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Ron DeSantis reels in most matching funds

Florida’s matching-funds program pumped $142,665 more into the governor’s race on Friday.

The program, which matches contributions of $250 or less for gubernatorial and Cabinet candidates who qualify, sent a check worth $79,488 to Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis and $63,177 to Democrat Andrew Gillum.

DeSantis, a Northeast Florida congressman, has now received $1.055 million from the program, while Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, has collected $558,241, according to numbers posted on the state Division of Elections website.

Former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, the Republican candidate for attorney general, received $35,574 on Friday. She has received $380,175 from the program. Her Democratic opponent, state Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa, didn’t get a check on Friday but has received $222,702 from the state.

Republican state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis got $350 on Friday, bumping his campaign’s state assistance to $305,105. Democrat Jeremy Ring, a former state senator running for chief financial officer, has not entered the program.

Overall, the state has provided nearly $5.2 million to candidates, including four who failed to win primaries — gubernatorial candidates Gwen Graham and Adam Putnam, attorney-general candidate Ryan Torrens, and agriculture-commissioner candidate Denise Grimsley. The gubernatorial race has accounted for $3.9 million of the state matching funds. In 2014, candidates drew $4.1 million from the state program during the primary and general elections.

Florida Democrats hit ‘right-wing extremist’ Ron DeSantis on health care

The Florida Democratic Party (FDP) is out with a new campaign hitting Republican gubernatorial candidate and former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis on his long-running opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

The FDP released a new video titled “DeSantisCare,” as well as a new website looking to highlight DeSantis’ health care record. We reached out to the DeSantis campaign for comment on the FDP’s efforts and are awaiting a reply.

The video and website pose as mock ads for the new “DeSantisCare.” While purporting to sell viewers on the idea of DeSantisCare, the new video and site are littered with jabs at the Republican’s health care proposals.

“Are you a senior who is tired of Medicare and just want to be uninsured?” the video’s narrator asks.

“Are you against protections for pre-existing conditions? If yes, then this is big.”

The video then cuts to a clip of DeSantis on Fox Business saying, “I want to repeal all of Obamacare.”

“From Ron DeSantis, there’s now a health care plan that will make sure you pay more for less: DeSantisCare,” the narrator continues.

The parody video then turns to claims of what DeSantis’ health care policies may mean for Florida, interspersed with other past clips of DeSantis criticizing Obamacare’s efforts to reform the nation’s health care system.

“Enjoy the golden years with higher prices, below-average care and increased risk of death,” the narrator says.

“While using DeSantisCare, go to the emergency room immediately if you experience foot in mouth, diarrhea, MAGA, increased anxiety, Fox News addiction, paranoid conspiracy theories, headaches or a fever. These are not all the possible side effects, as DeSantisCare may make existing problems worse.”

DeSantis has long opposed Obamacare and voted to repeal and replace the law with the American Health Care Act. Those efforts died in the Senate last year.

“Ron DeSantis has consistently voted against Florida’s seniors and working families in Washington,” said FDP Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo.

“Instead of putting Florida families first, DeSantis is a right-wing extremist who has voted to take away Floridians’ health care, raise health care costs, take away protections for pre-existing conditions, and destroy Medicare. DeSantis failed to stand up for Floridians in Washington — so why would we want to give him a promotion?”

DeSantis is competing with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to be Florida’s next Governor. DeSantis announced Monday morning he was resigning from Congress immediately in order to focus on his campaign against Gillum.

#FlaPol in Review: A weekend roundup

Professional football is underway. And so is professional politicking.

Consider this a highlight reel of Florida politicians’ activity from over the weekend.

