The Gwen Graham for Governor yard signs were not even down before the man who beat her in last week’s Democratic primary for Florida governor, Andrew Gillum, was being asked if he would consider her as a running mate.
There’s a reason God put Labor Day Weekend right after Election Day, and that was so the candidates who have spent the better part of a year crisscrossing the state in pursuit of votes get a chance to collect themselves after the grueling primaries.
Ron DeSantis, the Ponte Vedra congressman who is now the stand-bearer for the Republican Party demonstrated, with his dog-whistling ‘monkey‘ comment, why no winning (and exhausted) candidate should give interviews the day after an election. Is there any question that DeSantis would have been better off if he had said, as does the Super Bowl MVP, he was taking his family to Disney World for the weekend?
Instead, everyone wants to know who Gillum and DeSantis plan to pick as running mates. That question is quickly followed up with, ‘Who’s gonna win, Andrew or Ron?’
Give it a moment, people. Breathe. It’s gonna be a long two months to November.
In fact, that’s one of the many problems with Florida politics, that candidates spend about eighteen months running for their party’s nomination, then just eight weeks running in a general election. The Sunshine State would be better served if party nominees were chosen in the late Spring rather than when many folks are busy getting kids ready to go back to school.
But this is the system we are in, so the two candidates who shocked the political world by winning last Tuesday now must choose a dance partner by next Thursday.
If DeSantis wants to change the discussion from monkeys and racist robocalls, his campaign should start leaking his top one or two choices right before the Florida State football game begins at 8 p.m. Monday night. Then seize the initiative on the unofficial start of the general election campaign by unveiling his pick Tuesday morning.
Gillum, who probably hasn’t had a moment to himself to think about who he wants standing next to him for as much as the next eight years, is reportedly considering about five or six possible choices: Graham, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, Lauren Book, state Reps. Kristin Jacobs and Amy Mercado, and Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay.
For a variety of reasons, Gillum is under enormous pressure to select a female running mate. Choosing a woman would invigorate a constituency of the Democratic Party that is smarting after Graham’s loss. Everyone keeps saying 2018 is the year of the woman in politics, but with four dudes atop the two tickets — Gillum, DeSantis, Bill Nelson and Rick Scott — November 6 has the makings of a sausage party.
The animosity between the Gillum and Graham camps was palpable on the campaign trail and may be too much to overcome to add Graham to the ticket.
Murphy would be a formidable attack dog for Gillum, which may be needed in this campaign. But going the ‘Tim Kaine route,’ as one Democratic strategist described a Gillum-Murphy ticket, seems like an odd pairing.
Book, Jacobs, Mercado, and McKinlay each possess unique talents, and I’ll leave it to their surrogates to make a case for each of them. However, if I can personally appeal to Book, I have one message:
Don’t do it.
If asked by Gillum to be his running mate, politely but surely decline.
Lauren, you’re bigger and better than LG.
Book was recently re-election without opposition to a second term in the Florida Senate, where she has already demonstrated herself to be a capable leader willing to speak out against bullies (like former Sen. Jack Latvala) and for those who need a champion.
With her powerful father as her top cheerleader, Book is a political powerhouse, able to raise millions of dollars for any campaign on which she works.
It’s easy to understand why Gillum would want her as a running mate. She’s forcefully intelligent, telegenic, hardworking, and a prodigious fundraiser.
Gillum and Book on stage next to each other would communicate to many voters that this is not your father’s Democratic Party.
But Book should resist any entreaties to get up on that stage with Gillum.
First of all, she has more power in the Florida Senate, especially if the Democrats win the majority, than she would as Lieutenant Governor. The valets at the Governors Club have more juice than the occupant of LG’s office.
Second, Gillum’s chances of winning are, at best fifty-fifty. Book would have to give up her safe Senate seat to roll the dice with Gillum.
Third, whether Gillum wins or loses, Book’s time will come. If Gillum wins, she can be his staunch ally in the Senate and run in eight years when she’ll still probably be the youngest person on the ballot. If Gillum loses, Book is one of the front-runners to be the party’s nominee in 2022.
The bottom line: Book has a lot to lose just for a flipped coin’s chance of winning one of the worst jobs in Tallahassee.
Don’t do it, Senator.