Bernie Sanders Archives - Florida Politics

Democrats charge Republicans, Ron DeSantis with exploiting Pulse victims in attack ad

The Republican Party of Florida continues to hammer away at Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

However, the Democrats are claiming that their counterparts went too far with one image in their latest spot: a Spanish-language salvo, “Miseria,” spotlighting Gillum’s ties to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and “the extreme left.”

That image, asserts Democrats, means that Republican Ron DeSantis should apologize, and the ad should be taken down.

The ad continues the general election agitation on the right against the so-called socialism of the Democratic ticket (per the voiceover, “Andrew Gillum owes himself to Bernie Sanders. Gillum is financed by the extreme left and under a cloud of corruption.”)

Almost immediately after the spot dropped, the Gillum camp noted an unexpected image in the ad: a seeming mockery of the Democrat receiving a commemorative ribbon from the family of someone who was killed during the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.

Spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice said the Republican Party of Florida was not aware of the context of that photo when they used it.

“There was no intention to be insensitive in any way. The image is being swapped out. However, we stand by the message of the ad,” Beatrice said.

By mid-afternoon, the image indeed was removed and the ad republished to YouTube. But the ad will not be pulled.

Swapping out the image wasn’t enough for Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Kevin Donohoe, however. Nor did that satisfy the surrogates who spoke up against the spot.

The FDP called for the ad to be taken down, saying DeSantis “has shamelessly exploited the Pulse tragedy by using an image of Mayor Gillum receiving a Pulse ribbon from a victim’s family. DeSantis will say or do anything to get elected — even if it means desecrating the memory of 49 angels who were murdered at Pulse.”

Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf and state Rep. Amy Mercado echoed these concerns Tuesday afternoon.

Calling for a formal apology from the Republican, Wolf called the DeSantis campaign “disgusting” and the RPOF “a gutter swamp … soulless and morally bankrupt” for running the ad, which showed Gillum receiving the ribbon from a victim’s sister.

Mercado lambasted the ad as “incendiary” and “heartless,” compelling a “reliving” of the Pulse tragedy for viewers with “fearmongering” directed to a Spanish audience.

Donohoe also asserted that Gillum is “not a socialist and to use that term to deceive and divide is an insult to the thousands of Floridians who have fled dictatorships.”

To support that premise, a number of Hispanics backed him up in messaging.

State Senator Annette Taddeo and State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez were among those who lambasted the ad as evidence of a “desperate campaign.”

“This is fear-mongering at its worst,” Taddeo (of Colombian descent) said about the socialism claim, an example of “going into the gutter on this campaign.”

Despite the furor over the spot’s use of the objectionable image, the ad can be seen as part of a larger strategy to drive up Gillum’s negatives, a strategy that Republicans note has never been tested in a campaign against the Tallahassee Mayor.

It’s any pollster’s guess where the target audience for these ads (Hispanic voters) will go.

The latest poll of the race, a survey from St. Pete Polls that was released Tuesday, showed a statistical dead heat between DeSantis and the Democrat.

Survey results have shown a wide range amongst Hispanic voters.

The NBC News/Marist poll released last month showed Gillum up 52 to 38. A Quinnipiac poll from last week showed Gillum up 18 (even as a previous Q Poll showed DeSantis up double digits with the demographic.

Sean Pittman: Far-left labels don’t apply to Andrew Gillum

If you believe the conventional wisdom of the Florida Governor’s race, voters have a stark choice between a Bernie Sanders Democrat and a Donald Trump Republican.

Andrew Gillum, who recently chose his primary opponent Chris King as his running mate, is indeed running against Republican Congressman and presidential acolyte, Ron DeSantis, with Jeanette Nunez for Lieutenant Governor.

It is indeed a glaring political contrast, but not in the way the DeSantis camp would have you believe.

I can’t speak for the Republicans — and won’t. However, the far-out description doesn’t fit Gillum, and it shouldn’t fly as campaign fodder in the November election.

Yes, Sanders did come to Florida and endorse Gillum. But, Gillum was a Hillary Clinton surrogate during the 2016 campaign and made her short list for running mate. Gillum was part of a four-member effort in Tallahassee that raised $500,000 for Obama’s first run as president in 2008.

Now, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is with Gillum as brother-in-arms; his primary opponent, Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, told Gillum to “go out and win the d— thing” as part of her endorsement. State Sen. Lauren Book, the daughter of one of the capitol’s most influential lawyer/lobbyists, also made the shortlist for Gillum’s running mate.

If you know Florida politics, this is not exactly the makings of a leftist cabal.

