three years ago,’ Roger Stone quips to Palm Beach Trump supporters

Longtime Donald Trump ally Roger Stone was his usual self in remarks to Trump Club 45 PBC Monday night, spouting several attention-grabbing comments to the audience of Trump die-hards.

Stone dropped several eyebrow-raising one-liners (mostly in jest) during his speech at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, one of which concerning a prominent Florida contest.

“You have a U.S. Senate race between Gov. Rick Scott and Bill Nelson,” Stone started. “Bill Nelson died three years ago. Somebody forgot to tell him about it.”

As for Stone’s famous tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back: “I’m the only guy you know that has a dick on the front and the back.”

In addition to punchlines, Stone offered the Trump-loving crowd plenty of red meat.

First, there was media bashing: “I don’t get my news from CNN for the same reason I don’t eat out of the toilet.”

Next, about The New York Times, Stone harped on the fact that the paper’s top shareholder is Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who made hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the Clintons.

“Why would we believe a single word that is printed in The New York Times?” Stone charged.

He then moved into the realm of the conspiratorial. On the recent anonymous op-ed printed by the Times, Stone argued it was all a fabrication.

“Folks, I can tell you right now who wrote that editorial. No one. It’s a fraud. It’s a MacGuffin. It’s a con job on the American people.”

He once again called into question whether Russia even hacked the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election.

“There’s more forensic evidence that would indicate that the DNC was never hacked at all by anyone.”

Stone also touched upon the recent abuse allegations lobbied against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Stone framed the “dastardly accusations” as a “smear” against Kavanaugh, shredding the media for even reporting on them given the lack of a corroborating witness.

Stone, rumored to be a potential target of the Robert Mueller investigation, further elaborated on his current legal situation.

While describing claims of any sort of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign utter “bullshit,” Stone maintained: “I will never roll on Donald Trump. Michael Cohen, I am not.”

Toward the end of his remarks, Stone injected a minutes-long pitch for his legal defense fund.

“Everything you can send will be a godsend. This threatens to bankrupt my family. They have systematically attempted to ruin my business.”

Stone saved some of his most fiery comments for Republicans 2018 midterms strategy. He parroted the notion that the real wrongdoing of the 2016 election was the Barack Obama administration’s investigation into Russian collusion, rather than any potential collusion itself.

Midterm voters need reminding of that fact, Stone said, calling for some high-profile arrests.

“We need to expose the constitutional abuses, far worse than Watergate, of the administration of Barack Obama. And we have to demand the prosecution of Bill and Hillary Clinton.”

Of course, that elicited chants of “lock her up” from the audience, with one member suggesting Hillary be sent “to Guantánamo.”

With a closing shot, Stone clarified there’s no love lost between him and the Clintons.

“Bill and Hillary Clinton are the penicillin-resistant syphilis of the American body politic.”

Shawn Harrison

Frank Reddick crosses the aisle to back Shawn Harrison’s re-election bid in HD 63

Tampa City Council Chairman Frank Reddick has endorsed state Rep. Shawn Harrison in his re-election bid for Hillsborough County’s House District 63.

Tampa City Councilors are chosen in non-partisan elections, though Reddick is a Democrat and Harrison is a Republican. HD 63 is a swing seat that Harrison has held for three non-consecutive terms. In 2018, he faces Democratic attorney Fentrice Driskell.

“I have known and worked along-side Shawn Harrison for 12 years. Representative Harrison is a true bipartisan leader. He doesn’t just talk the talk. When Shawn was Chairman Pro-Tem of the Tampa City Council, he supported my efforts to make East Tampa a stronger community. When we asked for help to stop the evictions from Tampa Park Apartments, Shawn contacted HUD on our behalf and together we were successful,” Reddick said.

“He was the only Republican in the State to support my efforts for a special session on Stand your Ground. And when needy families had an opportunity for expanded Medicaid, Shawn once again crossed party lines to support the people back home. As a Representative in Tallahassee, he has shown the courage to stand up for what’s right for his constituents, even if it meant voting against his party,” he continued.

“For decades, Shawn has proven to not only me, but the thousands of constituents he’s represented over the years, that he is willing to tackle big problems and fight for what is right and fair for our community, regardless of political party,” Reddick said.