Vice President Mike Pence hit the trail for Rick Scott:

Bill Nelson, who’s fighting to keep his Senate seat, touted the endorsement of two Puerto Rican mayors this weekend:

From Ron DeSantis :

Andrew Gillum held a rally in Orlando:

Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw spoke with University of Florida Democrats:

Agriculture Commissioner hopeful Nikki Fried joined Gillum at the Orlando rally:

Jeremy Ring, who’s running for CFO, also attended:

Incumbent CFO Jimmy Patronis welcomed Scott on the campaign trail :

U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana RosLehtinen attended the Miami Hurricanes home game:

Rep. Gus Bilirakis is representing the Buccaneers at the U.S. Capitol:

Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy canvassed Oviedo:

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith also is out on the trail in Orlando:

A slew of Northeast Florida lawmakers aided state Rep. Jackie Toledo on the trail this weekend:

State House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who’s running against incumbent state Sen. Dana Young, attended the annual FEA conference.

 

Whom do you believe: Andrew Gillum or his Michael Cohen?

Let’s give Andrew Gillum the benefit of the doubt.

When he says that the FBI told him he is not the target of an investigation into the city of Tallahassee, it’s pretty easy to believe him because, from the surface level, it appears City Commissioner Scott Maddox is the politician with the crosshairs trained on him.

To refresh: Gillum has been linked to the FBI investigation thanks to his ties to Adam Corey. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Corey, a lobbyist and entrepreneur, has been named in at least three subpoenas related to the public corruption probe. Corey’s $2.1 million loan in local tax money to renovate the Tallahassee-based Edison Restaurant is part of the FBI probe.

Gillum has steadfastly maintained that he is not the subject of the federal inquiry and that he has cooperated with investigators, turning over thousands of pages of documents.

As clumsy as it was, Gillum’s effort to publicly release receipts that he says show he paid for travel that is currently under investigation by the state’s ethics commission has reduced the affair, at least politically, to just another case of whataboutism.

When Republicans suggest that those receipts do nothing to shed light on Gillum’s luxury trips to Costa Rica and New York City with lobbyists and undercover FBI agents, Gillum’s campaign gets to blast Ron DeSantis for backing Donald Trump‘s undermining of the FBI’s probe into Russian electoral collusion.

“You’ve got a Republican in Ron DeSantis who’s spent the last year obstructing the FBI, attacking the FBI and trying to discredit the FBI. And now he has the gall to talk about an FBI investigation that Andrew Gillum has been cooperating with and trying to help them resolve. They’ll attack us on that, and we’ll go right back at it,” Scott Arceneaux, a former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party who’s a senior consultant on Gillum’s campaign, told the News Service Florida.

To bottom line it: The FBI investigation into Gillum’s City Hall is mitigated by the FBI investigation into Trump’s White House. This is part of the reason why the first round of public polls is deadlocked while showing intensity among each candidate’s political base.

But here’s what is still concerning about Gillum and those receipts: has he left himself vulnerable to a perjury charge?

Immediately after Gillum disclosed bank records to show he withdrew $400 to pay for his share of the $1,400-a-night Costa Rica villa that was shared by several couples, an attorney for Corey disputed that account, according to Gary Fineout of The Associated Press.

The attorney said Corey won the Costa Rica lodging through a charity auction and “to date Mr. Corey has not received any cash from the mayor.” He added that Corey did not purchase or swap for a ticket to the Broadway show “Hamilton,” which Gillum and his brother took in as part of their trip to New York City.

“The idea that Marcus Gillum would have exchanged something for the ‘Hamilton’ ticket is nonsense,” Corey’s attorney, Christopher Kise, told Fineout.

So, again, let’s concede that Gillum isn’t the target of the FBI investigation. Let’s even concede that, in the end, even if it finds Gillum responsible for something involving that travel, the state’s ethics commission really doesn’t have the teeth to bite him.

And, finally, let’s concede that even if the ethics commission does ultimately fault Gillum, it won’t matter a lick with those supporting him because they’re as against DeSantis/Trump as they are for Gillum.

All of that is conceded. But the issue still remains: Gillum provided testimony to state investigators that he paid Adam Corey cash for that trip to Costa Rica. Gillum provided testimony to state investigators that his brother had obtained a ticket to Hamilton in a swap for a concert ticket.

