Ron DeSantis Archives - Page 7 of 83 - Florida Politics

Campaign matching funds expected to keep climbing

Florida’s controversial public matching-funds program for statewide candidates remains on a pace to surpass a high of $6.1 million that was handed out in the 2010 elections.

Last week’s primaries eliminated four of the nine gubernatorial and Cabinet candidates who had qualified for the program, which has already topped $4.9 million in distributions during the 2018 election cycle, according to numbers posted Friday by the Florida Division of Elections.

But heading into the November general election, the remaining participants in the program include both major-party gubernatorial candidates, Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, who have combined to pick up $1.47 million in matching funds. Also, the two major-party candidates for attorney general, Republican Ashley Moody and Democrat Sean Shaw, have received a combined total of $567,302 from the program.

In addition, Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who didn’t have a primary challenger, has already drawn $304,755 from the program as he prepares for a Nov. 6 challenge from Democrat Jeremy Ring, a former state senator from Broward County.

The program matches contributions of $250 or less from individual donors after crossing a set fundraising threshold. It has already exceeded the $4.3 million distributed in the 2014 elections.

The program has long faced criticism, with opponents saying the state shouldn’t help finance campaigns. Repeal efforts have failed in recent legislative sessions, while candidates who made the program a campaign issue had mixed results in the primary.

In the Republican primary for agriculture commissioner, state Rep. Matt Caldwell, who declined to apply for matching funds, topped a primary field of four that included Sen. Denise Grimsley.

Caldwell, who won with 34.6 percent of the vote, decried the use of the matching-funds program as “campaign welfare.” Grimsley, the only candidate in the race who tapped into the program, received $275,183 from the state.

“Public financing of statewide political campaigns is a waste of taxpayer dollars and a disservice to Florida’s hard-working families,” Caldwell said during the campaign.

Meanwhile, the use of the program did not appear to hurt Moody in the Republican primary for attorney general. She has now drawn $344,600 from the program, which was the focus of ads by her primary opponent, state Rep. Frank White of Pensacola.

White, who lost by 13 percentage points in the primary, sent out a flyer that highlighted paperwork filed by Moody seeking matching funds next to a comment attributed to her saying she stands for reducing government waste.

Moody campaign spokeswoman Christina Johnson countered that the program helps people combat self-funded candidates such as White, who poured personal money into the campaign.

Ryan Torrens, who was defeated by Shaw for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, received $88,694 from the program.

Shaw, who received a check for $17,425 from the state on Friday, has drawn $222,701 from the program.

In the governor’s race, DeSantis has drawn $975,836 from the program, while Gillum has received $495,065, according to the numbers posted Friday.

Outgoing Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who was defeated by DeSantis in the Republican gubernatorial primary, received $1.08 million from the program. Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who finished second to Gillum in the Democratic primary, drew $1.22 million from the program.

Andrew Gillum calls on Ron DeSantis to disavow racist robocalls ‘in his own voice’

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum appeared on a number of talk shows Sunday morning, and the questions ranged from controversies spawned by Republican opponent Ron DeSantis (the “monkey it up” statement) to the out-of-state racist robocalls disawowed already by a DeSantis spox.

His Jacksonville stop Monday revealed that those questions were far from retired.

Gillum addressed the “tone” of the DeSantis campaign, saying “we try to limit our back to his forth.”

“I have encouraged not just our supporters but also Mr. DeSantis to keep this race above board,” Gillum said. “It is extremely dangerous in today’s day and time to weaponize race.”

“I am not ashamed of who I am,” Gillum added. “I think when you make race a pejorative, it can be a dangerously divisive tool.”

As he did on Sunday shows, Gillum mentioned what happened in Charlottesville last year as an example of what happens when the fires of racial controversy are stoked.

“I was surprised how quickly … after we both secured our nominations that things kind of went south,” Gillum added.

The “monkey it up” statement, per Gillum, “was the beginning of a deep dive into the swamp” by DeSantis.

Gillum clearly was upset by the robocalls.

“I turned it off before I could complete it,” Gillum said, urging DeSantis to keep the discourse “high.”