“Shawn Harrison fought to make sure our children have access to better schools and a brighter future with his support of Hope Scholarships. And Shawn even went so far as to donate hundreds of family books to the kids at Kimbell Elementary with his ‘Read Little Cougars’ challenge. Representative Harrison is there for us when we need him most and I’m excited to endorse him and continue my work with him to move our community forward and create better opportunities for all,” Reddick concluded.

Harrison was grateful for the resounding endorsement from the influential Democrat and former colleague.

“Chairman Reddick is a friend and former colleague on the Tampa City Council. He is one of the true statesmen of our region. He has been a leading voice in our community for decades. I welcome the chance to support Frank whenever I can, and I’m truly humbled to have his support,” Harrison said.

This isn’t the first time Reddick has endorsed Harrison in a state House election. Two years ago, when the Tampa Republican was up against Tampa City Councilor Lisa Montelione, Reddick was in Harrison’s corner. Other endorsements for Harrison have come in from the Florida Realtors, the Florida Police Benevolent Association and the Associated Industries of Florida.

To date, Harrison has raised $180,511 in hard money and has $106,890 of that cash in the bank. He also has another $130,410 on hand in his affiliated political committee, Committee for an Innovative Florida, for a total war chest of $237,300 at the end of August.

Driskell, meanwhile, has raised $146,650 for her campaign account and had $100,525 left to spend on Aug. 31. Her backers include Ruth’s List, an organization that helps Democratic women get elected.

HD 63 covers part of Hillsborough County, including portions of northern Tampa and the communities of Lutz, Pebble Creek, Lake Magdalene and Carrollwood. Democrats make up about 39 percent of the swing seat’s electorate, while Republicans hold a 32 percent share.

Harrison served in the House from 2010 to 2012, when former Democratic Rep. Mark Danish beat him by about 700 votes to flip the newly redrawn HD 63 despite raising less than $20,000 for his campaign compared to nearly $300,000 for Harrison.

Harrison reclaimed the seat in the 2014 cycle with a 5-point win over Danish, and in 2016 he emerged victorious in a tough re-election battle over Montelione. His sub 2-point victory came as Democrat Hillary Clinton carried the seat by double digits.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Sean Pittman: Far-left labels don’t apply to Andrew Gillum

If you believe the conventional wisdom of the Florida Governor’s race, voters have a stark choice between a Bernie Sanders Democrat and a Donald Trump Republican.

Andrew Gillum, who recently chose his primary opponent Chris King as his running mate, is indeed running against Republican Congressman and presidential acolyte, Ron DeSantis, with Jeanette Nunez for Lieutenant Governor.

It is indeed a glaring political contrast, but not in the way the DeSantis camp would have you believe.

I can’t speak for the Republicans — and won’t. However, the far-out description doesn’t fit Gillum, and it shouldn’t fly as campaign fodder in the November election.

Yes, Sanders did come to Florida and endorse Gillum. But, Gillum was a Hillary Clinton surrogate during the 2016 campaign and made her short list for running mate. Gillum was part of a four-member effort in Tallahassee that raised $500,000 for Obama’s first run as president in 2008.

Now, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is with Gillum as brother-in-arms; his primary opponent, Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, told Gillum to “go out and win the d— thing” as part of her endorsement. State Sen. Lauren Book, the daughter of one of the capitol’s most influential lawyer/lobbyists, also made the shortlist for Gillum’s running mate.

If you know Florida politics, this is not exactly the makings of a leftist cabal.

Besides those who support him, Gillum’s record as Tallahassee Mayor doesn’t suggest a socialist ideology either. In fact, the mayor-turned-gubernatorial candidate has pushed sensible policies that have fostered growth and development in the state’s capital city.

As Mayor, Gillum got rid of business license fees, revised the permitting process to make it more timely and refunded utility deposits to businesses in good standing. The changes made Tallahassee a better place for business and home to Florida’s fastest growing economy.

But, what about all that support from George Soros and Tom Steyer, the two billionaires most identified with progressive causes? Gillum may share political beliefs with the two, but he also appreciates the support from them and the full range of Floridians backing his campaign.

The reality is that many of these so-called progressive issues are becoming more mainstream by the day. Poll after poll shows a majority of Americans favor “Medicare-for-All.” People actually want affordable and accessible health care, including many Republicans who see the value in Medicare and Medicaid expansion as a way to improve medical services and lower drug prices.

