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Red zone: Andrew Gillum draws hundreds to environmental discussion in conservative territory

The issues affecting Florida vary, but they’re all “interwoven” and dependent on the actions of elected officials up and down the ballot, according to the Democrat running for the top spot on Election Day.

Candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum rolled out his environmental plan on Tuesday, promising a series of changes to preserve the state’s natural resources and actions that he believes would curb issues currently in the fore, like harmful blue-green algal blooms and red tide.

But in part, those changes are conditional. Floridians must send “a whole slate to the Cabinet, and our House and our Senate members all back to Tallahassee,” Gillum said during a waterfront news conference in Siesta Key, which has suffered toxic red tide fish kills this year. In the historically conservative Sarasota town, hundreds of Floridians showed up to listen.

Gillum was joined at the conference by state Rep. Margaret Good, who won a special election in February that’s been heralded as a signal for a Democratic ‘blue wave’ in November. Good’s district went for President Donald Trump in 2016.

Alongside the once-longshot Democratic candidate and in front of calm coastal waters, Gillum pitched to a large crowd that his party had the answer to Florida’s environmental issues.

Good introduced Gillum as “the change” to poor water quality that she blamed on “20 years of Republican rule.”

When Gillum addressed the audience, he spoke of the “intersectionality” between Florida’s issues, suggesting the environment is inextricably linked to the economy, even health care.

“The future of this state very much so depends on what we do to our great environment it depends on the businesses that have sprung up all around this area that depend on the tourism and the ecotourism that helps to power the state of Florida,” Gillum told the crowd. 

The environment weighs on the “well-being” and “health of the people,” he added.  

Shortly after the conference, Gillum rolled out an environmental policy plan. It largely focuses on measures that he believes would mitigate future problems with the toxic red tide and blue-green algal blooms. He advocates for upgrading wastewater treatment processes. He also promotes policies that would require septic-to-sewer conversions.

That concept would likely find support across the partisan aisle, as researchers sponsored by the Florida Chamber of Commerce recently pointed excess nitrogen from older septic tanks as a potential culprit of algal blooms. The Chamber is backing Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis and Gillum also appear to agree on proposed environmental measures. DeSantis unveiled his environmental plan earlier this month, proposing bans on fracking and offshore drilling. Gillum suggests doing the same. Both candidates also recommended similar Everglades protections, including working with the federal government to fully fund the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

DeSantis also would convene a task force to “deal with Florida’s red tide crisis,” according to Stephen Lawson, DeSantis’ communications director.

“Beginning on day one, Ron DeSantis will protect our environment by fighting for the completion of the southern reservoir, stopping the toxic algae discharges, and finding solutions to the red tide,” Lawson added. 

But DeSantis’ record on the environment was attacked by groups like Florida Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club when he unveiled his plan — in part because of his apprehension to address climate change at the state level.

That’s where he and Gillum contrast. In Siesta Key, Gillum called for climate change resiliency efforts to combat rising sea levels. And he targets climate change in his policy plan.

“Sea level rise poses a catastrophic threat to our state — and one we’re wholly unprepared to face,” Gillum’s plan reads. It also proposes that the state reconvene climate change summits started under former Gov. Charlie Crist, and “transition our energy production towards clean, renewable sources like solar and wave/tidal.”

Complementing Gillum’s environmental plan is a new television ad released by his campaign on Tuesday, titled “Protection.” In it, he targets “special interests” and corporations for the state’s environmental issues.

St. Pete Polls: Ron DeSantis within 2 points of Andrew Gillum

Republican opponent Ron DeSantis is behind Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum by just two percentage points in a new statewide poll of likely voters.

The St. Pete Polls survey, commissioned by Florida Politics, found Gillum leading DeSantis 47 percent-45 percent with Reform Party nominee Darcy Richardson pulling 2 percent support and the remaining 6 percent of voters undecided.

DeSantis and Gillum are supported by about 75 percent of registered Republicans and Democrats, respectively, with about a sixth of those voters saying they would cross party lines on Election Day.

Gillum, however, holds a strong lead among independent voters, who prefer the Tallahassee Mayor over the former Congressman by a 52-36 percent margin.

By age, Gillum has a 10-point lead among Gen Xers while DeSantis leads by 3 percentage points among Millennials. The two candidates, both 39 years old, are virtually tied among voters aged 50 to 69 years old and those over the age of 70. Gillum leads by a hair among men, 47-45 percent, while women prefer him by three points, 47-44 percent.