Besides those who support him, Gillum’s record as Tallahassee Mayor doesn’t suggest a socialist ideology either. In fact, the mayor-turned-gubernatorial candidate has pushed sensible policies that have fostered growth and development in the state’s capital city.

As Mayor, Gillum got rid of business license fees, revised the permitting process to make it more timely and refunded utility deposits to businesses in good standing. The changes made Tallahassee a better place for business and home to Florida’s fastest growing economy.

But, what about all that support from George Soros and Tom Steyer, the two billionaires most identified with progressive causes? Gillum may share political beliefs with the two, but he also appreciates the support from them and the full range of Floridians backing his campaign.

The reality is that many of these so-called progressive issues are becoming more mainstream by the day. Poll after poll shows a majority of Americans favor “Medicare-for-All.” People actually want affordable and accessible health care, including many Republicans who see the value in Medicare and Medicaid expansion as a way to improve medical services and lower drug prices.

Raising the minimum wage in Florida fails the radical-left standard, too.

You don’t need a poll, although several do show Floridians think the current state minimum wage of $8.25 needs to be raised, given our low-wage economy makes it difficult to make ends meet with only one job.

So, while it may be easy to mischaracterize Gillum as a member of the radical fringe, it’s just not true. Facts suggest otherwise.

As the campaign goes on, more and more Floridians will see Gillum for who for who use he is — a pragmatic candidate whose common-sense ideas are welcome by the voters and much more mainstream than many pundits think.


Sean Pittman is the senior partner of the Pittman Law Group, a Tallahassee-based law firm and co-host of Sunday morning television talk show “The Usual Suspects.”

Advisers say Joe Biden to decide on a 2020 run by January

Shortly after Joe Biden boarded a recent flight from Washington to New York, a string of passengers began stopping at his seat in coach to deliver some version of the same message: Run, Joe, run.

“We’re with you,” one said, according to a Democratic strategist who happened to be on the plane and witnessed the scene. “You’ve got to do this,” said another.

Biden himself is more conflicted — but he is listening keenly to the supporters pushing him to run for the White House in 2020. Biden is convinced he can beat President Donald Trump, friends and advisers say, and he has given himself until January to deliberate and size up potential competition for the Democratic nomination, according to people who have spoken to the former vice president about his decision-making.

In the meantime, Biden diligently maintains a network of supporters in key states, a group 30 years in the making, while some of those competitors are still making introductions.

As he takes each careful step, Biden faces the same dilemma. For an elder statesman in a leaderless party, one who long envisioned himself in the top job, the pull toward another presidential bid is strong. But the 75-year-old former vice president must weigh the realities of jumping into a crowded primary full of up-and-comers eager to debate the future of the party.

“He is not someone who needs to run to cement his place in history. He’s not someone who needs to run to feel he’s making a significant contribution to the public discourse and the Democratic Party,” said Anita Dunn, a former adviser to President Barack Obama. “But he is someone who, at the end of the day, feels a great deal of responsibility to listen to those people who are urging him to run.”

Biden would likely cast a long shadow, but a candidate Biden is not expected to clear what will be a crowded field of aspiring presidents in 2020. He would have competition for the support of the Democratic establishment. And he would almost certainly face tough challenges from the left — the source of much of the party’s energy at the moment — possibly from liberal firebrands Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Biden would likely cast himself as a more centrist Democrat with working-class appeal, bipartisan credentials and grounding in a more civil political culture that has faded in the Trump era, said Jim Margolis, a top adviser to Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

“He would carry the imprimatur of the Obama administration in addition to occupying a space in the middle that isn’t as crowded as others who are more actively running,” said Margolis.

He hit those themes gently at a memorial service for his late Senate colleague, Republican John McCain, last week.

“I always thought of John as a brother,” Biden said. “We had a hell of a lot of family fights.”

Biden has eyed the presidency for more than 30 years, waging a failed campaign for the party nomination in 1988 and again in 2008, before Obama named him his running mate. He passed on running again in 2016 as he dealt with his son Beau’s battle with brain cancer. The younger Biden died in March 2015, as the Democratic campaign was taking shape.

Since leaving the vice president’s office he has emerged as among the party’s most popular national figures, and one of its most willing Trump adversaries.

Biden is in regular talks with a small team of longtime friends and advisers. He also talks to potential donors and longtime staff about the possibility of another campaign. However, he has also signaled to them they are free to ally with other prospective candidates, as he eyes a January timeframe for deciding on whether to run, according to three people familiar with Biden’s thinking who spoke to The Associated Press about his plans on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

That leaves Biden for the next two months as one of his party’s most sought-after 2018 campaign headliners. He plans to make multiple campaign stops a week this fall for Democratic candidates, according to people familiar with the plans.

