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Ron DeSantis claims migrant caravans headed to U.S. border are fronts for drug cartels

Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis has been effectively co-branded with the Donald Trump White House from the beginning.

Even if he hadn’t run a campaign ad where he pretended to teach one of his children how to build a border wall, chances are he still would have been asked his thoughts on the migrant caravan currently moving northward to the U.S./Mexico border.

Especially since the President has been very blunt about his take: that these caravans existentially threaten law and order in the domestic sphere.

In Jacksonville Tuesday, DeSantis offered his take on a law and order issue far from Florida’s border, lining up with the President.

“The caravans can’t be allowed to overrun our border,” DeSantis said. “We’re a sovereign country. When you see that developing, obviously it is orchestrated.”

DeSantis, when asked who orchestrated the migration, said he didn’t know.

“I don’t think it happens on its own, that you get thousands of people walking in a line all by itself,” DeSantis said. “If you have a movement, coming across the border like that, the cartels will do their best to capitalize on it.”

DeSantis called these “massive incursions” a “wet kiss to the drug cartels,” echoing points he made Sunday in a debate with Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum.

“We know China’s manufacturing all of this fentanyl, they’re sending it to Central America, it pours across the border,” DeSantis added.

While the U.S. has “interdicted” a lot of it, DeSantis noted his concern over entry of “that product” and people “who don’t have our country’s best interests at heart.”

“That does point to a difference between Gillum and me,” DeSantis said, noting that Gillum wants to “eliminate ICE” and had trouble answering a debate question about whether he would honor a detainer request from the Trump administration over an illegal immigrant.

DeSantis has messaged heavily on the claim that Gillum wants to abolish ICE, and PolitiFact noted that his assertion was “half true,” with context left out, such as Gillum’s belief that ICE should be replaced with a function inside the Department of Justice.

DeSantis will further yoke to the President’s message and messengers. Thursday will see Vice President Mike Pence in Jacksonville rallying for him.

Trey Radel-linked ad contains loaded lines about Andrew Gillum

A new advertisement cut by Republican former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel heaps Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum with uncomfortable levels of praise.

Whether through sarcasm or misdirection, the radio spot (see bottom of post) from his Freedom Council USA runs through hard-left progressive stances that won Gillum his party nomination and the support of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The script, while narrated in a pleasant female voice, uses blunt terms aimed more at mobilizing conservatives or inciting nervousness in the middle.

“Andrew Gillum is a champion of the people,” the ad begins. “He believes in democratic socialism. This form of socialism is going to do a lot of things to Florida.”

The ad then runs through a list of positions, from “government-run health care” to abolishing ICE.

“Floridians will pay more in taxes,” the ad says with gusto.

Perhaps most curious considering Radel’s role in the ad, the starkest line comes near the middle.

“Andrew Gillum will work to ban guns, and he will legalize drugs,” the narrator says.

Radel resigned from Congress before the completion of his first term a few months after pleading guilty to cocaine possession. He was the first member of the U.S. House ever arrested on a cocaine-related charge.

As for the positions outlined, Gillum has supported eliminating ICE in its current form, increasing Florida’s corporate tax rate, limiting access to high-capacity firearms, accepting federal money for a Medicaid expansion, and legalizing marijuana for adult use.

But he’s pushed back on descriptions of his positions in the words used in the Freedom Council advertisement.

For example, when Republican Ron DeSantis in Sunday’s CNN Debate accused Gillum of supporting “Medicare for All” in a way that threatened Medicare for seniors and health care for veterans, Gillum disagreed.

“Define ‘Medicare for All,’ ” he said. “Define it … What I support is expanding Medicaid for over 800,000 Floridians who deserve to have access to their own doctor.”

And while Gillum has tweeted “Legalize it,” he’s said nothing about cocaine.

Ron DeSantis, Sheriffs hammer Andrew Gillum’s Dream Defenders ties

Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis took a page from the book of his dispatched primary rival Tuesday, with an early morning Jacksonville presser designed to highlight support from law enforcement.