“Because on day one, if folks already here ‘don’t monkey it up’ kind of talk,” Gillum said, “license” is created for “even more aggressive [language] in a darker direction.”

Gillum noted that DeSantis hasn’t personally spoken up against the robocalls, though a spox has.

“I assume that he opposes [them],” Gillum said, noting that DeSantis could actually learn from Gov. Rick Scott  in this regard.

“Gov. Scott, on his Twitter feed, in his own voice,” Gillum noted, “decried that tactic and that tool. I would expect Mr. DeSantis to do the same in his own voice.”

“It has not happened yet,” Gillum said.

Racists behind anti-Andrew Gillum calls could soon face the music

The individual behind robocalls targeting Andrew Gillum previously has been involved in racist attacks against California U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and former President Barack Obama and harassed the family of murdered University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts.

But now, he’s facing protests by accordion-wielding clowns outside his Idaho home.

Virginia entertainer Justin Beights, a resident of Charlottesville, says he wants to fight back against the hate that’s smeared his own hometown by ridiculing racists where they live, and racist attacks on Gillum may fuel further interest in his anti-Nazi campaign.

“I want people to join me in ridiculous and nonviolent and relentless ridicule of their pathetic use of our First Amendment rights,” Beights said.

Racist Robocalls

Scott Rhodes, the podcaster behind the Road to Power website, made national headlines and briefly took over the dialogue in Florida’s gubernatorial contest by funding robocalls belittling Gillum, Florida’s first black major party nominee for governor

The robocalls feature a narrator — supposedly Gillum — speaking in a thick accent, espousing “I’s be the mayor of Tallahassee” and proposing houses be replaced with mud huts after hurricanes. The robocalls also make mention of Republican Ron DeSantis’ recent “monkey this up” gaffe, with the narrator saying “he ignorant.”

But as racially charged as the language on the audio recording sounds, it’s neither the first nor necessarily the vilest rhetoric released by Road to Power. In fact, Rhodes has increasingly found ways to inject white nationalist rhetoric into the mainstream political conversation.

Rhodes’ group came out in favor of white nationalist Patrick Little’s U.S. Senate campaign in California by funding robocalls calling incumbent Feinstein a “traitorous Jew” and an “Israeli citizen pretending to be an American,” which earned the group international attention and condemnation.

Idaho newspaper The Spokesman-Review carefully chronicled Rhodes’ inflammatory rhetoric since his move to the state from California.

Last December, police in Sandpoint, Idaho said Rhodes handed out flyers attacking city leaders, putting CDs with racist audio in cars at a local high school and had been mailing anonymous letters harassing minorities in town.

And the Sandpoint Reader also reported Alexandria, Virginia police believed Rhodes had made harassing phone calls to Mayor Allison Silberberg and other city officials.

Rhodes foray into Florida politics with the Gillum calls was greeted with bipartisan condemnation. DeSantis spokesman Stephen Lawson told Politico the calls were “absolutely appalling and disgusting.” Gillum spokesman Geoff Burgan called them “reprehensible” in The Tallahassee Democrat.

But so far, Rhodes has wallowed in the attention. When MSNBC host Joy Reid today called out the group for the Gillum robocalls, Rhodes on the alt-right social media channel Gab referenced a past Road to Power podcast where he’d called her by a racial slur.

Fighting Hate with Whimsy

The rise to prominent for Road to Power comes alongside a growing white nationalist movement in America, perhaps most exemplified by the Unite The Right rally in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, where marchers carrying tiki torches and Nazi flags marched the streets allegedly in protest of the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

Charlottesville clown Beights says he grew angry a year later when, after Charlottesville denied a permit for another Unite The Right rally, city officials were besieged by calls from Rhodes.

“Should someone do something about this?” he asked on Facebook. He applied with the city to instead hold a “Festival of the Schmestival” as an anti-hate event, but the city denied the permit, fearful it would spark the deadly protests that occurred around Unite The Right.

But now, Beights turned his attention squarely at Rhodes. He’s organizing an Oct. 9 event outside Rhodes’ home (on West Pine Street in Sandpoint), where he wants clowns with accordions putting a message of non-hate on full blast.