“As the vice president has said many times himself, he is focused on electing as many Democrats as possible all across the country and on encouraging people to get out and vote this fall,” Biden adviser Kate Bedingfield said. “That’s the focus of his energy right now.”

Biden’s choices so far have shown off his deep ties to key early states. He has campaigned for a young former aide now running for Congress in northeastern Iowa, a part of the state with enduring personal loyalty to Biden but that swung toward Trump in 2016.

He recently penned an op-ed in The Des Moines Register eulogizing the late Rep. Leonard Boswell, an act that was not political but at the family’s request, according to aides.

In South Carolina, Biden endorsed the Democratic nominee for governor, as well as longtime friend and former South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian, a state Senate candidate.

“If he wants, the day he says he wants to be running for president, he would have a built-in network here,” Harpootlian said. “He’s got friends here going back 30 years.”

Not all early-state party activists are clamoring for Biden Part III.

What’s left of his New Hampshire network, for instance, is fragmented, aging and undecided heading into 2020, said John Broderick, state chairman of Biden’s first campaign. Though Broderick, now 70, said his own family would gladly support Biden again, many in Biden’s New Hampshire support network “are getting longer in the tooth like I am.”

Likewise, Iowa Democrat Mary Maloney, a leading campaign activist for both of Biden’s campaigns, said she would support him, but wondered if younger voters would roll their eyes at yet another Baby Boomer candidate. “I don’t know if a lot of young people get Joe Biden,” said Maloney, who is 63.

For that reason, Biden certainly wouldn’t block younger prospects from stepping forward, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said.

“There’s a lot of young talent within the party that would like to run themselves,” he said.

All that aside, Margolis, who is in touch with Biden’s team, said, “I’m pretty confident that he and his closest advisers legitimately believe he has a real shot at this.”

Aboard the same New York shuttle in July, Margolis witnessed the unscripted reaction Biden received.

“Just watching on the plane, one after another coming up to him,” Margolis said. “Joe Biden was the happiest guy in the world.”

Republished from The Associated Press, with permission.

Winners and losers emerging from Florida’s 2018 primary elections

What a difference four years makes.

The last time Florida saw a primary was in pre-Trump Time — and pre-Bernie Time too.

But the shadows of both President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders loomed large over the selection of GOP nominee for Governor Ron DeSantis and Democratic pick Andrew Gillum.

They didn’t this year’s 2018 Primary Election Winners and Losers list because this list isn’t really about the candidates, it’s about those who weren’t on the ballot Tuesday, whether they be other candidates impacted by the outcomes or the operatives who made those outcomes happen.

So without further ado, here’s who the Florida Politics staff views as a hero — and who came out a goat: 


Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign — Name one Florida Republican that doesn’t want Trump’s endorsement after DeSantis’ landslide win. And no, David Jolly doesn’t count. Everyone GOP pol scoping out a run for Governor this cycle would have killed for the POTUS’ pratique. Richard Corcoran practically fell over himself trying to snag it with that slate of over-the-top TV commercials and his constant “sanctuary city” rhetoric. In the end, it was given to a relative newcomer and when it dropped (the second time), it was all over but the crying.

Bill Nelson One of the narratives surrounding Nelson’s U.S. Senate re-election bid against Gov. Rick Scott is the septuagenarian’s complete disconnect with black and Hispanic voters. With Andrew Gillum and Sean Shaw making the statewide ballot alongside him, he can probably eliminate that concern.

Kevin Cate and Brad Herold (Part 1) — It’s automatic that the winning quarterbacks of the two teams which make it to the Super Bowl are on the list of winners. Yet, make no mistake, these wins were anything less than automatic. If you had told anyone working in Florida politics a year ago that the general election would be a choice of Andrew Gillum or Ron DeSantis, they’d have said you were #CrazyAF. Cate and Herold both brim with confidence, but it’s well-earned because they have the battle scars to show for it. Both consultants have suffered setbacks (Sink ’10 and Crist ’14 for Cate, and DeSantis for Senate ’16 for Herold) on their way to the promised land. Their perseverance should pay off handsomely.

Kevin Cate and Brad Herold (Part 2) — A second tip o’ the hat: Both consultants not only won in the gubernatorial race, they also had their hands in other victories throughout the state. In addition to Gillum, Cate also works with Attorney General nominee Sean Shaw and Ag. Commissioner nominee Nikki Fried. Herold was also part of Matt Caldwell‘s surprise victory in the GOP Ag. Commissioner primary and steered Vance Aloupis to a victory in HD 115. Herold even had a winning candidate in a race for the Seminole County Commission.