Raising the minimum wage in Florida fails the radical-left standard, too.

You don’t need a poll, although several do show Floridians think the current state minimum wage of $8.25 needs to be raised, given our low-wage economy makes it difficult to make ends meet with only one job.

So, while it may be easy to mischaracterize Gillum as a member of the radical fringe, it’s just not true. Facts suggest otherwise.

As the campaign goes on, more and more Floridians will see Gillum for who for who use he is — a pragmatic candidate whose common-sense ideas are welcome by the voters and much more mainstream than many pundits think.

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Sean Pittman is the senior partner of the Pittman Law Group, a Tallahassee-based law firm and co-host of Sunday morning television talk show “The Usual Suspects.”

Caruso Bonfiglio

Analysis: ‘Blue wave’ could sweep up HD 89, boost Jim Bonfiglio

Now that the general election matchups are set in stone, Democrats have their eyes on several GOP U.S. House seats come November.

But some state races are showing signs they could flip as well, including House District 89 in Palm Beach County.

The contest is open as current state Rep. Bill Hager is term-limited. Last month, Ocean Ridge Mayor Jim Bonfiglio earned the Democratic nomination, while accountant Mike Caruso won the GOP nod.

Caruso embraced Donald Trump “bigly” in his primary race against Matt Spritz. The two traded barbs throughout the contest over who was the bigger Trump supporter.

Spritz hit Caruso for accepting money from a lawyer who had filed a lawsuit seeking to declare President Trump “incompetent.” Caruso fired back at Spritz after an old quote from Spritz resurfaced where he essentially declared himself a “never Trumper” during the 2016 campaign.

With Caruso the last (Republican) man standing, will his support of Trump help him turn out voters on Nov. 6? Or will it be a classic example of pushing to win the primary at the expense of the general election?

The enthusiasm gap is always given a hefty amount of attention leading up to the midterms. If Caruso’s goal is to motivate the Republican base to show up on Election Day, his strong showing of support for the President could do the trick.

While Trump has had historically low approval ratings throughout most of his time in office, his support among Republicans has hovered close to 90 percent for a while now.

Trump’s overall ratings are dragged down by disapproval from Democrats and Independents, and Democrats’ dislike of Trump is surely a factor in their high enthusiasm levels ahead of the midterms. It may be difficult for Caruso to win over those voters, so tying himself to Trump could help Caruso combat Democrats’ enthusiasm by compelling GOP voters to turn out on his behalf.

Or, it could push Democrats to turn out at even higher levels.

HD 89 was one of only six districts in the entire state to flip from voting for Mitt Romney in 2012 to supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to an analysis by MCI Maps. If that aversion to Trump has strengthened in the ensuing two years, that could spell trouble for Caruso.

However, Caruso does have the advantage of running to replace Hager, a Republican who ran unopposed in 2016. Hager has represented the district since 2010. That shows there is enough of a base of GOP support to push Caruso into the legislature into November.

But there’s a catch as well. While Hager did not face opposition in 2016, he survived tough challenges in both 2012 and 2014.

Hager won by just 5.4 percentage points in 2012. That margin dropped to 5 percentage points in 2014. If the political winds have shifted in favor of the Democrats in 2018, that gap could be closed, with or without Caruso’s strong defense of Trump.

Bonfiglio also maintains a lead in cash on hand, according to the most recent filings with the Florida Division of Elections. Bonfiglio holds just under $90,000, with Caruso sitting at just under $80,000.

Caruso has raised more money overall, earning more than $72,000 in outside donations. That nearly doubles Bonfiglio’s mark of $36,500. Both candidates have also loaned their campaigns about $200,000. But Caruso’s sizable expenditures during the primary have left him with slightly less cash for the general as it stands right now.

Democrats also turned out more voters in last month’s primary elections, beating out Republicans 12,437 to 12,028. Though there’s no guarantee that pattern will repeat on Nov. 6, it’s certainly not a bad sign for Democrats’ chances.

There’s still more than two months to go before the vote, meaning plenty could change between now and Nov. 6. But HD 89 is a race to keep an eye on, as it looks to be one of the more competitive state House elections in 2018.