Worth noting: Jacksonville is dealing with a continued multiyear upward trend in its murder rate, a similar phenomenon to the depictions of crime-ridden Tallahassee in Republican ads. High-profile mass shootings are becoming the norm here, including recent gunplay at a high school football game, a video game competition, and the shooting of six people within walking distance of the Jaguars’ game last Sunday.

Included at the event: Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, who attended DeSantis’ Sunday night debate in Tampa (Gillum “didn’t do anything tonight to calm the nerves of people rightfully concerned about public safety under his failed leadership,” Williams chided); and Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels, who questioned Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum “as a man” for signing the Dream Defenders pledge earlier this year.

The DeSantis campaign has sought to capitalize on Gillum’s signing of the Dream Defenders pledge (which Gillum claimed not to have signed in Sunday’s debate), and Tuesday was probably the most prominent push, with ad-ready footage from Republican sheriffs delineating what they see as stark differences between the candidates.

Sheriff Mike Prendergast of Citrus County noted that DeSantis “will not tolerate … racist hate groups who don’t support law enforcement officers.”

Sheriff Bobby Schultz of Gilchrist County echoed those thoughts, saying DeSantis “will not slap the face of law enforcement by supporting hate groups that do nothing but demonize law enforcement.”

Perhaps the bluntest Sheriff speaking, Gordon Smith of Bradford County, noted “you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken pocky,” referring to Gillum, who has “made a mess out of Tallahassee.”

Sheriff Daniels was more restrained Tuesday than he was in his Twitter endorsement of DeSantis, but took a more personal tack than some of the other officers, mocking Gillum’s invoking of his grandmother during speeches.

“Everything that’s shiny ain’t gold,” Daniels said, urging people to “research” Gillum.

DeSantis, per Daniels, is “somebody who understands the dynamic of protect and serve.”

“He’s my brother,” Daniels said, offering an “open and heartfelt endorsement.”

Sheriff Mike Williams made a more utilitarian case.

“We need support from Tallahassee,” Williams said. “Need to know the resources are still available” for law enforcement.

DeSantis, who had very few Sheriffs backing him against Adam Putnam, presented as the champion of law enforcement, the last bulwark against Gillum’s Californication of the state.

The candidate noted “the overwhelming support of law enforcement,” which hasn’t been “seen in recent times.”

“Such an overwhelming base of support for one candidate over the other,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis reprised his points against the “radical group” Dream Defenders with their “disgusting and ridiculous manifesto.”

This, a highlight of his Sunday debate performance, would be familiar, as he incredulously quoted passages like “police and prisons have no place in justice” and “defunding law enforcement and putting money into welfare programs.”

“I’m not going to go down that road,” DeSantis pledged.

Back before the primary, we asked Gillum about his third-party backing, and whether it would interfere with his messaging.

“I try to be my own best messenger,” Gillum said, “and hope that they can pick up from kind of where I leave off, and frankly create ads and advertisements that use my voice and get my voice out there.”

“Obviously we don’t get to control what everyone else does. I’m learning more and more about what everybody’s doing as I read the news,” Gillum added.

“For the part that we can control,” Gillum added, “we are building really strong momentum around the state of Florida.”

Another lead: Andrew Gillum up 5 points in new FAU poll

A new survey of Florida’s Governor’s race is giving Democrat Andrew Gillum a 5-point lead on Republican Ron DeSantis.

Gillum garnered 41 percent of support from respondents in a survey conducted over the weekend by Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative (FAU BEPI). DeSantis trailed behind, with 36 percent support. The poll, conducted via an online questionnaire, has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.

In September, the same polling group showed Gillum up 41-38.

“Young voters could be a major factor in the Governor’s race,” FAU BEPI noted. Across the sample of 740 likely voters, 18 to 34-year-olds favored Gillum 46-24.

“If young voters turn out in high numbers, it could carry the Democratic ticket,” added Kevin Wagner, professor of political science at FAU and research fellow at FAU BEPI.