Corey, who has been a friend to Gillum their entire adult lives and who once served as Gillum’s campaign treasurer, is publicly stating that is a lie.

This leaves the situation with three possibilities.

One, Gillum is telling the complete truth, Corey is lying and the investigation will bear that out. Gillum essentially wins.

Two, the truth is somewhere in between what Gillum and Corey are saying and the investigation will conclude without determining who is really telling the truth. Gillum wins by default.

Three, Gillum is lying and Corey has given sworn testimony to the contrary. And he’s able to produce some sort of documentation to undermine Gillum’s statements. Gillum could be in big trouble.

(Update — 7:42 a.m. — I guess there is a fourth possibility. Gillum could be lying, but his statements to investigators were not made under oath and therefore he might lose in the court of public opinion but he would not be in legal jeopardy.)

In an ironic way, the showdown between Gillum and Corey is similar to that of Trump and his former fixer, Michael Cohen, who blew away the president’s credibility by providing federal prosecutors with evidence that Trump was lying.

Might Corey have similar evidence?

What if he has an email from the days when FBI agents weren’t camped out in the capital reminding his then-friend Andrew that he needed the cash for that trip they took to Costa Rica? What if there is a loose text message to Gillum’s brother, Marcus, that contradicts the ticket swap story?

Who knows what is out there.

Right now, Corey is the most intriguing character in Tallahassee. For more than a year, he has walked around town clearly having been taken down several pegs. But he still has that twinkle in his smile and he remains a charismatic figure. He has one of the best-connected lawyers in the state representing him.

And it’s obvious he wants to tell someone — everyone — that he’s not 100 percent to blame for what has gone down in this extraordinary saga.

Everyone assumes Corey has struck a deal with prosecutors.

What he might have had to say as part of a deal could be what decides the fate of Florida’s gubernatorial race.

___

Material from The Associated Press and the News Service of Florida was used in this post. 

Andrew Gillum at Orlando rally: Cowardly Donald Trump ‘won’t @ me, y’all’; RNC responds

Andrew Gillum, Democratic candidate for governor, told an Orlando crowd Saturday that President Donald Trump fearfully avoids him on social media.

“The president is real savvy on his Twitter feed. He tends to talk about me in Montana and other places,” Gillum said. “But he’s unfortunately a little cowardly. He won’t @ me, y’all.”

Indeed, the only time Trump has mentioned Gillum via Twitter came when he congratulated Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis for winning Florida’s GOP primary. Then, Trump called Gillum a “Socialist Mayor” who let crime flourish in Tallahassee. But he failed to use Gillum’s Twitter handle, @AndrewGillum, which would have sent a notification to the Democratic candidate.

Regardless, Gillum did see the tweet, and he (or campaign team members managing his Twitter account) offered a response 13 minutes after Trump’s original post that did employ the president’s favored handle.

Republican National Committee officials, for their part, say Trump had Gillum pegged, and said an FBI investigation of the Tallahassee mayor would bear that out.

“President Trump was correct when he called Gillum a ‘failed socialist mayor,’” said Taryn Fenske, RNC spokesperson.

Fenske alleged the FBI investigation would determine Gillum used his office for personal gain in accepting gifts from undercover agents and awarding lucrative contracts to his campaign treasurer. The Gillum campaign maintains the candidate is not the subject of the investigation but his critics have hammered him on an incomplete release of receipts.

“Gilllum has no idea how to run the city of Tallahassee, let alone the entire state of Florida,” Fenske said.

Trump came up Saturday at a Gillum’s official campaign kickoff, which drew about 1,200 people the Orlando Downtown Recreation Center to hear he and running mate Chris King, as well as U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, rally supporters around the Democratic ticket’s message of restoring dignity to Florida’s working class.