Prediction: Mike Miller defeats Stephanie Murphy in CD 7

While most stories this week will focus on Florida’s high-profile races for Governor and U.S. Senate, the most exciting contest might well be for Congressional District 7 in Orlando. This race pits freshman Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy against state Rep. Mike Miller.

Miller just squashed businessman Scott Sturgill by 24 percent in the GOP primary — despite Sturgill’s spending advantage and the fact that two-thirds of the district’s Republicans live in Sturgill’s home county of Seminole.

In 2016 Murphy shocked political observers by defeating longtime Congressman John Mica. However, the feat seems somewhat less impressive when considered in context: Mica was a 24 -year incumbent who, by many accounts, failed to take Murphy seriously in a district that voted for Hillary Clinton by 7 points.

While District 7 is Democratic in a presidential year, Rick Scott won it by two points in 2010 and 2014. It’s well known that Democrats perform better in presidential years because of higher minority and youth turnout — however, the swing is stronger in District 7 because thousands of UCF students vote in presidential years but can’t be bothered to show up in gubernatorial years. Moreover, Miller has a history of outpacing the top of the ticket in his races.

Of course, money matters. In that respect, Murphy looks strong with over $2 million in the bank and more promised by Nancy Pelosi.

This is where I diverge somewhat from the metric-driven analysis so single-mindedly favored by D.C.’s chattering class. They seem to believe candidates are merely instruments controlled by talented consultants and whose only ability is to raise money. Those same data-driven experts would have never put money behind the Democrats gubernatorial nominee, Andrew Gillum, for instance. Nor did they put any credence behind Donald Trump in 2016.

Call me crazy, but I believe candidates matter.

If I was a betting man — wait, I am a betting man, so here’s goes nothing — I’m pushing all my chips in on Miller.

In his 2014 primary, Miller won 74 percent of the vote to the early favorite who ran a well-funded campaign. He then went on to defeat the incumbent, a popular former two-term Orange County Commissioner and now-state Senator, Linda Stewart. In 2016, in a district that voted for Clinton by 12 percent, Miller defeated Beth Tuura by 6 percent — a whopping 18-point swing.

Miller — a former Division 1 scholarship athlete — is a fierce competitor. He pitched for the North Carolina Tar Heels championship team in 1989 and later played for the Gators. Even if you don’t like baseball, it’s hard not to respect a guy who played for two elite teams. Campaigns are competitions — don’t underestimate a candidate whose desire to win has been tested in the ACC and SEC.

Lastly, as much as it pains this Seminole to praise a Gator, Miller is the real deal. I know his slogan sounds simple, but just ask yourself, do you actually know anyone who’s met Mike and doesn’t like him? “I Like Mike,” will be something you hear a lot in the coming weeks and — simple or sublime — it accurately reflects most folks’ feelings about Mike.

Here’s my prediction: The first poll will show well-known, incumbent Congresswoman Murphy up, but what won’t be reflected in the poll will be the fact that in this almost evenly divided district Republicans will come home and like in previous off-year elections, they will turn out in larger numbers than Democrats.

Why? Well, because people like Mike.

Here’s how I see the race breaking down.

First, look at how much better Scott is doing against Bill Nelson with Hispanics and particularly, Puerto Ricans, who dominate the Hispanic voter rolls in Central Florida. Miller is a favorite of Scott’s and since his race will be right under the U.S. Senate on the ballot, he will benefit from the Governor’s savvy and hard work with local Puerto Ricans.

Second, the national Democrats supporting Murphy will almost certainly overplay their hand by trying to compare Miller to Trump. These inevitable (but implausible) attacks will invite the more accurate comparison between Murphy and Pelosi, in response. In every poll I’ve ever seen, Trump beats Pelosi, so Democrats nationalize this race at their peril. In watching news interviews like the one Murphy gave to WESH’s Greg Fox or the League of Women Voter’s candidate forum she is not a particularly effusive candidate.

Third, this district is a siren song to Democrats. Seduced by Clinton’s strong numbers in 2016, their hopes are likely to be dashed unless national Republicans are fooled by the same deceptive numbers. In 2016, Trump lost college-educated Republican women. Trump has consolidated the Republican vote and is now much more popular among Republicans than he was in 2016, which would help any Republican nominee in this race. Moreover, no one will be able to credibly turn Mike Miller into Donald Trump and make college-educated women despise him.