Early voting is underway in some parts of the state, and vote-by-mail ballots have been pouring in since earlier this month. But the poll, conducted from Oct. 18– 21, found that 18 percent of the sample remains undecided. Election Day is two weeks away.

Earlier on Tuesday, a Quinnipiac University Poll gave Gillum a 6-point lead. Another conducted over the weekend, from Tom Eldon’s SEA Polling & Strategic Design, found Gillum up 48-42 percent over his Republican rival. A CNN poll gave the Democrat a 12-point lead on Sunday.

But a Monday survey from St. Pete Polls put the race almost even, giving Gillum a razor-thin, 1-point lead over DeSantis. An internal poll released by the DeSantis campaign on Sunday showed the Republican with a 2-point lead over Gillum.

FAU BEPI also surveyed the U.S. Senate race, but found the Republican leading the Democratic incumbent, with Rick Scott up two points on U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

FBI provided ‘Hamilton’ ticket to Andrew Gillum, subpoena suggests

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum might have accepted tickets to the “Hamilton” musical from an undercover FBI agent during an August 2016 trip to New York, records suggest.

The records were requested and made public by the state’s Commission of Ethics on Tuesday through the course of an investigation separate from the FBI’s. News of subpoenaed text messages was first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Correspondence shows lobbyist Adam Corey — subpoenaed by the FBI in June 2017 after a two-year-long investigation into Tallahassee’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) — contacted Gillum during the New York trip to tell him that “Mike Miller,” now believed to be an undercover federal agent, had tickets to the popular show.

“Mike Miller and the crew have tickets for us to see ‘Hamilton’ tonight,” Corey texted Gillum during the trip, according to the subpoena.

Replied Gillum: “Awesome news about the show.”

The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in north Florida had issued subpoenas seeking information on redevelopment projects that involve the agency as part of a long-running investigation. Gillum last year said the FBI had told him he was “not the focus” of the investigation.

The CRA’s mission is to “use a combination of public and private resources to facilitate redevelopment,” according to its website. “To meet this goal, the Tallahassee CRA seeks projects that help reduce or eliminate the continuation and/or spread of blight.”

It’s long been criticized, however, for ponying up more than $2 million to fund restoration of a former power plant in Cascades Park, now the home of The Edison restaurant, which has several Tallahassee lobbyist investors.

Corey, a lobbyist and developer, was one of many behind The Edison; he also was a former mayoral campaign treasurer to Gillum, who has since disowned him.

The mayor has contended that Corey gave a “Hamilton” ticket to his brother, Marcus Gillum, in exchange for a ticket to a Jay-Z show. Andrew Gillum has said he then used his brother’s ticket to attend the show.

But Gillum said he wasn’t aware at the time that Marcus Gillum had swapped the Jay-Z ticket for a ticket to the musical. The text messages, however, show Gillum knew Miller had Hamilton tickets.

“These records vindicate and add more evidence that at every turn I was paying my own way or was with my family, for all trips, including picking up tickets from my brother, Marcus, who was with a group of his own friends,” Gillum said in a statement.

After producing 150 pages of documents required by the state ethics investigation, lawyers for Corey are contending that the lobbyist did not indulge in improper or criminal activity.

Corey has suffered significant and permanent damage to both his business and personal interests and reputation,” said attorney Christopher Kise of the Foley & Lardner law firm’s Tallahassee office. He released a statement accompanying the public records.

His client “has been unfairly and inaccurately portrayed in the media as being engaged in improper or criminal actions,” he added, when he has “not engaged in such activity.”

The “unfounded assaults on his reputation have been both harmful and unfair,” Kise said. 

Actually, yes, Andrew Gillum signed a Dream Defenders pledge

It shocked no one when Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis at Sunday night’s CNN debate raised the issue of a Dream Defenders pledge signed by Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum in June.

“The fact is, Andrew signed a pledge with the Dream Defenders pledging his support, this radical manifesto.” DeSantis said.

Gillum’s response, though, surprised plenty.

“I have no idea what pledge he is talking about,” Gillum said.

