Unless a caravan of black Chevy Suburbans is spotted this week arriving at Tallahassee’s City Hall, that town’s mostly ceremonial mayor, Andrew Gillum, will have progressed through the entire Democratic primary for Florida governor.
That’s without being charged — or, perhaps more importantly, exonerated — by the FBI as part of its investigation into public corruption in the Capital City.
A year ago, rumors swirled throughout Tallahassee that arrests, including Gillum’s, were imminent. Then nothing happened.
Six weeks later, the whispers started again. And, just as before, there were no handcuffs in sight.
In July, the Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeff Burlew reported a story headlined, “‘Indictment Eve’? Charges could come soon in FBI probe, experts say.” But Indictment Day never materialized.
Such is the ebb and flow of a saga which began in June 2017 when FBI agents delivered subpoenas requesting thousands of pages of records from key players in Tallahassee government.
Gillum insists that he is not the target of the federal probe, but admits his longtime friendship with Adam Corey, a lobbyist who appears to be at the center of the investigation, and a trip to Costa Rica in which Gillum paid cash for his share of a rental house shared with Corey and others, have made him a subject of scrutiny.
Corey very well could be arrested. So, too, could Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox. Gillum could be implicated. Or not.
But it’s likely nothing will happen before Aug. 28, when Florida Democrats choose their nominee for Governor.
As the Tampa Bay Times recently reminded readers, an unofficial, but often-cited Department of Justice regulation states that federal law enforcement officials are not to discuss or act on investigations within 60 days of an election.
We all witnessed what happened when James Comey violated this unofficial rule, by sending a bombshell letter to Congress that the bureau was looking to examine new evidence relevant to Hillary Clinton’s email case. Doing so changed the course of history.
The stakes in Florida are nowhere near as high as they were in the fall of 2016, but the FBI, by taking no action one way or the other in this case, has done as much damage to Gillum’s campaign as Comey did to Clinton’s.
Point blank: The FBI f*cked Andrew Gillum.
Now, it’s still possible Gillum will prevail next Tuesday, but that’s doubtful. If not, it will be difficult not to think what might have been.
If Gillum loses, it will be because not enough black voters realize Gillum is black.
Gillum, a strong, progressive black candidate, should be the overwhelming choice of the monolithic black vote.
Matt Isbell, a data consultant who’s supporting Gwen Graham, said recent polls show Gillum with a maximum of 30 percent support among black voters, far shy of the 70 percent the mayor is counting on.
And why don’t more black voters know about Gillum? Because Gillum’s campaign has not, at least until recently, raised the kind of money necessary to introduce himself to enough voters, black or otherwise.
And Gillum wasn’t able to raise serious money early on because (you can already see where this is going), he was dogged by the FBI investigation.
Democratic donors, still scarred by what happened with the FBI and Clinton, were unwilling to bankroll another candidate who, if he were to be the nominee, could be filleted by the Republicans if it turned out there’s more than smoke at the center of the dumpster fire in Tallahassee.
So Gillum has persevered and is, perhaps, surging at the end. The most recent polling shows that he has moved into third place, ahead of Jeff Greene and his millions of dollars.
Bernie Sanders was in-state for him over the weekend, delivering an earned media bonanza. There’s even a poll showing Gillum in second place with Democrats in the Panhandle, a region his campaign says it’s not even targeting with TV ads.
There is a powerful photograph of Gillum from this weekend and Bernie Sanders isn’t anywhere near it. The shot is of Gillum sitting alone during a Tampa NAACP candidate forum. Of the five Democrats running for Florida governor, he was the only one to show up.
Despite the horrible start to his campaign and in the face of a scandal which has perpetually swirled around him, Gillum has shown up every day of this primary campaign. Even his critics must acknowledge that.
Unfortunately for Gillum, just as the day Donald Trump first tweeted his support for Ron DeSantis is the most important moment for the Republican, the key moment on the Democratic side was June 2017 — when the FBI started demanding records from Gillum’s City Hall.
Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post, republished with permission.