“When he decided to mess with my hometown, I decided to get involved,” Beights told the Bonner County Daily Bee. “I figured I would use my First Amendment rights to do the same thing that Scott Rhodes has been doing all across the country.”

Beights looks to set a world record for the length of a mass accordion-playing performance — 9 days, 9 hours and 9 minutes.

On that front, perhaps Rhodes’ targeting of Gillum will spark interest in the clowning world. Florida until recently served as home to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and remains home to one of the largest concentrations of professional clowns in the country.

All he really wants is to make sure the clowns can play Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”

No matter if anyone playing has much experience at the accordion. Even if it’s no good, he figures compared to the dissonance of Rhodes’ antics, it will be music to the nation’s ears.

“I’m trying to change the way we view people like Scott Rhodes, Patrick Little, Richard Spencer, etc.,” Beights said.

“We give them too much respect when we treat them like members of a movement that have an ideology. We need to put them in the same category as those that believe in Bigfoot, Flat Earthers and other groups that could qualify as mentally ill.”

Andrew Gillum on Sunday talk shows calls for rising above racial rhetoric

Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum during a round of political talk show interviews Sunday morning called for racist rhetoric to be toned down in Florida’s gubernatorial campaign.

He also spoke to Republican opponent Ron DeSantis’ now-infamous “monkey this up” comment made on Fox News the day after the primary election.

“I do find it deeply regrettable, on the day right after I secured the Democratic nomination we had to deal with some of the dog whistles directly from my opponent,” Gillum told CNN’s Dana Bash on her “State of the Union” program.

The response came after Bash asked Gillum about robocalls reportedly released by an Idaho-based Neo-Nazi group.

Gillum, Florida first black gubernatorial nominee from a major political party, said he would like race left out of the campaign.

“I want to make sure that we don’t racialize and frankly weaponize race as a part of this process,” Gillum said, “which is why I called on my opponent to really work to rise above some these things.”

On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” host Chuck Todd asked Gillum if he was satisfied at how swiftly Republic leaders denounced the Neo-Nazi calls, the Democrat said he had been pleased by that but still felt DeSantis needed to show greater leadership on the matter.

“It’s important for Ron DeSantis to take control and ownership of his own rhetoric and words,” Gillum said. “People take their cues and act out in ways far beyond what’s appropriate in this environment.”

Todd noted DeSantis has declined an invitation to appear on the show.

On MSNBC’s “A.M. Joy,” Gillum told host Joy Reid that DeSantis should raise the rhetoric of the campaign.

“He’s a Harvard-educated man, surely he knows his way around the U.S. vocabulary,” Gillum said of DeSantis. “But he chooses rather to embrace these kinds of dog whistles and bullhorns.”

Gillum said his focus through the campaign would be on issues like health care and gun reform, and he returned to a regular primary message of financially empowering the low- and middle-class.

“I have not called him a racist,” Gillum said on Todd’s show. “What I will call him is someone who has worked to undermine the health care system and to give more and more money to corporations.”

Todd asked Gillum about the fact his candidacy thus far has been funded by billionaires like George Soros and Tom Steyer, but Gillum said a $2-million injection into his post-primary campaign comes mostly from small donors. Gillum noted his mother has been using auto-donations of $20 a month toward the campaign.

When Todd asked if Gillum expected more funding to come from the Democratic Governors Association, Gillum suggested Todd as a Florida native understood the significance of the race.

“You know this being a homeboy yourself that the implications here in Florida are so great not just in this race for Governor and the Cabinet but also in the United States Senate,” Gillum said.

Gillum also committed to make all his travel receipts related to an FBI investigation in Tallahassee available shortly after an ethics interview concludes this week.

Linda Stewart, Lori Berman among pols denouncing Nazi robocalls against Andrew Gillum

Politicians across the state Saturday condemned robocalls put out by racist groups against Andrew Gillum, the first black major party nominee for Governor.

“The vile and racist robocalls attacking Andrew Gillum represent an attack on every Floridian and have no place in our politics,” said state Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat.

“This disgusting attempt to divide the people of Florida will only bring us closer together. We will reject the politics of hate and, with Andrew Gillum as governor, build a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.”