The pledge this week spurred a number of law enforcement leaders to blast Gillum on Fox News, with robocalls and any way possible.

And for months, the Dream Defenders group itself touted the pledge by Gillum as a way to motivate the base, helping the Democrat secure his party nomination along the way.

So where’s the disconnect between the document Gillum signed, alongside now-running mate Chris King, and the statement made on the debate stage that he recalls no such thing?

The Dream Defenders say it’s a matter of differentiation between the two-page candidate pledge, which boasts signatures from 30 candidates running for office in Florida this year, and the “Freedom Papers,” a much lengthier booklet put out by the group.

Yet the pledge the Dream Defenders themselves boast he signed says by signing the pledge you support the Freedom Papers. So, by signing one, by their own pledge, it means he agreed to both.

Rachel Gilmer, co-founder of the Dream Defenders, describes the Papers as a vision for “what it would look like to live in a state that prioritized the needs of people over corporations.”

“What we’ve seen over the last 40 years is politicians putting more into prisons and police rather than dealing with the root causes of why conflict happened in our communities in the first place,” she said.

But the document includes passages that draw the ire of police representatives.

Jeff Bell, president of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, went on Fox News this weekend and discussed a controversial excerpt.

It read: “Police were never meant to serve me and you … Police and prisons since their founding have always been about safety for the haves while wreaking havoc for the have-nots.”

“From a law enforcement perspective, when you have a potential candidate for the next governor who’s willing to sign a pledge with an anti-law enforcement, anti-government radical group such as the Dream Defenders,” Bell said, “he’s clearly sending a message to the voters before Election Day that he’s willing to support, defend and recognize radical groups like the Dream Defenders and he supports radicalization over the rule of law.”

Notably, it’s information about the Freedom Papers that greets web visitors when they first go to the Dream Defenders website. Guests at the page are encouraged to sign onto the Papers, and there’s little mention of the Pledge.

The Dream Defenders promoted the Papers Sunday in a tweet before the debate, as DeSantis noted on his own feed.

But Dream Defenders make a distinction between that document and the pledge.

Gillum on June 11, the day of a Freedom Forum hosted by the Dream Defenders, signed the Freedom Pledge, as did the other major Democratic candidates running for governor at the time: King, Gwen Graham, and Philip Levine.

On stage, every candidate vocally pledged not to accept financial contributions from private prison companies like The GEO Group.

Gillum at the CNN debate acknowledged that much of the commitment.

“The only thing that I said is that as Governor, I will not see private prisons operating here in the state of Florida,” he said.

“If you want to know about my record with police, because I have public defenders and sheriffs all over this state who endorse me in this race for Governor, we hired more law enforcement officers so they could do their job.”

Dream Defenders spokeswoman Nailah Summers said the candidate pledge basically demands two things. One is that a candidate won’t accept money from the National Rifle Association, and will return any donations to date. The other is that a candidate will take no donations from private prison corporations.

“We’ve always been very clear, we are not in lock step with Andrew Gillum, and he’s not in lockstep with us,” Summers said.

The group notably holds different views with Gillum about Israel. The group describes Palestinian uprisings there as inspiring acts of “resilience and resistance.” Gillum calls such actions counteractive to a two-state solution.

Gillum, though, stressed his area of agreement with Dream Defenders on prison reform. When Politico reported on law enforcement anger at the Dream Defenders pledge, Gillum’s campaign released a statement: “He will not take money from the private prison industry and instead will invest in community policing, smart justice and strategies that work with communities to reduce crime and create better opportunities for all Floridians.”

Dream Defenders leaders say the whole reason they seek out signatures is to hold candidates they support accountable to the people instead of special interests. But Summers doesn’t especially mind if Gillum distances himself from the group right now.

“It’s about holding Andrew Gillum accountable once he is in office,” Summers said.

The DeSantis camp, though, won’t let the issue go ignored.

DeSantis himself noted the odd stance of the Dream Defenders rushing to Gillum’s defense with the Pledge-versus-Papers defense by posting a chin-scratching emoji.