In Gillum’s speech, he spoke more often about Trump and outgoing Gov. Rick Scott, now the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, than he did of DeSantis.

But he did mention his Republic opponent in an effort to tie him more directly to the president.

“Ron DeSantis wants to call names. He wants to divide,” Gillum said. “He wants to return to the politics of Donald Trump. But on Nov. 6, Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump, they have another thing coming.”

While Gillum won the nomination largely through winning strong Florida’s major cities, he told supporters in Orlando he planned to campaign everywhere in the state leading up to the general election.

He referenced a primary visit to The Villages, a Republican bastion, where he said around 500 people showed up. “Almost none of them with a face that looked like mine, but that’s okay,” said Gillum, the first black Democratic nominee for governor.

The event, he said, turned into a small-donation fundraiser and his campaign pulled in about $6,000.

In terms of succeeding Scott in the governor’s mansion, DeSantis said he would accept money to expand Medicaid and any federal grants for high-speed rail, money he said Florida turned down because of a dislike of ObamaCare and the Obama stimulus.

He also promised to trust scientists on climate change and global warming.

But in an apparent pushback on that ‘socialist’ label from Trump and others, he also stressed the importance of business owners getting access to capital and promised to make Florida a leader in innovation in the nation.

See Gillum’s full speech here:

‘Monkey this up’ flap a ‘nothingburger,’ says Ron DeSantis

Over a week after saying that electing Andrew Gillum governor would “monkey this up,” Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis is still defending his choice of words even on friendly media outlets.

Saturday saw the Congressman from Marineland on Fox News Channel with Neil Cavuto, when the longtime host asked DeSantis if he regretted using a turn of phrase characterized in many quarters as a racist “dogwhistle” comment.

“It’s a phony controversy,” DeSantis said, a distraction from Gillum’s proposal to raise corporate taxes from five to seven percent.

When asked if he would use the phrase again, DeSantis exclaimed “of course not! Of course not,” before lapsing back into a de facto defense of the phrasing.

“People are going to demagogue what you say,” DeSantis contended, adding that “the voters know this is a nothingburger … I’m not going to be derailed by these controversies.”

DeSantis appeared Saturday morning with his pick for Lt. Gov., Miami-Dade Rep. Jeannette Nunez.

Nunez has been compelled to walk back a tweet she put out ahead of the Florida primary that called President Donald Trump (DeSantis’ political patron) the “biggest con-man there is,” and though Cavuto didn’t post the tweet on screen, he did ask if Nunez was comfortable with Trump campaigning for the ticket.

“Absolutely,” Nunez said, citing the “continued progress” Trump has been able to bring to the United States.

“We’re going to do the same for Florida,” Nunez vowed.

The Republican ticket may need Trump both on the stump and on the fundraising circuit if the first week’s receipts are any indication.

In the week between the primary and Aug. 31, Gillum raised $4,027,927.15, compared to DeSantis’ $527,879.53.

Polls of the race thus far say it is too close to call.

Blake Dowling: It’s time for politics … and college football

As the glow of opening college football weekend wears off, and the tornado of Andrew Gillum versus Ron DeSantis begins, I read a very refreshing column this week from Skip Foster about non-biased reporting. Bottom line: If both sides of the coin are giving you heat, you must be playing it fair.

However, I did notice he did not mention Gillum’s opponent by name. Check it out, and thank you Skip for your insight.

Speaking of Gillum, there is a massive amount of “noise” (as they say in college football) surrounding his run for the Florida’s highest office. If you know Andrew personally, he is a nice guy. However, his incredible win could be overshadowed by the “noise” surrounding him if he is not careful.

There was more noise this week.

(Agent Whitesnake and lobbyist)

Speaking of “noise,” if you haven’t seen pics (or met) the FBI agents associated with most of this “noise,” who were rolling around North Florida, Vegas, and New York for over two years, hats off to Agent Whitesnake. This dude was way, way undercover.