Audio of robocalls from Road to Power, an Idaho-based Neo-Nazi group, was first obtained by The Tallahassee Democrat and reported on Friday. Politico later reported it also had obtained robocalls sent out by the same group.

State Sen. Lori Berman, a Boynton Beach Democrat, echoed Stewart’s concerns but said the hateful rhetoric should rally progressives together.

“I am proud of the way Andrew has focused on laying out a positive vision for the people of Florida and I sincerely hope this election focuses on the way we can move this state forward and improve the lives of Florida’s working families,” Berman said.

“We must make unequivocally clear that racism and hatred have no place in this election —and won’t be tolerated in our beautiful, diverse state.”

Campaign officials for Republican Ron DeSantis quickly denounced the calls.

“This is absolutely appalling and disgusting,” DeSantis spokesman Stephen Lawson told Politico, “and hopefully whoever is behind this has to answer for this despicable action.”

Republican Gov. Rick Scott also denounced the calls.

“There is no room for any racial politics here in Florida — none,” Scott said on social media. “Florida is a melting pot of people from all over the globe, and we are proud of it. No attempts to divide people by race or ethnicity will be tolerated from anyone.”

Gillum’s campaign responded with measured concern, condemning the calls while fearful of drawing further notoriety to the organization.

“This is reprehensible—and could only have come from someone with intentions to fuel hatred and seek publicity,” Geoff Burgan, communications director for Gillum’s campaign, told the Democrat. “Please don’t give it undeserved attention.”

The unwelcome injection of Nazi rhetoric into the campaign comes while DeSantis deals with an early general election season gaffe, telling Fox News the morning after his and Gillum’s primary wins that Florida voters shouldn’t “monkey this up” and elect Gillum, a comment he said was a phrase he used regularly but in which many others heard racist undertones.

“The Neo-Nazi robocalls against Andrew Gillum are simply horrifying. Floridians deserve to hear from the candidates about their solutions to expand access to health care and improve public education,” said Berman. “Instead, Ron DeSantis started the general election with a racist dog whistle and the tone has unfortunately only gone downhill from there.”

Blake Dowling: Primaries are over; time to buckle up

Tuesday’s primary elections are in the rear-view mirror.

So, what did we learn?

First, never count out the underdog. Our Mayor here in Tallahassee kept fighting the good fight all the way to the end … and got the W.

Andrew Gillum shrugged off a 2-year FBI investigation in his backyard, the highest crime rate in the state and fought a winning effort against a political giant. Pretty cool.

This is what makes American great. Congrats to Gillum.

We also saw President Donald Trump’s voice have bigtime influence, and I guess the jury reached a verdict on this ad … and it was genius (though several jurors thought it was ridiculous)

Congrats to Ron DeSantis for also fighting the good fight and getting the W.

It will be a great showdown between two very different leaders come November.

We also learned to not mail classified documents to the press if you have signed an NDA.

And what were the hackers up to yesterday? More on that later.

As we move into the next election cycle, some leaders think we should hack right back.

That’s right folks. It is exactly what Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is proposing, and (off topic), with a name like that, he has to run for President at some point.

Am I wrong?

Hacking has become a very overused term. Don’t get me wrong, there are serious cases of it. But when you have Sen. Bill Nelson say that our election systems were compromised, and then backs into the bushes (much like Homer Simpson) offering no proof, people really start getting panicky and crying WOLF/HACK when their printer doesn’t work.

The Feds spent a lot of money on new security protocols and services, as well as testing and training and from early reports, it looks as if the dollars were well spent. Details from Hillsborough County are here, and they look promising.

Nevertheless, there are those that say it’s too late for this year, buckle up for whatever is coming and get ready for 2020.

All scenarios are, in fact, true (minus what Nelson said, not sure what that was all about).

In reality, we do need to buckle up for anything that might be thrown at the November elections. There are people out there looking to disrupt our great nation’s electoral process. That’s a fact.

Listen to your IT experts, change those passwords, deploy features like geo-IP filtering on your security appliances which blocks all IP addresses outside the US. Period.

That will trim down a large volume of attacks.