Another positive is fellow college baseball star Ron DeSantis who will be able to turn out those so-called Trump voters like no other Republican.

It’s easy to use a simplistic system like rating congressional districts based on generic Republicans and generic Democrats. But this district doesn’t have a generic Republican or a generic Democrat — this district has an unsure Democrat and a likable Republican.

That’s why for Congressional District 7, the Schorsch rating would be: Leans Mike Miller.

How the FBI f*cked Andrew Gillum

Unless a caravan of black Chevy Suburbans is spotted this week arriving at Tallahassee’s City Hall, that town’s mostly ceremonial mayor, Andrew Gillum, will have progressed through the entire Democratic primary for Florida governor.

That’s without being charged — or, perhaps more importantly, exonerated — by the FBI as part of its investigation into public corruption in the Capital City.

A year ago, rumors swirled throughout Tallahassee that arrests, including Gillum’s, were imminent. Then nothing happened.

Six weeks later, the whispers started again. And, just as before, there were no handcuffs in sight.

In July, the Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeff Burlew reported a story headlined, “‘Indictment Eve’? Charges could come soon in FBI probe, experts say.” But Indictment Day never materialized.

Such is the ebb and flow of a saga which began in June 2017 when FBI agents delivered subpoenas requesting thousands of pages of records from key players in Tallahassee government.

Gillum insists that he is not the target of the federal probe, but admits his longtime friendship with Adam Corey, a lobbyist who appears to be at the center of the investigation, and a trip to Costa Rica in which Gillum paid cash for his share of a rental house shared with Corey and others, have made him a subject of scrutiny.

Corey very well could be arrested. So, too, could Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox. Gillum could be implicated. Or not.

But it’s likely nothing will happen before Aug. 28, when Florida Democrats choose their nominee for Governor.

As the Tampa Bay Times recently reminded readers, an unofficial, but often-cited Department of Justice regulation states that federal law enforcement officials are not to discuss or act on investigations within 60 days of an election.

We all witnessed what happened when James Comey violated this unofficial rule, by sending a bombshell letter to Congress that the bureau was looking to examine new evidence relevant to Hillary Clinton’s email case. Doing so changed the course of history.

The stakes in Florida are nowhere near as high as they were in the fall of 2016, but the FBI, by taking no action one way or the other in this case, has done as much damage to Gillum’s campaign as Comey did to Clinton’s.

Point blank: The FBI f*cked Andrew Gillum.

Now, it’s still possible Gillum will prevail next Tuesday, but that’s doubtful. If not, it will be difficult not to think what might have been.

If Gillum loses, it will be because not enough black voters realize Gillum is black.

Seriously.

Gillum, a strong, progressive black candidate, should be the overwhelming choice of the monolithic black vote.

He’s not.

Matt Isbell, a data consultant who’s supporting Gwen Graham, said recent polls show Gillum with a maximum of 30 percent support among black voters, far shy of the 70 percent the mayor is counting on.

And why don’t more black voters know about Gillum? Because Gillum’s campaign has not, at least until recently, raised the kind of money necessary to introduce himself to enough voters, black or otherwise.

And Gillum wasn’t able to raise serious money early on because (you can already see where this is going), he was dogged by the FBI investigation.

Democratic donors, still scarred by what happened with the FBI and Clinton, were unwilling to bankroll another candidate who, if he were to be the nominee, could be filleted by the Republicans if it turned out there’s more than smoke at the center of the dumpster fire in Tallahassee.

So Gillum has persevered and is, perhaps, surging at the end. The most recent polling shows that he has moved into third place, ahead of Jeff Greene and his millions of dollars.

Bernie Sanders was in-state for him over the weekend, delivering an earned media bonanza. There’s even a poll showing Gillum in second place with Democrats in the Panhandle, a region his campaign says it’s not even targeting with TV ads.

There is a powerful photograph of Gillum from this weekend and Bernie Sanders isn’t anywhere near it. The shot is of Gillum sitting alone during a Tampa NAACP candidate forum. Of the five Democrats running for Florida governor, he was the only one to show up.