DeSantis holds a 10-point lead among white voters, who made up about two-thirds of the sample, and the pair were tied among Hispanic voters. Every other demographic preferred Gillum by a wide margin. Among black voters, Gillum — the state’s first black gubernatorial nominee for a major party — holds an 80-15 percent lead.

Regionally, Gillum holds a strong lead in the Tallahassee, Gainesville, West Palm Beach and Miami media markets. DeSantis takes Pensacola, Panama City, Jacksonville and Fort Myers while he and Gillum are statistically tied in the Orlando and Tampa markets.

The automated phone poll was conducted Sept. 29 through Sept. 30 and received responses from 2,313 registered voters who said they planned to vote in the November election. The topline result of the St. Pete Polls survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

An early September survey from the same pollster showed Gillum and DeSantis tied, with Gillum holding a statistically insignificant lead of three-tenths of a percentage point. Other recent polls, however, have shown Gillum leading the race.

A poll released Friday by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which recently gave DeSantis their “firm endorsement,” showed Gillum leading by 6 percentage points. The lead in that poll fell outside the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Two weeks prior, the Chamber pegged the race at 47-43 percent in favor of Gillum.

Thanks to the support of President Donald Trump, DeSantis steamrolled Putnam in last month’s primary election by more than 20 points. On the Democratic side, Gillum defied most polling to defeat former Congressman Gwen Graham and three other major contenders by a slim margin.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Koch-backed veterans’ group to boost Ron DeSantis with direct mail

Concerned Veterans for America Action announced Tuesday its intentions to wade into the Governor’s race, with direct mail on behalf of Republican Ron DeSantis.

CVAA is an offshoot of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch Network initiative.

Koch support was a flashpoint in the Republican primary between DeSantis and Adam Putnam, with a Putnam spox describing “D.C. DeSantis” as “a puppet of the open-border, anti-Trump Koch brothers.”

That messaging won’t be heard again this campaign season.

The campaign, per the Koch veterans’ group, is “highlighting his dedicated support for veterans.”

Expect a six-figure spend for this purpose.

“In a landscape full of negative ads, this is a refreshing spot of positive messaging, showing Floridians the good DeSantis has done for veterans over the years he has served,” asserted CVAA press secretary Kyle Buckles.

“During his time in Congress, Ron DeSantis demonstrated that he was a steadfast champion for veterans and we are confident he will continue to be their champion in Tallahassee,” said Dan Caldwell, CVAA Senior Advisor.

Caldwell added that “Floridians and Florida veterans will be well served with DeSantis as governor, and we urge them to vote for him this November.”

The first mail piece, seen below, spotlights DeSantis’ efforts to improve veterans’ health case options.

This effort comes as polls seem to be tightening in DeSantis’ race with Democrat Andrew Gillum. A survey from St. Pete Polls show that Gillum leads by just two points, a number slender in contrast with polls released just last week that showed the margin as wide as nine points.

Ron DeSantis hits Andrew Gillum on donors subpoenaed by FBI

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis hasn’t been shy in attacking his Democratic opponent about the ongoing FBI investigation in Tallahassee.

The latest strike? The DeSantis campaign is calling on Andrew Gillum to return more than $75,000 in campaign donations from those who’ve been subpoenaed in the course of the more-than-three-year-long investigation into Tallahassee’s city government.

While no charges have been filed, the DeSantis campaign considers the subpoenaed donors and businesses linked to them as “tied to the FBI investigation.”

“Records show that Gillum has received contributions from 36 of the 40 named subjects of the FBI investigation,” Stephen Lawson, DeSantis’ communications director said. “These new facts continue to link Andrew Gillum to the FBI’s investigation.” 

Lawson suggested the donations, which date back to 2004, implicate Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee who has not been named by the feds in any public documents related to the investigation.

The Gillum campaign did not return a request for comment.

Most of the donations listed by the DeSantis campaign are old. A $500 donation from Pittman Law Group on August 11 into Gillum’s committee is the latest listed.

That contribution, like most, is unlikely to be returned. Pittman Law Group owner Sean Pittman is the senior strategic adviser for Gillum’s campaign. He isn’t named in any subpoenas. He is listed by the DeSantis campaign because he invested in Cascades Holdings, a company formed by Adam Corey, a local lobbyist at the center of the investigation.

Corey is also a Gillum donor, although his last donation came before news of the FBI investigation broke last year. Gillum has since publicly cut ties with Corey.

News of the investigation was first unearthed by the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper in June 2017.

The Florida Democratic Party did not address the hit directly, but issued a news release on Monday highlighting controversial donations to DeSantis. Among them: $20,000 from Steven Alembik, who called former President Barack Obama the N-word on Twitter. The Associated Press reported in September that DeSantis would not return the money.