 

In fact, we are still patiently waiting to see what exactly they uncovered.

One thing is for sure regardless of the FBI and Agent Whitesnake, there will be more college football this Saturday. The analogies and parallels between football, politics and business are always a spectacular topic. We need to “huddle up,” take a “timeout,” “coach up” the team, are just a sliver of the sports terms that we use in our professional lives.

Of course, there is also friendly banter among rivals when talk of football is afoot.

I saw a great tweet from Jimmy Patronis hazing Chris Dorworth over the epic Steve Spurrier Dos Equis ad that ran during the Nole collapse.

I had to weigh in with an old school Bobby Bowden Hardee’s clip comeback. Classic.

Nothing like friendly digital sparring with civilized sports fans. Jimmy must have enjoyed the Hardee’s clip as he liked the tweet.

Check out the 1986 gold here.

Does Hardee’s still even make the Big Deluxe? They lost me with their advertising somewhere in the past decade.

It’s Chick-fil-A fast foodies’ world, and they just let you live in it.

Anyway, opening football weekend in Florida held lots of surprises.

For all the Gators out there, calm down. You beat Charleston Southern. For Noles, start over … and Coach, you have to keep your head up in the postgame presser. That was sad.

And for THE U, it’s a long season, get back after it.

As for the parallels of football, it is certainly not limited to business and elections. Football can provide you with plenty of analogies for guidance in life. How to sacrifice. The importance of practice. Team work really does make the dream work. I love this quote from the Bear on that subject.

“If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you.” — Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Elections this November (and the games this fall) will both have winners and losers, highs and lows. Just as in our careers and lives. I think the most important lesson we can take from football is when you have a setback, make sure to get back up and keep fighting. Vince said it best …

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.” — Vince Lombardi.

That is all for today, if you made it this far, thank you for reading. Now go watch some football, your Saturday demands it.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and (slightly) enjoys college football and all things associated. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Andrew Gillum

Andrew Gillum has raised $4M since becoming Democratic nominee for Governor

In the first week since becoming the Democratic nominee for Governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum collected more than $4 million in contributions between his campaign and committee accounts.

Team Gillum raked in $4.03 million during the reporting period covering Aug. 25-31, including $1.7 million in hard money and another $2.3 million for his affiliated political committee, Forward Florida.

The Gillum for Governor campaign heads into the general election with unprecedented grassroots support,” said Gillum spokesman Geoff Burgan.

This campaign is powered by people who are ready for bold, progressive change. Floridians know that as governor, Mayor Gillum will work tirelessly to rebuild our state so that it works for everyone — and that’s why they are rallying behind him.”

The new reports go down as the best for each account since Gillum entered the race for Governor in February of last year. The prior high watermark for his campaign account was his $510,000 report for the first week of August, while the committee former high score was $1 million raised during the 13-day reporting period directly preceding the Aug. 28 primary election.

The campaign report is nearly 40,000 lines long and matching funds didn’t buoy the total. There were several dozen max checks at the top of the ledger, but small-dollar donors dominated — the account received more than 27,000 contributions of $25 or less.

The committee report was a stub by comparison, but it featured a pair of $1 million checks at the top, one from the Democratic Governors Association and another from Connecticut philanthropist Donald Sussman. Floridabased philanthropist Marsha Laufer, the wife of Henry Laufer, chipped in $250,000, while smaller checks came in from attorney Vincent Pawlowski, Democratic donor Cynthia Friedman of Palm Beach, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters of California.

The $4 million week represents more than a third of Gillum’s $11.1 million in fundraising thus far. He finished the month with a combined $4.23 million banked.

Gillum’s Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, had a comparatively light week.

His campaign account showed $276,000 in new money across 2,443 contributions, including about two dozen for the campaign max of $3,000. His political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, posted a $246,000 haul. That report was topped by a $100,000 check from the Florida Chamber of Commerce affiliated Florida Jobs PAC, and also included $50,000 checks from billionaire Casino owner Phil Ruffin and Doral-based Sunshine Gasoline Distributors as well as $25,000 from a political committee tied to CD 1 U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz.