Despite the horrible start to his campaign and in the face of a scandal which has perpetually swirled around him, Gillum has shown up every day of this primary campaign. Even his critics must acknowledge that.

Unfortunately for Gillum, just as the day Donald Trump first tweeted his support for Ron DeSantis is the most important moment for the Republican, the key moment on the Democratic side was June 2017 — when the FBI started demanding records from Gillum’s City Hall.

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Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post, republished with permission. 

Democrats ease into standard responses in final governor’s race debate

Anyone hoping Florida’s five Democratic candidates for Governor would break new ground in the final debate Thursday night may have left disappointed.

On stage, each candidate mainly stuck to the standards, with only a couple of questions eliciting any form of surprise.

Andrew Gillum, Jeff Greene, Chris King, Philip Levine, and Gwen Graham all pulled more punches than in previous debates, with just a few recycled squabbles — mostly centering on Graham’s record as a moderate member of Congress.

Graham also took a couple more shots for her family’s involvement in the development of the American Dream Miami megamall, as well as a brief flurry of jabs between Levine and Greene over the Palm Beach billionaire’s encounters with President Donald Trump.

On issues, the quintet renewed the standard commitments: Increasing public education funding; pushing for minimum wage increases; higher-paying jobs; standing up to the gun lobby; seeking repeal of the Stand Your Ground laws and fighting special interests to address the water flows creating the toxic algae blooms east and west of Lake Okeechobee.

Hosted by WPBF-TV in West Palm Beach and co-sponsored by the Florida Press Association, the debate provided the candidates a chance to restate a handful of distinctive policy ideas: Levine’s Education Security Administration to focus on school safety; King’s bullet tax and a ban on death penalties; Gillum’s Medicare-for-all style health care plan; Graham’s proposal for an executive order to ban sales of assault weapons and Greene’s commitment to spend $100 million or more of his own fortune to counter Republicans’ usual advantages in campaign money.

But this was a last-chance statewide appearance before the Aug. 28 Democratic gubernatorial primary, and most of the debate played out as a multipart closing statement on positions Floridians already heard through the first four debates.

“This is not a drill,” warned Graham, as the latest front-runner in polling. Her pitch was that as the party’s nominee — “whoever she is” — it needs to be someone, a mom, who can appeal to everyday Floridians.

“What I bring to voters is the best of the private sector mixed with the best of the public sector,” said Levine, the former Miami Beach Mayor and businessman.

“The Democratic Party is alive and well and kicking. The problem is we’ve been outspent by Republicans over and over again,” said Greene, the self-made billionaire from Palm Beach who is self-funding his campaign. “That’s going to be different this year. I have the resources.”

“We have got to come to them with big ideas that will fix their solutions. That’s how we defeat Donald Trump, not by calling people names, but by solving problems,’ said King, the Winter Park entrepreneur.

“Florida can’t be just a cheap-date state,” said Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor who argues the state’s corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes.

Some more telling moments in the debate came through cameo appearances through questions or answers: Trump, Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida gun lobbyist Marion Hammer, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, currently the Republican gubernatorial front-runner

One Trump moment set Greene and Levine on each other.

Campaigning as the Democrat who can, as governor, take on Trump, Greene said he has taken on Trump, in the president’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago country club, of which Greene is a member.

“He couldn’t be worse!” Greene declared.

Hold on, hold on, Levine braked.

The former Miami Beach Mayor charged Greene with praising Trump in the past, and not publicly opposing him until after taking office, all while ignoring offensive things Trump said (or done) on the campaign trail. During that time, Levine was working hard on Democrat Clinton’s campaign.

“You said he was a great guy! I gotta tell you something. Seriously?” Levine exclaimed.

He then interrupted the next question to get to it: “It sounds like you’re more like Donald Trump! And I think one Donald Trump is enough!”

“Well, Phil,” Greene shot back, “first of all, I’m the only one who has stood up to Donald Trump. And this nonsense about your supporting Hillary Clinton? … When I was running for the United States Senate in 2010, you gave money to Marco Rubio!”

“I did what Barack Obama did, what Hillary Clinton did,” Greene explained. “The same day. I said: ‘You know, we have to stand behind our new leader.”

During the debate, Graham was tripped up by the Clintons, and badly.