“DeSantis should return the money from his shady and racist Trumpworld donors and start being honest with the people of Florida about his relationships with some of the most toxic people in American politics,” charged FDP spokesman Kevin Donohoe.

Ross Spano

Ross Spano holds slim lead over Kristen Carlson in new CD 15 poll

Republican state Rep. Ross Spano and Democratic attorney Kristen Carlson are in a tight race in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, according to a new poll from Bold Blue Campaigns.

The poll, conducted Sept. 22 through Sep. 27, found Spano ahead by 3 percentage points over Carlson, 49-46 percent, with 5 percent of voters saying they were undecided. Spano’s lead falls well within the poll’s margin of error and continues to show strong Democratic support in the heretofore safe Republican seat.

CD 15 covers parts of Hillsborough, Lake and Polk counties. It voted plus-10 for President Donald Trump two years ago while current U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross scored a 15-point victory over Democratic nominee Jim Lange. The seat is open this year due to Ross’ decision to not seek re-election.

Bold Blue Campaigns claims Spano is “underperforming” but is still the favored candidate to win the seat come November. However, the pollster found some positive news for Carlson as well.

“The 5 percent of undecided voters are primarily younger voters, independents and voters of color, meaning that the Democrat Carlson likely still has some room to grow, while Spano will have to rely on motivating the GOP base to turn out to fend off a potential wave result,” the polling memo said.

The new poll is one of the first public measures of the CD 15 contest since the Aug. 28 primary election, where both Spano and Carlson scored double-digit wins to secure the major-party nominations.

A mid-September poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and released by the Carlson campaign found her with a 1-point lead over Spano. Respondents favored a “generic Republican” over a “generic Democrat” by a margin of 42-36 percent, but when Carlson and Spano were named, they shift to 48-47 percent in her favor.

According to the new poll, Spano holds an edge when it comes to name ID, as he was viewed favorably by a 47-37 percent margin with 16 percent saying they didn’t know enough about him to have an opinion. Carlson was above water by a 43-38 percent margin with 20 percent answering “do not know.”

Another metric measured in the Republican-leaning seat were voters’ thoughts on President Donald Trump, who came in underwater 40-49 percent. Asked about the proposed border wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, 40 percent said they supported it while 45 percent were opposed.

Broken down by age, Carlson carries Millennials by a 37-point margin and Gen Xers by a touchdown, while Spano holds a 20-point lead among the 50- to 64-year-old demographic and a 13-point lead among those older than 65. By gender, Carlson leads women 57-39 percent while Spano leads men 63-31 percent.

Bold Blue Campaigns said Trump’s numbers, and the wall’s, sank below that level among Independents, Democrats and women, while registered Republicans and men buoyed the score.

The CD 15 race was also recently called out by prominent political forecasting website FiveThirtyEight, which gave Carlson a solid chance to flip the seat.

“It’s an R+13 district, but Republican incumbent Dennis Ross is retiring, and Democratic candidate Kristen Carlson has raised almost double the individual contributions that Republican Ross Spano has,” FiveThirtyEight analyst Nathaniel Rakish noted. “Carlson likewise has a 1 in 4 chance of winning.”

Other forecasters, including the Cook Report and Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, have also moved the seat out of the “safe Republican” column. Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” website rates CD 15 as a “leans Republican” while Cook has done the same.

When it comes to the top of the ticket, the CD 15 electorate prefers Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis over Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum by a single point, 42-41, while current Gov. Rick Scott leads incumbent Bill Nelson 44-42 percent in the U.S. Senate race.

Additionally, Republican nominee Ashley Moody held a 6-point lead over Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw in the Attorney General race, while it was Democrat Nikki Fried who was on top in the Agriculture Commissioner showdown. He held a 47-43 percent lead over state Rep. Matt Caldwell.

The latter result shows a similar margin to a recently released poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, where Fried led Caldwell by 42-37 percent statewide. The same poll found Shaw up by a basket in the Attorney General race; sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis and former Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring tied in the Chief Financial Officer race; and Gillum with a 6-point lead over DeSantis.

Bold Blue Campaigns’ public poll included responses from 500 likely voters living within the boundaries of CD 15 and was conducted via live phone interviews on both landlines and cellphones. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Another poll, another lead for Andrew Gillum; PPP pegs him up 4 points over Ron DeSantis

Another poll, another lead for Andrew Gillum.

The newest survey from Public Policy Polling has Gillum, the Democratic nominee for Governor, ahead by four points in his race against Republican Ron DeSantis.