Congrats to those who were victorious yesterday: Gillum, Scott, and the rest. Thank you to all of those with the courage to run for office and represent the people of Florida and the United States.

Sometimes, while sitting on the sidelines it is easy to forget what that effort does to those involved, as well as what that commitment looks like. Cheers to you.

Have a great weekend.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Andrew Gillum

Equality Florida’s PAC endorses Andrew Gillum for Governor

Equality Florida Action PAC, the political arm of the state’s leading LGBTQ rights organization, announced Friday that it’s backing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum over his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

“Andrew Gillum has been a consistent champion for LGBTQ equality, and Floridians will see the stark contrast between his record on equality and his opponent who has embraced the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies of the Trump-Pence administration,” Equality Florida Action PAC chair Stratton Pollitzer said.

“DeSantis is out of touch with the values of everyday Floridians, 70 percent of whom support nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ community. Mayor Gillum has committed to advancing Florida as a leader for LGBTQ equality in the South, making the state a welcome place for everyone to live, work, and visit,” Pollitzer said.

The EQFL nod comes after the group awarded Gillum its highest honor, the “Voice for Equality Award,” in 2017.

But the endorsement isn’t all Gillum can expect from the group — they plan to pitch in with a fundraising tour and a “massive campaign” to spread the word to 500,000 Florida voters who see LGBTQ rights as a major factor in whether they’ll cast a ballot on Election Day.

EQFL said that means Gillum, who defied all polling by winning the five-way primary Tuesday, will be the beneficiary of digital media buys, phone banking and field outreach.

“Andrew Gillum is the equality champion who can energize voters and win the Governor’s Mansion,” Pollitzer concluded.

Equality Florida is the second major statewide group to endorse Gillum, currently the mayor of Tallahassee, since he won the nomination.

On Thursday, he earned the support of AFSCME, a labor union that represents more than 1.6 million working and retired public employees.

A full list of candidates backed by Equality Florida Action PAC is available on the group’s website.

According to the first post-primary poll of the general election matchup, Gillum leads DeSantis 48-43 percent with only 9 percent of voters unsure of who they would vote for. The poll also found Gillum with a plus-27 favorability rating while DeSantis, who has the backing of President Donald Trump, was underwater.

Election Day is Nov. 6

Here’s the first post-primary poll of the race for Florida governor

Andrew Gillum is breaking ahead of Ron DeSantis in the governor’s race, fueled by the early preference of Florida’s independent voters, according to the first publicly-released poll of the general election campaign season.

A new poll produced by Public Policy Polling gives Gillum, the progressive Tallahassee mayor who rocked the Democratic Party on Tuesday, 48 percent, and DeSantis, the conservative Republican nominee running with President Donald Trump, 43 percent, in the opening days of the Nov. 6 election campaign.

A remarkably low  percentage of voters, just 9 percent, told PPP pollsters that they were unsure, an early indication of how clear the differences already are, and likely will continue to be ,between the two major gubernatorial candidates.

The poll, taken Wednesday and Thursday, shows Gillum starting with a commanding lead among independent voters. Party faithful are lining up pretty equally behind their nominees, and consequently Gillum’s early advantage appears built entirely from independent voters chosing him.

PPP surveyed 743 Florida voters, of which 41 percent were Republicans, 41 percent were Democrats and 18 percent were independent.

The poll was commissioned by EDGE Communications, the politial consulting firm of Christian Ulvert, the former senior consultant for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, who lost to Gillum Tuesday.

“In the first general election poll since Tuesday’s primary, we see how Florida is very much a swing state. Mayor Gillum starts ahead of Ron DeSantis by 5 points,”  Ulvert stated in a release announcing the poll.

The poll finds Gillum starting out with a fairly warm reception from those surveyed, and DeSantis, not so much.

In favorability ratings, 45 percent of those surveyed said they have a favorable opinion of Gillum, and 27 percent an unfavorable opinion. DeSantis starts the fall campaign with a 41 percent favable rating, but a 47 percent unfavorable rating.

While party voters generally were lining up solidly behind their nominees, DeSantis’s favorability issue extends deeply into independent voters, according to the survey. Just 26 percent found him favorable, and 55 percent found him unfavorable.