Rest of Team DeSantis — Props to Rick Porter and Heather Barker, who, along with Ashley Ross, helped raise enough money to remain competitive with Putnam; David Vasquez, press secretary; Jordan Wiggins, political director; and Ben & Jordan Gibson. Now at Shutts and Bowen, he handled policy; she’s a digital guru. Also playing key roles were Adam Hasner and Eytan Laor, as well as major donors like Dr. Jeffrey Feingold, Dick Carrillo, and George Zolley. 

Rest of Team Gillum — Kudos to campaign manager Brendan McPhillips, chief strategist Scott Arceneaux, political director Phillip Jerez, comms director Geoff Burgan, finance director Akilah Ensley, deputy political director Tomas Alcala, senior adviser Sharon Lettman-Hicks, GPS Impact principal Brandon Davis, former FDP chair Bob Poe, former First Coast News anchor Donna Deegan and, of course, the team at CateComm, including Franco Ripple and Stephanie Shumate.

Matt Gaetz — A year before DeSantis won; that is, before DeSantis entered the race or Trump tweeted his support and while Putnam still looked like a world-beater, this Okaloosa Republican was telling those who would listen that his House colleague would be the GOP nominee. Gaetz helped make that happen by barnstorming the state with DeSantis, injecting what until then was a pretty standard campaign with some much-needed energy. With Trump in the White House and DeSantis in the Governor’s Mansion, the world will be Gaetz’s (Apalachicola) oyster.

Sean Pittman — The veteran lobbyist and political consultant (and President and Chairman of the Orange Bowl Committee) is one of Gillum’s best and most trusted friends. He’d be the new Bill Rubin (the lobbyist closest to Rick Scott) were Gillum to win. P.S. I believe I owe him advertising for life in INFLUENCE Magazine after losing a wager on who would win the Democratic primary.

Scott Ross — Other than the candidates themselves, there may not be a bigger winner emerging from the primaries than this Capital City Consulting lobbyist. The story goes that in June of 2017 he all but convinced DeSantis to run for Governor rather than Attorney General. Since then, it hasn’t been easy to be one of just a handful of Republican lobbyists not backing Putnam. But that bet has paid off handsomely for Ross, who will likely play a large role in the general election campaign — and a DeSantis administration if the Republican wins.

Alan Williams — The former state Representative from Tallahassee, who later joined governmental relations and lobbying law firm Meenan P.A., is a longtime booster and defender of Gillum. Expect him to play a role in state government should Gillum win in November.

Jose Oliva — The House Speaker-to-be from Miami Lakes made a key endorsement of DeSantis, and expect that to pay off in the 2019 Legislative Session if DeSantis becomes Governor.

Carlos G. Smith — The Orlando-area state Rep. is Gillum’s staunchest defender in the Legislature. He was everywhere on the campaign trail with him.

Marc Reichelderfer — “The Marchitect” (sorry, I double over my keyboard in laughter every time I type that) was at it again this primary, engineering Moody’s late-in-the-game surge to victory for A.G. The GOP consultant also played a role in several other campaigns, including Mike Miller’s primary win in CD 7.

#TeamMoody — In the face of a multimillion dollar onslaught from Frank White, Moody’s team of Reichelderfer, Tom Piccolo of Strategic Image Management, campaign manager Nick Catroppo, Christina Johnson of On 3 PR, and finance director Samantha Blair held strong and propelled their candidate to a bigger win than what polls were showing. This was Piccolo’s first work as a lead on a statewide. After Tuesday, it won’t be his last. Also, let’s give a shout-out to Michael Corcoran of Corcoran & Johnston, Moody’s finance chair.

#TeamCaldwell — The Republican primary for Ag Commissioner was a bit of a mystery heading into Tuesday, but Caldwell came out on top with a third of the vote in the four-way race. He was outspent mightily by self-funder Baxter Troutman and faced a tough challenge from Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley, but thanks to 90,000 miles of #2LaneTravels and a great team, that didn’t matter. Congrats to campaign manager Brian Swensen, consultant Terry Miller, campaign spokeswoman Danielle Alvarez for their part in securing the win.

Joe Clements — Not many people predicted Gillum would get the W on Tuesday, so credit where credit is due. Clements, of Strategic Digital Services, had the race pegged in June. His prediction: “Gillum will come out on top in this battle. Dem voters are angry and the candidate who paces them on their anger will be the one they choose to lead.”