The survey sampled 779 registered voters Sept. 28-30. Gillum earned 48 percent support while DeSantis sat at 44 percent.

Gillum has now led DeSantis in every major poll released since the two secured their nominations on Aug. 28, according to analysis by RealClearPolitics.

Florida Democrats have also taken to mocking DeSantis over lackluster turnout at a recent event. The Democrats used those photos to make the case that momentum is behind their candidate.

Gillum also issued an address to a fired-up crowd of Democrats over the weekend at the Miami-Dade Democratic Party’s Blue Gala.

He also recently earned the endorsement of the Sun Sentinel, as well as a group of Puerto Rican leaders throughout the country.

If Gillum were to “bring it home” in November, he would be Florida’s first elected Democratic Governor in 20 years.

Democrats hammer Ron DeSantis on five-year anniversary of federal government shutdown

Five years ago, the federal government shut down. And on Monday, three Florida Democrats reminded Florida media of Ron DeSantis‘ role in “masterminding” it.

DeSantis, now the Republican nominee for Governor, was in his first term representing Florida’s 6th Congressional District at the time. And he and his Tea Party colleagues were uniquely positioned to exact influence, the Democrats said on a media call.

DeSantis, among other things, said a shutdown wouldn’t be “the worst thing ever.”

The call included two incumbent Congresswomen and a former Congressman who made the case that, contrary to such breeziness, the shutdown impacted people in their districts.

U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, who represents the Tampa area, asserted that the shutdown was driven by a desire to end Affordable Care Act coverage of preexisting conditions.

“Republicans had a majority in the House,” said Castor, “and all summer long they threatened to shut down the government and they finally went through with it at the end of the fiscal year.”

“Not even a majority of Republicans from Florida were trying to push this position, but Ron DeSantis was,” Castor said.

The shutdown impacted federal employees and contractors.

“This didn’t have to happen,” Castor said, adding that even after a compromise was reached, “Ron DeSantis voted no.”

“This demonstrates how extreme he is, how irresponsible … and what kind of governor he would be,” Castor said.

U.S. Representative Lois Frankel, whose district includes West Palm Beach, called DeSantis “one of the most extreme and irresponsible members of Congress.”

“It’s one thing to be the guy who says no to everything [in Congress],” Frankel said, but his extremism raises questions about why he wants to be Governor.

Frankel, like Castor, outlined consequences of the shutdown, before saying DeSantis “isn’t the guy we need to be governor.”

Former U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy, who served at the time with DeSantis, added that DeSantis was “putting himself above people” and “trying to appeal to a small group of Tea Party members.”

“He’s a follower of a very small group of people … putting politics over policy,” Murphy said.

“The notion that you would shut down the government on a bill that isn’t going anywhere” nettled Murphy, who said it was “unacceptable … to put your politics over the people.”

UPDATE: Fired Andrew Gillum staffer ‘disappointed in myself,’ apologizes

The Andrew Gillum campaign fired youth outreach director Manny Orozco-Ballestas.

The former Gillum staff emailed Florida Politics with the following statement:

“I am embarrassed, angry, and disappointed in myself. This is painful and frustrating all at the same time. As a young person, you never imagine it will happen to you, until it does. I took social media for granted when I was younger and I am now facing the consequences.

“Having served as the only statewide youth director in the state of Florida for two extraordinary candidates, during this unprecedented election cycle, was the greatest joy of my young professional career.

“I’m so sorry to all those I let down, especially Mayor Gillum and my team. What I tweeted as an immature student many years ago is not a reflection of the man I am today. I will continue finding ways to fight for what is right for as long as I can, however I can — America is worth it and there is way too much at stake. “

Gillum staffers over the weekend announced Orozco-Ballestas no longer would work with the campaign.

The type of language this young man used on social media before his employment with our campaign is unacceptable and he will no longer be working with the campaign,” Joshua Karp said in a statement reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

The action came after days of outcry by Republicans over old social media posts, including one in which Orozco-Ballestas can be seen wearing a shirt referencing states that voted for President Donald Trump, including Florida, as “Dumbfuckistan.”

Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia criticized the Democratic campaign for dragging its feet in response.

“Remember, just a couple of days ago Gillum and his campaign defended this guy,” Ingoglia said.

“Apparently, calling millions of Floridians a vile term wasn’t enough to fire him the first time. Is this how a Gillum administration would look? Hiring people with questionable backgrounds? Could you imagine how he would vet Florida Supreme Court Justices?”

The old posts originally got publicized by right-wing blogger Jacob Engels, who also accused Manny Orozco-Ballestas of posting and deleting “pedophiliac” tweets. Those tweets insulted women with leg hair.