Gillum, meanwhile, starts out with a 51 percent favorable rating among independents and only a 14 percent unfavorable rating. Gillum also starts with a large percentage of Republican voters, 37 percent, who say they have no opinion of him yet.

The result of that independent voters favorability gap: 59 percent would vote today for Gillum and just 25 percent for DeSantis, with 16 percent undecided.

“The most interesting number is among Independent voters where Gillum leads DeSantis by 34. … Gillum starts with an impressive edge among Independent voters who are key to winning Florida,” Ulvert stated.

There also is a sharp differences of opinion between men and women, and divided by races.

“In the governor’s race, there is massive gender gap with Gillum leading among women by 21 and DeSantis leading among men by 13,” Ulvert noted.

Gillum has 84 percent of the vote of black voters and 61 percent of Hisapanic voters, while DeSantis hs 54 percent of the white voters.

Joe Clements: Possible paths to victory for Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis

On July 9, I published “The ‘big picture’ predictions on Election 2018,” which shared the reasons I thought Andrew Gillum would win the Democratic primary for governor.

Throughout the summer, I tweeted about why I thought Gillum would win the primary election and the rationale behind it, which I retweeted on election night after the results flowed in.

Where do I stand now?

I think Gillum carries the advantage going into the general election, but I do not believe Ron DeSantis faces any challenges that Adam Putnam would not have faced.

First, let’s forecast the rise of Andrew Gillum.

Gillum is going to quickly become a national Democratic icon and people will start floating his name as a 2020 presidential nominee. The energy around Gillum in Democratic circles will be intense as he is a better-looking and more rhetorically-polished Bernie Sanders. Gillum may offer fringe left beliefs, but he does not look or sound fringe.

The bane of Democratic politics in Florida is voter turnout.

While Democrats outnumber Republicans, they can rarely achieve high enough turnout rates to beat Republicans statewide. Gillum, like Barack Obama, brings “once in a generation” excitement to minority communities that will be thrilled to vote for Florida’s first black governor.

Let’s call this strategy the “Barack Obama,” where a candidate can use star power and inspirational messaging to drive turnout among low-propensity voters.

The FBI investigation and corruption charges are unlikely to hold weight with voters who have low confidence in the FBI and dismiss information they don’t like as “Fake News.”

At best, Gillum’s mayoral record can be used to motivate Republican voters, but it is unlikely to deter Democrats.

Finally, Gillum is going to benefit from any attack tweets issued by Donald Trump, as this will provide him with national earned media and drive home the narrative that he is the nation’s premier anti-Trump candidate.

The DeSantis campaign should work with the White House as much as possible to focus presidential messaging about Gillum around the FBI investigation and corruption charges. By doing so, the media will begin to talk about those issues, and Gillum will be forced to answer an attack on his record and not merely respond to Trump.

To win, Gillum needs to focus on voter turnout and not make unforced errors in the media or in debates.

Now, let’s take a look at DeSantis.

As a Republican, DeSantis has two valid strategic options that will lead to a win statewide.

The “Rick Scott:” Move away from the President while also trying to build a coalition of Republicans and moderates around economic issues.

Or …

The “Donald Trump:” Keep working with the President to recreate the Trump coalition of hardcore Republicans and blue collar, white Democrats around social issues.

The issue for DeSantis with the Scott strategy is women. Generally, college-educated moderate women do not support Trump. Democrats will exploit DeSantis’s support for Trump to wedge away soft Republican and NPA women.

DeSantis’ issue with the Trump strategy is that it is successful for only one person – Donald Trump. No one can guarantee if Trump-supported candidates are able to generate the same level of support and voter turnout as the Big Man himself.

That said, I don’t believe DeSantis faces a steeper climb than, say, Putnam, or any other Republican candidate, would have against Gillum. I believe that if Putnam won, he would have ultimately pursued the Trump strategy once it was evident that support among moderate women had collapsed.

Ironically, all the attributes for which Trump praises DeSantis make it difficult for him to recreate the Trump strategy. Ivy League lawyers are typically unpopular among populist NPA and Democratic voters in Florida’s exurban and rural counties, just the where DeSantis needs to recreate the Trump coalition.

