Big get: Andrew Gillum endorsed by Tom Steyer’s NextGen America


Today is one of the most important days yet for Andrew Gillum‘s campaign to be the next governor of Florida.

That’s because the Tallahassee Mayor has just been formally endorsed by NextGen America, the civic action group founded by billionaire Tom Steyer whose focus includes impeaching President Donald Trump.

“As we battle for the heart and soul of this nation, Andrew Gillum is the kind of leader we need on the front lines,” said Steyer. “He’s someone we can trust to do the right thing, to put the people before the powerful, and who is unafraid to stand up for justice, now when we need it most. Those who are willing to act courageously and stand up for what is right, are those who will shape the political landscape of the country, and that’s why we’re taking this unprecedented step to make sure Andrew is representing the Democratic Party in November.”

While organizations like NextGen are prohibited from directly working with a campaign, a news release from the organization states it has over $1 million planned for investment on behalf of Gillum and 50 organizers ready on the ground in Florida.

“NextGen America will run a robust field, digital and mail campaign to push Gillum over the finish line to secure the nomination on August 28th,” reads a news release from the group.

Absent from that plan: television spending for Gillum, who hasn’t financed a TV ad yet. The $1 million figure stems from a $500,000 grant from Steyer to Gillum-affiliated PAC Forward Florida along with additional funding, according to NextGen.

While significant, that’s a far cry compared to the $20 million Steyer’s NextGenClimate spent hammering Gov. Rick Scott as a climate change denier during his 2014 re-election bid. It wasn’t enough, obviously, as the Republican incumbent narrowly defeated Charlie Crist, and is now a serious threat to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in the fall.

News of NextGen’s expected backing of Gillum was outlined in an internal email sent to field organizers working in the Sunshine State. It was obtained by Florida Politics Thursday night.

“NextGen America is planning on endorsing Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary for Governor of Florida,” read the memo, which instructs staffers not to share any information about the endorsement without explicit written permission. “There will be lots of information coming out in the next couple days, but we wanted to send a note to you first to explain what this means, and answer a few questions you might have.”

Continues the memo: “We will be rolling this out over the next day or two, and we want to make sure that we do it in a coordinated fashion.”

NextGen has held a keen interest in the Sunshine State in recent months. 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. Then in March, Steyer’s group said they planned to dump $3.5 million to mobilize young voters in Florida by hiring at least 100 college campus representatives across 40 campuses. 

A year ago, NextGen held rallies on the campuses of the University of Florida, the University of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic University and the University of North Florida to take the temperature of the state’s college aged electorate as part of its mission to register and motivate a half-million young voters to turn up at the voting booth for the midterm election.

Negative ads targeting others in the Democratic contest, which includes Philip Levine, Gwen Graham, Chris King and Jeff Greene, are unlikely. NextGen in the memo made a point of instructing its field workers to not bash other candidates — despite feeling that Gillum most aligns most with their progressive agenda.

“We hope to make it clear to voters the several reasons why we as an organization support him,” reads a portion of the memo. “But we know that even if Andrew doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, there will be a Democratic nominee that we will be proud to support.”

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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