Orozco-Ballestas reportedly wrote in a 2013 post that Trump “need(ed) to be executed.” He also wrote on Instagram of the future President: “If you’re weighing 300 pounds+ maybe it’s a good idea you stop posting all that fattening food pics.”

But it was the T-shirt post that generated the most attention, including spots on Fox News.

Initially, the Gillum campaign took umbrage that Republicans would accuse staffers of vulgarity. Gillum spokesperson Carlie Waibel told the Tampa Bay Times the campaign would not “be lectured about words by the Party of Trump.”

“The anti-Trump shirt he wore before he was hired wasn’t funny or in any way related to our campaign and we’ve addressed that with him,” Waibel told the newspaper.

Republicans, hurting after weeks of the Gillum campaign criticizing Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis for associations with racists, suggested the Democrats be mindful of their own hires.

“It is hypocritical for Gillum to endorse the same kind of hateful, intolerant speech that he likes to denounce,” Ingoglia said.

Ron DeSantis doesn’t mention bump stocks when memorializing Vegas mass shooting victims

On Oct. 1, 2017, a gunman opened up fire on the attendees of a music festival in Las Vegas, and in a matter of moments, it became the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

The casualties: 58 dead, 851 wounded.

The discussion in the immediate aftermath of the massacre was to ban bump stocks, which allowed for the rapid fire that facilitated the Mandalay Bay massacre.

President Donald Trump, in March, tweeted that such moves were imminent.

A year after that shooting, the “BAN” seems to have stalled. And Trump’s political allies, including one running for Florida Governor on the strength of the Presidential endorsement, aren’t mentioning bump stocks.

“Today, we remember the tragic shooting in Las Vegas that took place one year ago.  As we come together to remember the victims, we continue to lift up their families as they struggle with unimaginable loss.  We also honor and thank the heroic first responders, whose courageous efforts prevented further loss of life during this tragic act of violence,” asserted Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis Monday.

The Vegas massacre, per DeSantis, “serves as a reminder of the importance of mental health services and improving programs that provide treatment for those who need it most.

In March, DeSantis pilloried Florida lawmakers for “rushing to restrict” gun laws in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting, per the Orlando Weekly.

“When dealing with a right that is specifically enumerated in the Constitution, blanket restrictions that diminish individual rights are suspect. Better to focus on denying firearms to dangerous individuals, which avoids infringing on constitutional rights and is also more likely to be effective,” DeSantis added in March.

“We’ll have time to debate this stuff,” DeSantis said immediately after the shooting in February.

However, for DeSantis — the NRA candidate in the race — the debate isn’t about the mechanisms of gun violence, but about the mental health of gun users.

DeSantis, who is opposed to the Affordable Care Act, has yet to roll out his health care platform, leaving questions as to how he would deal with the recurrent issue of mass shooters and their mental health.

Vote on drilling & vaping bans could be close, fresh poll says

Offshore drilling, fracking and vaping? All the practices draw out detractors, especially in Florida.

But a poll by the Florida Chamber of Commerce shows it may be a close call whether voters will ban all three with a single constitutional amendment.

The Chamber poll, obtained by Florida Politics, shows 50 percent of those surveyed ready to vote “Yes” on Amendment 9, with 34 percent planning to vote “No.”

That means of just those who have an opinion on the measure, just under 60 percent plan to support the amendment. But it takes at least 60 percent approval for the amendment to change Florida’s constitution.

The poll finds 14 percent of voters remain undecided. Should voters break in favor of the amendment, that should give the needed lift for the measure’s passage. But if they break “No” on 9, the amendment will likely fail.

The Chamber poll found a lower number of undecided voters regarding this constitutional amendment than it did for anything besides the popular Amendment 1, which increases Florida’s homestead exemption and boasts 60-27 support according to the poll.

If passed, Amendment 9 would prohibit oil or natural gas exploration and extraction in Florida state waters.

Notably, opposition to drilling since the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster largely shored up again in Florida, and it reaches across party lines.

Both Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, for example, voiced opposition to offshore drilling from the campaign trail this year.

But bundled in the same amendment, there would also be a ban on use of vap0r-generating electronics, including electronic cigarettes and pipes, in any enclosed indoor workplaces.

The ban bears similarity to a ban on smoking tobacco in the workplace, passed by 71 percent of voters in 2002.

The Florida Chamber Poll was conducted Sept. 19-24 and includes responses from 622 voters, of whom 41.5 percent were registered Democrats and 40.5 percent were registered Republican, with 18 percent not belonging to one of the major parties. The poll has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

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