Consensus Communications — The consulting firm worked TV and video production for some of Tuesday’s biggest winners: Ashley Moody, who toppled Frank White in the Republican primary for Attorney General; Matt Gaetz, who captured nearly two-thirds of the vote in CD 1; and Mike Miller, who beat the better-funded Scott Sturgill by a whopping 24 points in the CD 7 primary. And they didn’t just handle TV for that last race, they also took care of Miller’s direct mail, communications and campaign strategy.

Florida Federation for Children — The group, which supports school choice, touted some key wins for candidates it supported with co-chair John Kirtley declaring that voters “have shown their commitment” to school choice. Those wins included Gayle Harrell in SD 25, Kim Daniels in HD 14, Susan Valdes in HD 62, Spencer Roach in HD 79, Patricia Hawkins-Williams in HD 92 and James Bush III in HD 109. Those candidates were helped along by more than $360,000 in electioneering communications spending by the group in state Legislative races.

Florida Justice Association — A few members moved on to the General Election and Association-backed candidates won key House races. The field team, quietly led by Kevin Sweeny and a crew of unnamed operatives, once again scoured the state to bring the Association much-needed victories, including a few upsets and last-minute wins. Always underestimated, never outworked!

Florida Medical Association — The FMA’s PAC was a big winner Tuesday night for a slew of reasons. It was the first and only statewide organization to endorse DeSantis for Governor. It endorsed Moody early for the GOP pick for Attorney General. It scored a major victory in the state Senate with Gayle Harrell beating Keiser. Nice work Tim Stapleton, Rich Heffley, and Chris Clark. And a round of applause to Dr. Mike Patete.

Marion Hammer — It has not been the best election cycle for the ‘face of the NRA’ in Florida. She and her organization stayed (mostly) on the sidelines in the gubernatorial and Attorney General races, but it may have been the difference maker in the Republican primary for Ag. Commissioner. Hammer and Co. turned on the printing presses for Caldwell, sending pallets worth of direct mail to primary voters who knew they were voting for DeSantis but were unsure who to pick down-ballot.

GEO Group — In the current political climate, it pays to hedge your bets. While major statewide institutions like the Florida Chamber were dumping good money after bad into Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign, only a few treated DeSantis, the one-time longshot, to some serious skrill. One of the few that did? The GEO Group. They also fancied Rick Scott quite a bit back when he was considered a dark horse candidate for Governor. If DeSantis comes out on top in November, that’s a heck of a lucky streak for the private prison company.

Nick Iarossi — The Capital City Consulting lobbyist isn’t exactly Scott Ross (that’s the only time you’ll ever read those words), but he was one of the first major supporters of DeSantis and has, by a significant factor, raised more money for DeSantis’ campaign than any other Adams Street’er. Look for Iarossi to lead the effort to bring in all of the other big dogs who were with Putnam in the primary. If DeSantis wins, there may not be a lobbyist who would, in the end, benefit more.

Medical marijuana advocates — Weed wins. From Gillum’s surprise victory over no-toker Graham to the Agriculture Commissioner race where former medical marijuana lobbyist Nikki Fried smoked two opponents who had been campaigning for over a year, candidates who cuddled up to cannabis scored big time in the primary election. It may have even helped centrist Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto cruise over Alan Grayson, the liberal darling of yesteryear. And it wasn’t just Democrats who were riding high Tuesday: pro-medical pot Republican U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Matt Gaetz each won decisively over their anti-drug adversaries.

Alex Miranda — Not many people would have seen Vance Aloupis, a “white guy with the funny name” as one of his ads pointed out, as the front-runner in the heavily Hispanic HD 115. But solid fundraising and clever ads (props to Brad Herold) helped him come out on top in the four-way Republican primary where two of his opponents, Jose Fernandez and Rhonda Lopez, combined to dump nearly $500,000 in candidate loans into their bids. In all, it went down as the most expensive House primary of the 2018 cycle.

NextGen and Tom Steyer — Billionaire progressive activist Tom Steyer has committed to spending at least $110 million helping Democrats in the 2018 election. Much of that will head to ground game infrastructure via his NextGen group, but one of the marquee candidates getting some direct backup was none other than Andrew Gillum. If Steyer is as successful in November as he was Tuesday, he’ll have built up some serious cred on the left if he follows through with his rumored 2020 presidential run.