And he’s continued to stress his own support from the law enforcement community in contrast with the apparent antagonism facing Gillum, as he did on the debate stage.

“They say the police and prisons have no place in justice and that law enforcement should be defunded and the money diverted for welfare programs,” DeSantis said. “The people who put on that uniform and risk their lives for us should be applauded. They should not be denigrated by a radical pledge.”

With just two weeks until Election Day, it’s likely the pledge will keeping coming up.

Republican Party ad slams Sean Shaw as ‘unqualified’

The Republican Party of Florida on Tuesday released a tough ad that Democratic Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw is “unqualified” for the job.

The spot, part of a three-pack that includes statewide candidates CFO Jimmy Patronis, Agriculture Commissioner hopeful Matt Caldwell, and A.G. candidate Ashley Moody, affirms previous arguments from the Moody campaign that Shaw has no business replacing Pam Bondi.

“Slick ads, false attacks. That’s Sean Shaw on TV,” the statewide spot begins, before spotlighting why Shaw isn’t right for Florida.

“Shaw backed reduced punishment for a cop killer … Shaw’s wealth doubled in office while he backed higher taxes and higher insurance rates,” go the claims.

Then, using a line lifted from an Ashley Moody ad, the GOP painted Shaw as … well, a dilettante.

“Now, Shaw wants to be Attorney General. But he’s got no experience. Shaw’s never even prosecuted a case. His first one shouldn’t be as Attorney General,” the ad wraps.

The Tampa Bay Times noted that Moody was a prosecutor from 2004 to 2006, which undercuts the implicit claim of recent prosecutorial experience on the longtime Judge’s part.

The timing of the latest spot is no accident: Shaw and Moody debate for the only time in the campaign on Tuesday evening, an event on Spectrum Bay News 9.

Presumably, ad time has been bought.

Jesse Jackson, Florida lawmakers support ‘crime victims’ bill of rights’

A new round of Florida lawmakers gave their endorsement for Amendment 6 on Tuesday, off the heels of civil-rights legend Jesse Jackson Sr. stating his support for the measure.

The amendment aims to increase rights for crime victims in the state of Florida. It was modeled after “Marsy’s Law.”

Advocates say Amendment 6 will help victims be more informed of the progression of the legal case against the defendant. For instance, victims would be able to give an impact statement during a trial, or would receive notification that an attacker was released from prison.

Critics where it is already law counter that the measure has “increased government costs beyond what they had expected, and police complained it had inhibited their ability to investigate crimes.”

Marsy’s Law for Florida, a group advocating for the amendment’s passage, announced a group of former and current representatives who are voicing their support. They are:

— Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida’s 12th Congressional District

— Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida’s 26th

— Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Florida’s 5th

— Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida’s 17th

— Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida’s 27th

— Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida’s 15th

— Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Florida’s 9th

— Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida’s 3rd

— Former U.S. Rep. and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis

The list of lawmakers join previous officials who have advocated for the amendment’s approval, including state Sens. Lauren Book of Plantation and Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg, both Democrats, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, the current mayor of Tallahassee.

Jackson gave a shout-out to Gillum on Twitter for his work on the subject: “Crime victims and their families deserve equal rights,” Jackson wrote.

“If you believe in equal rights, join Mayor Gillum and support Amendment 6 in November!”

“We appreciate the support of these Florida Congressional members who are standing with the people of their districts who have had their lives forever altered by crime,” said Greg Ungru, state director for Marsy’s Law for Florida.

“With their advocacy, we further strengthen our efforts to communicate to voters why Florida needs clear, enforceable rights in our state’s most powerful legal document.”

The group held an early voting rally on Monday featuring state Book and former Miami Heat player Shane Battier to convince voters to support the amendment.

Q-poll: Independents, women, non-white voters push Andrew Gillum up 6 points

Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum is leading his Republican opponent Ron DeSantis by a 6-point margin, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released on Tuesday.