Among a handful of questions directed at a single candidate, Palm Beach Post reporter George Bennett pointed out that the Clintons were bad luck to some other campaigns; he wondered if Graham, for whom Bill Clinton campaigned in 2014 for her congressional run, would welcome him back to campaign for her.

She refused to answer, even when moderator Todd McDermott, a WPBF news anchor, pressed her a second time, asking for a direct answer. Instead, Graham talked about how she fits into the #MeToo movement, and how Florida’s gubernatorial election would be a national race likely to attract many people from other states to campaign.

Levine seized on her reluctance, again interrupting another question to make his point: “If one of the greatest presidents in American history wanted to come down and campaign with me, I would welcome him with open arms. He was a great president, President Clinton, and a wonderful secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.”

Levine soon found himself on the receiving end of perhaps the toughest directed question of the night; Miami Herald reporter Nancy Ancrum pointed out that during his administration as Miami Beach Mayor Levine was known at times to be anti-media, blocking and punishing critics.

Ancrum asked what sort of governing style Levine might bring to the governor’s office.

“Did I get things done? No question about it,” he said, adding with a big smile: “Have I learned a little more patience, no question about it.”

Nary mentioned once was the other major Republican gubernatorial candidate, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. DeSantis made an appearance only when King talked about how much DeSantis is running exclusively on his full support of Trump.

It led to one of the best lines of the night, from King: “Ron DeSantis is likely to become the Republican nominee. That should be terrifying to Floridians across this state. He is competing to be Donald Trump’s apprentice.”

King would be ready to counter that, he argued.

In an evening where most questions were asked before in four previous Democratic debates (or widely discussed in the 15-month campaign), and most of the answers had become rote, Gillum was the perhaps the only candidate who elicited even the slightest amount of emotion.

Nevertheless, the Tallahassee Mayor only did so only at the very end, in the final seconds of the debate.

As usual, Gillum did it with a personal story.

This time he talked about how his grandmother would watch him and his brother and sister early in the morning after his parents had dropped them off with her so they could go off to early-starting jobs.

Gillum recalled: “She would take her olive oil and anoint my head at the top so that no harm would come our way. And then she would have a saying, where she would say, ‘Boy, go to school. Mind your teachers. Get your lessons. And bring that education home, for your little brother, your little sister, for the neighbor down the street, for your mama and your daddy who get up every single day to work to support you, and to keep a roof over your head and clothes on your back.'”

“We have forgotten that we can do good — all of us.”

Tom Steyer’s ‘NextGen Climate’ opens state-level political committee

A group connected to activist Tom Steyer has opened a state-level political committee, signaling that the San Francisco billionaire has more plans for the Sunshine State in 2018.

NextGen Climate Action Committee was added to the Florida Division of Elections political committee database on Tuesday. The national version of the climate change-focused group is one of many operating under Steyer’s “NextGen America” banner.

The committee listing for the Florida spinoff names Chris Fadeff as chairman. Fadeff serves as the chief financial officer and vice president of legal for NextGen America. He has worked for the advocacy group since 2013, the year it was founded.

The committee’s treasurer is Rita Copeland, who holds the same position at the national NextGen Climate Action Committee according to Federal Elections Commission records.

Both Fadeff and Copeland list their address as a Washington DC office belonging to international law firm Perkins Coie, which represents a number of corporate and political clients, including serving as counsel to Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential campaign.

Carly Cass, who serves as youth organizing director of NextGen Florida, is listed as the new committee’s registered agent. The Tampa-based operative is the committee’s only listed officer with a Florida address.

Florida Politics reached out to the contact number listed by the committee but did not receive a response.

Back in February, Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, NextGen alongside two other anti-gun violence activist groups announced they’d spend $1 million to register eligible high schoolers to vote.

In March, Steyer said NextGen America would to spend as much as $3.5 million in the 2018 cycle to register, engage and turn out young voters across the state of Florida. The group also announced it aimed to defend Florida’s 7th Congressional District, held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, and flip Florida’s 18th Congressional District, held by Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast.

Last month, NextGen America announced it was backing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary for Governor and that it would put $1 million behind his bid — $500,000 via a grant from Steyer to Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida, with the other half coming from elsewhere.

That adds up to $5.5 million in commitments this cycle, and with the new political committee there could be more announcements on the way.

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