Other lobbyists — DeSantis’ campaign will tell you the congressman is not particularly close to many lobbyists (we asked which D.C. lobbyists DeSantis likes and the answer was only the lobbyist for Major League Baseball), but there are some lobbyists who moved to his side early-on or after Corcoran dropped out, including John Holley of Florida Power & Light, Iarossi and most of his colleagues at Capital City Consulting, Brady Benford and Chris Dorworth of Ballard Partners, Mike Fischer and Rob Schenck of Legis Group; Chris Spencer of GrayRobinson, Bill Rubin and Heather Turnbull of The Rubin Group, and Rachel Cone, Paul Mitchell and Monte Stevens of Southern Strategy Group.

Richard DeNapoli — Off-grid, the Broward County GOP state committeeman went after two of his nemeses: Congressional candidates Julio Gonzalez (CD 17) and Javier Manjarres (CD 22), both of whom lost bitter GOP primaries. Revenge is a dish best served cold, right? Yeah …

Political consultants throughout the state — With a $200 million-$250 million Governor’s race on the horizon, plus U.S. Senate and competitive state Senate races and House races, plan ahead, gals and guys. There’s gold in them thar hills … if you know where to find it.

Ryan Smith — Another young political consultant making his mark this cycle. He led a winning effort in a hotly contested $450K Seminole County Commission race, with Amy Lockhart emphatically defeating Joe Durso. Smith was also called in at halftime in a key Brevard County Commission race between Curt Smith and Trudie Infantini turning a 20-point deficit into a 6-point victory. Not to mention, he helms a new pro-Matt Gaetz Super PAC, the Florida Conservative Fund.

Public schools — Broward, Orange, Clay, Washington were among counties to pass tax increases to help local schools meet the needs of their students. Since Republican-dominated St. Johns County created the blueprint to pass its referendum in 2015, the voters have been open about paying more for better public schools. Private (and charter) school backers should take note.

St. Pete Polls — While polling aggregators like Real Clear Politics made the mistake of including questionable surveys from the likes of Gravis Marketing, etc., the little polling shop-that-could posted what may be the best record of the primary of any public pollsters. Matt Florell‘s operation was the first to show DeSantis with a three-touchdown lead (a figure that Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times initially said was “absurd”) and it all but nailed the final numbers in the GOP primary. No, St. Pete Polls did not forecast Gillum winning the Democratic nomination, but it came the closest of any public pollster and certainly showed the “Gillum surge.” SPP also forecast Moody’s comeback and Caldwell’s surprise victory. All told, SPP was 14 for 16 on Election Day.

George Soros — The billionaire benefactor (or boogeyman, to some) was an early believer in Gillum. Even more noteworthy, he was a late believer, too. Soros threw $1.2 million in direct financial support toward the Tallahassee mayor’s political committee, including teaming up with Tom Steyer and an anonymous compatriot to make a last-minute cash infusion of $650,000 so Gillum could “bring it home.” As the national media has been saying the past couple days, the Florida Governor’s election is a preview for the next presidential race. Soros proved he can get his pick through a primary, and if he can rack up another win in the general there’s a workable blueprint for 2020.

Strategic Image Management — It’s all about founder and fireworks enthusiast Anthony Pedicini and his years of success running campaigns throughout Florida. He started out in politics working for lobbyist Billy Rubin, later was tapped to become a Legislative Aide to state Rep. Gayle Harrell, the Stuart Republican … shucks, we could go on, or you could read all about him on this cool website. (Some guy named Piccolo is named there, too …)

Tallahassee Democrat — As reporter Sean Rossman, late of the Democrat and now with USA Today, tweeted: “As we settle into 9 weeks of @AndrewGillum v. RonDeSantisFL, know (that) @TDOnline has covered Gillum for 20 years — from FAMU student body prez and young city commissioner to ambitious mayor and now gov. candidate. Give ’em a read.” No one knows Gillum better.

Whoever … — … it was who wrote in July about “The coming Andrew Gillum vs. Ron DeSantis general election.” Hmmm.

Leslie Wimes — The controversial Sunshine State News columnist is a big supporter of Gillum. Count this as one of her few successes.

Mixed Bag

Rick Scott — Scott may have faced only token opposition Tuesday, but there’s a contingent of Martin County voters who made it clear that, given an option, they’d rather literally anybody but the two-term Governor represent them in the U.S. Senate. According to Florida Democrats, the new beach access law isn’t doing him any favors. How else can anyone explain perennial candidate Rocky De La Fuente snagging more than 20 percent of the vote in the county?

Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries, Disney, Florida Power & Light, etc. — Each of these bet heavily on Putnam winning. In fact, a year ago, their lobbyists were tripping over each other just for the privilege of handing Putnam’s fundraisers six-figure checks. Now, you may think that warrants them ending up in the Losers column. That would be naive about how Tallahassee really works, especially with a “socialist” like Gillum, and not Graham, on the ballot. By the time summer turns to fall, the establishment will have put itself back together to fight the looming threat. I’d be surprised if the checks, which will need to be twice as big as they were to Putnam, aren’t already in the pipeline.

Amanda and Brewster Bevis — This power couple (she is Putnam’s comms guru and he is the political muscle at Associated Industries) was synonymous with Putnam’s campaign. This loss has to be soul-crushing for them. But, as one-half of a political couple who has suffered a similar devastating loss in a statewide race, I can personally attest that loyalty is its own reward — and loyalty like what the Bevis family has displayed will, in time, be rewarded.

House Democratic leadership — With a very competitive gubernatorial race, a hypercompetitive U.S. Senate race and many state Senate districts in play, there may not be much money left for the new Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee to make much-needed moves.

Florida sheriffs — The county lawmen didn’t do so hot on Tuesday, though they didn’t completely crap out. Just about every elected Republican with a badge and a gun lined up behind Putnam, and he wasn’t shy about name-dropping those endorsements as he hit county after county on the trail. Ditto for Denise Grimsley, who landed more than three dozen sheriff endorsements ahead of her loss in the Ag. Commish primary. The only candidate they got right was Ashley Moody, who earned the backing of nearly every Republican sheriff in the state. But it must sting a little extra to be Grady Judd, who accused Ross Spano of falsely claiming he had endorsed him in the closing days of the CD 15 primary. Welp, can’t win ‘em all.

Brett Doster — Late last year, after Doster and Co. did work for Roy Moore’s campaign for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat, one of the ickiest statewide campaigns in years, some thought they would enter a slump. Eight months later, and it’s a mixed bag. His slate of candidates this cycle included Toby Overdorf, who won big over Sasha Dadan; Tommy Gregory, who walked to the nomination after it was discovered Melissa Howard faked her diploma; and Ray Blacklidge, who trounced Jeremy Bailie in HD 69. Other candidates, however, didn’t do so hot. Shannon Elswick lost big despite leading the money race in HD 32, so did Marc Vann despite Rep. Elizabeth Porter backing him as her successor.

Data Targeting — It’s a mixed bag for Pat Bainter and company. They scored some big wins: Matt Caldwell for Ag. Commissioner, Michael Waltz in CD 6, Mike Miller in CD 7. They had another dozen successes or so, but sorry, it’s hard to call Ed Hooper’s victory over a complete unknown or Gayle Harrell’s win over a former Democrat who lived 80 miles away “wins” when they are so clearly gimme’s. But along with their successes came some slip-ups. Frank White for Attorney General, Berny Jacques for HD 66 and Rebekah Bydlak for HD 1 all outraised and outspent their challengers and walked away with an ‘L.’

David Johnson — Hmmm. Our friend deserves to be in the Losers column because great candidate Denise Grimsley couldn’t pull off the win but A) he recognized that and insisted to be put in the L-column, and B) he is married to someone on the winner’s list. We’ll give him a pass, but just this once!


Christian Ulvert — We’re hesitant to put Philip Levine‘s GC in the Losers column because a) we know he made a small mint off that campaign and b) his many, many other clients, such as Jason Pizzo, did well on Tuesday. In the end, though, it feels like Levine underperformed, but how much of that is Ulvert’s fault? No offense to Gillum, who won, but the Levine machine seemed to be the best oiled of any of the Democratic operations. We’re gonna think about this one for a while.

Tim Baker and Brian Hughes — Alas, the dynamic duo talked Frank White, Baxter Troutman and Rob Panepinto (Orange County Mayor) into running. Took their money and ran very different campaigns that had one common thread: Millions of personal dollars for last place finishes. They still have their base of power in northeast Florida, especially while Hughes is chief of staff to Lenny Curry, but their plans for statewide expansion hit a setback.


#TeamPutnam Putnam’s bid for Governor was years in the making, but after millions of dollars spent and thousands of miles traveled he got swamped in the primary and will find himself out of political office for the first time in 20 years come January. Helping navigate the failed campaign was general consultant Ward Baker, campaign manager Bret Prater, the aforementioned comms director Amanda Bevis, and Putnam’s old school boys, Mac Stevenson and Jim Innocenzi. Baker came on board in March, bringing in Jeb Bush’s media team Terry Nelson at FP1.  The two of them led the media strategy and Terry led the production, produced all the ads that aired. They all did what they could, but “Florida First” didn’t stand a chance against a single tweet from Donald Trump.