DeSantis has raised a total of $18.3 million since he launched his gubernatorial bid in January. He entered September with a combined $1.52 million in the bank.

Gillum and DeSantis will face off in the November general election. On Thursday, both men announced their running mates for the fall, with Gillum selecting businessman and former Democratic primary rival and Chris King and DeSantis selecting Miami state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

‘Russian Ron’ DeSantis? Florida Dems question loyalties in new ad

The Florida Democratic Party has a message for general election voters: reject “Russian” Ron DeSantis in the Governor’s race.

The FDP’s rationale: what they call DeSantis’ “unhinged defense of Donald Trump, the most corrupt and ethically challenged President in American history.”

“Ron DeSantis is one of the chief defenders of the most corrupt President in American history. DeSantis has spent the past two years demonizing law enforcement and furiously defending the Trump campaign’s potentially criminal contacts with the Russian government,” asserted FDP spokesman Kevin Donohoe.

“Instead of serving his constituents, DeSantis has appeared nearly constantly on television to try and explain away the President’s latest legal challenges. DeSantis acts more like he wants to be Donald Trump’s lawyer than the next Governor of Florida,” Donohoe added.

The ad begins with DeSantis on television defending President Trump, offering the money quote “Collusion is not a crime.”

From there, a series of folder graphics, sporting the names of Trump inner circle members from the campaign, such as campaign manager Paul Manafort and surrogate Michael Flynn, followed by a series of names of Russian conspirators.

Stamped across the folders: the word “guilty.”

DeSantis, who branded his primary campaign around his endorsement from President Trump, has yoked himself to the White House since Trump’s inauguration.

His defenses of Trump raised the President’s interest in his political future, and Democrats certainly will continue to remind general election voters of DeSantis’ constant agitation against the Robert Mueller investigation.

Poll: Governor’s race tied, voters support marijuana

A new poll from St. Pete Polls is finding Florida’s governor’s race in nearly a tie, with Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum just slightly ahead, and also finding that Florida voters lean toward supporting more legalization of marijuana and consider that issue in their position on the governor’s race.

The poll is part of an effort involving the St. Pete Polls, Empowering Wellness — the newly formed medical-marijuana advocacy group — and Florida Politics to examine marijuana policies and politcal leaders and candidates’ positions heading into Wellness Week, which will feature other looks at the issues.

First the governor’s election: The survey conducted Wednesday and Thursday of 2,240 likely Florida general election voters found Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, with 47.6 percent support, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee, with 47.3 percent.

Voters lean toward more full legalization, according to the poll: 49.3 percent said they support full legalaization of marijuana, while 42.3 percent said they oppose. That is not enough support to get a Florida Constitution amendment passed, which requires 60 percent approval, but may signal to lawmakers and state leaders that Florida’s populous is growing more supportive.

The support was fueled by both Democrats and independents: 62 percent of Democrats  and 54 percent of independent voters support full legalization, while just 34 percent of Republicans do so.

As for Florida’s existing medical cannabis law, approved by voters in 2016 but still not fully implemented, 73.8 percent of those surveyed said they support it, and 20.8 percent oppose.

For the governor’s race, 29.8 percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to support a gubernatorial candidate who supported marijuana legalization; 25.1 percent said they would be less likely; and 45 percent said it would make no difference.

The poll was conducted through an automated phone call polling system. The results were then weighted to account for proportional differences between the respondents’ demographics and the demographics of the active general election voter population for the state of Florida. The weighting demographics used were: political party, race, age, gender and media market. The voters polled were chosen at random within the registered voter population within the state of Florida. Voters who said they were not planning to vote were excluded from the results below.

St. Pete Polls is saying the survey has a 2.1 percent margin of error.

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