There are two actions the DeSantis campaign can take to build a Trump strategy.

First, the DeSantis campaign should seek the endorsement and active support of the one Republican who is most beloved in our rural and exurban areas: Putnam.

Putnam draws large crowds in these areas and the DeSantis campaign needs a validator to voters who will not vote for Gillum but may be at risk of simply not voting.

If DeSantis fails to win these rural and exurban voters, he will have taken the Mitt Romney strategy, which is not a winning route.

Second, the DeSantis campaign should select a moderate Republican woman (or Puerto Rican) to fill the lieutenant governor slot – and give that person a meaningful role.

Denise Grimsley and Jeanette Nunez are both choices, offering overlapping benefits. Grimsley is liked among rural voters and Nunez among Miami Cuban voters. There are also several viable options for LG in Orlando that carry deep ties to the I-4 Puerto Rican community, such as Bob Cortes and Rene Plascencia.

DeSantis would hit the jackpot if he finds a moderate, Republican, Puerto Rican woman for his ticket.

To win, DeSantis needs to duplicate the Trump coalition without the benefit of Trump on the ticket.

In the end, Republicans will be working with tight numbers, but they will ultimately have the advantage of a good economy; voters are always looking to keep things “on the right track.”

So, there we have it: Gillum needs to initiate Twitter battles with Trump and turn out low-propensity voters. DeSantis needs to offset the loss of moderate women with big wins in Trump Country.

___

Joe Clements is co-founder and CEO of Strategic Digital Services, a Tallahassee-based tech company. He is also co-founder of Bundl, a campaign contribution management app.

Public employee union endorses Andrew Gillum, Nikki Fried

The nations largest public employee union has endorsed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) announced its endorsement Thursday, two days after Gillum defied every pre-election poll and came out on top in the five-way Democratic primary for Governor.

“Andrew Gillum understands the issues facing Florida’s working families because he comes from a working family, he understands his success is due to hard work and the support of public institutions, and, most importantly, he has continued standing with working families every step of the way,” said AFSCME executive director Jana Weaver.

AFSCME, which has more than more than 1.6 million working and retired members, said its membership held a statewide call after Tuesday’s primary to discuss the general election and decided that Gillum rather than Republican nominee Ron DeSantis would be the best pick for public employees in November.

“It is clear that for the dedicated public workers who never quit serving their communities that Andrew Gillum is the clear choice and we are going to work hard every day until November to bring it home. He doesn’t just talk the talk, Andrew Gillum knows how to deliver the change our state needs,” Weaver said.

“While Ron DeSantis is focused on his cable news headlines, Andrew Gillum has put together a real agenda to tackle our state’s income inequality, make a real investment in public education, protect our communities from senseless gun violence and expand healthcare access,” she concluded.

In the same announcement, AFSCME said it was also backing the Nikki Fried for Agriculture Commissioner. Fried was a late entry into Democratic primary for the statewide seat, but quickly surpassed her primary challengers in fundraising and earned 58 percent of the vote in the three-way race.

“Nikki Fried will put an end to the scandals and issues that have plagued a department central to the prosperity of our entire state,” Weaver said. “She will work with the dedicated state workers in the department to implement the goals Floridians have clearly stated they want while tackling the challenges, such as climate change, that threaten our future.”

With the addition of Gillum and Fried, AFSCME has backed every Democrat running statewide in 2018. Prior endorsements went out to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who will face term-limited Gov. Rick Scott in the fall; Attorney General nominee Sean Shaw, who defeated Ryan Torrens in the primary and now faces former circuit court judge Ashley Moody; and Jeremy Ring, who is running for Chief Financial Officer against incumbent Republican Jimmy Patronis.

__

Updated Friday — Later Thursday night, the Committee on Political Education of the Florida AFL-CIO announced it had voted to endorse Gillum for Governor.

Florida AFL-CIO is the state federation of unions representing over one million union members, retirees, and their families in the state.

“For too long Florida’s working people have been left behind by corporate special interests in Tallahassee,” Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams said in a statement. “We need a Governor that will boldly fight for the issues that affect workers every day.”

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