Of the 1,161 likely voters surveyed, 52 percent said they’d vote for Gillum, the Tallahassee Mayor. Forty-two percent opted for DeSantis, a former congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach. Gillum’s lead is outside the poll’s 3.5 percent margin of error.

The live-interview poll randomly sampled more Republicans (35 percent) than Democrats (32 percent). Independent voters came in at 29 percent, while 4 percent of respondents did not indicate or did not know their affiliation.

Gillum’s lead in the poll can be attributed to his favorability among black, Hispanic and independent Floridians. An overwhelming 99 percent of black voters surveyed broke for Gillum. Nearly 60 percent of women and Hispanic voters surveyed also went for Gillum. Across the large sample of independents, Gillum led DeSantis by 18 points.

Peter Brown, assistant director at the Quinnipiac University Poll, suggested DeSantis is suffering from anti-Donald Trump backlash. The President endorsed DeSantis early on — ahead of the Republican primary — and has continued to vouch for DeSantis’ candidacy.

“The GOP has faced strong opposition from women and other anti-Trump voters,” Brown said. “These defections have hurt GOP candidates around the country and made it difficult to attract the numbers of independent voters that are often major players in successful campaigns.”

Brown also noted that Gillum “is on the plus side of a 50-47 percent split among white women.”

Early voting is underway in some parts of the state, and vote-by-mail ballots have been pouring in since earlier this month. But the poll, conducted from Oct. 17 – 21, did not ask respondents whether they’ve already cast a ballot.

Party voters were more faithful to Gillum, who found support in 96 percent of the Democrats surveyed, than DeSantis, who captured 89 percent of Republicans.

Another metric recorded in the poll suggests there isn’t much wiggle room ahead of the Nov. 6 election; just 2 percent of respondents were undecided, while only 4 percent said they could change their minds ahead of Election Day.

The poll mirrors some other surveys conducted over the weekend. One, from Tom Eldon’s SEA Polling & Strategic Design, found Gillum up 48-42 percent over his Republican rival. A CNN poll gave the Democrat a 12-point lead on Sunday.

But a Monday survey from St. Pete Polls put the race almost even, giving Gillum a razor-thin, 1-point lead over DeSantis. An internal poll released by the DeSantis campaign on Sunday showed the Republican with a 2-point lead over Gillum.

After CNN debate, Andrew Gillum talks ‘whooping’, Ron DeSantis ‘contrast’

In the aftermath of Sunday night’s gubernatorial debate between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis, both candidates feel like they got the job done.

Gillum, speaking in Jacksonville Monday, essentially spiked the ball on DeSantis to a partisan crowd assembled for the “Winning Ticket.”

“Did y’all see that whooping we put on Ron DeSantis? This brother can’t get off the stage soon enough,” Gillum said, vowing to “retire him.”

Gillum exulted in the memes his supporters circulated, many of which focused on DeSantis looking somewhat uncomfortable in the early moments of the CNN clash.

However, when asked to assess his performance Tuesday, DeSantis clearly didn’t see it as a loss.

While he wouldn’t rate his debate performance on a scale of A to F, the Republican nonetheless thought he scored points on substance.

“You saw a contrast. I’m a leader. I have a record of service to the country. Andrew’s a career politician. He’s never done anything outside of politics since college,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis characterized Gillum’s commitment to tax increases as “second to none.”

“And he could not answer basic questions regarding his relationship with the undercover FBI agent, gifts he received not only in New York, but in Costa Rica on this luxury vacation that’s been the subject of so much FBI scrutiny.

“And of course, those lobbyists he was in Costa Rica with and New York with, he eventually gave them a $2 million grant from the city of Tallahassee to build a restaurant,” DeSantis added.

While Politifact has disputed the argument that Gillum is “running from the FBI,” it’s clear DeSantis sees these investigations as equal parts revelatory and disqualifying.

“Tallahassee’s reputation of being very crime ridden is obviously well earned, but it is a city government that obviously has major problems with corruption.”

“I think you saw a good contrast,” DeSantis said, with him “using the office to put taxpayers first” compared to Gillum, who “feathered his own nest.”

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