Adam Putnam’s debate negotiators — One of the biggest strategic mistakes made by the Putnam campaign was having the big TV debate on Fox News with Fox News hosts. It was like Putnam had a home game but DeSantis built the stadium and fences to maximize his swing. Not a single televised debate in Florida with Florida journos? T’was bad deal-making, is all.

U.S. Sugar — Outside of the candidates themselves, there was no bigger loser on Tuesday than the Clewiston behemoth, which doubled, tripled and quadrupled-down for Putnam. Unlike many of the other companies and industries which backed Putnam over DeSantis, it will be hardest for sugar (Florida Crystals and the Sugarcane Growers Co-op were also supportive of Putnam) to get right with DeSantis, who has shown his antagonism for the sugar industry by opposing the industry’s federal subsidy. All of this said, remember: as ridiculous as it is how often establishment players like Big Sugar get these races wrong, it’s more amazing how capable they are of succeeding, if not prospering, despite it.

The Florida Education Association — Aaaagh. So. Much. Losing. Not only did the teachers union get taken through the wringer in the 2018 Legislative Session, they were one of Gwen Graham’s most prominent backers. They even put $150,000 behind her campaign in a Democratic primary where all five wanted to boost the education budget. They can’t take much comfort down the ballot either. Maybe if they threw some of that cash behind Mike Alvarez, they wouldn’t have to deal with charter school darling Susan Valdes when Session rolls around next year.

Bob Buckhorn, Patrick Murphy — Like suitors in a medieval court, Sir Robert and Sir Patrick were ready to do anything just for the right to kiss the hand of the Queen. Problem for them is the Queen ain’t the queen, and with that so go the Lieutenant Governor ambitions of the Tampa mayor and the former congressman. That’s all she wrote.

Carlos Lopez Cantera — CLC weighed in on the Governor’s race pretty late in the game just to back the candidate everyone knew would lose. But he didn’t just endorse Putnam, he pretty much called DeSantis a swamp creature. Way to shoot yourself in the foot there, Carlos. And that’s not even touching the barbs he and DeSantis exchanged during their brief U.S. Senate bids two years ago. If DeSantis takes the Governor’s mansion in the fall, CLC might as well put a cork in his ambitions for the next four years. Maybe if Scott beats Nelson, he can get a gig in the mail room?

Adam Corey — That poor bastard. Seriously, can you imagine where this #FriendofAndrew would be right now if he hadn’t been named in an FBI subpoena? The mind reels.

Lenny Curry — Hizzoner had his brand exposed by endorsing losing statewide candidates Baxter Troutman and Frank White. Sure he endorsed DeSantis, but he did so after DeSantis already had the victory well in hand. Oof.

Brenda Snipes — Maybe someday the voters of Broward County will punish their Supervisor of Elections for her many bad ways, including her office’s way-late filing of results. Until then, we shake our heads.

Election Day endorsers — U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló probably thought they were making a safe bet when they added their names to Gwen Graham’s stack of endorsements Tuesday. Not only were they wrong, but why even go through the trouble? An endorsement is supposed to help get people to the polls, not be based on them. And nobody likes a bandwagoner — who wants to bet Frankel and Rosselló have a closet full of ‘Bama and Warriors gear?

Audrey Gibson — She played in the Daphne Campbell primary — and lost. The new Senate Dem Leader got off to a bad start. Better luck in the 2019 Session.

Jack Latvala — Keep in mind, the Clearwater Republican hated Caldwell and tried to take him out; also Grimsley’s connection to Latvala may have hurt her.

Javier Manjarres — A special shout out to this clown who shook down enough people that he should have had enough money to win the rights to lose to Ted Deutch in CD 22. But the former landscaper couldn’t even do that, losing to tomato can Nicolas Kimaz. And shame on Marco Rubio and Pam Bondi for endorsing serial abuser @VoteJavi in the first place.

Stephanie Murphy — Mike Miller is a tough cookie and someone she certainly did not want to see on the ballot opposing her.

Tom Eldon — Unlike the bottom-tier pollsters in the losers column, Eldon’s polls were sound and all of them passed the smell test. SEA Polling & Strategic Design pegged it as a two-way race between Philip Levine and Gwen Graham, but in the end, it seems like Levine was getting over measured somehow — one late-in-the-game poll showed him with a lead in the early vote and a lead among voters waiting to cast their ballot until Tuesday. But when the ballots were counted, Levine was a distant third.

Adam Goodman — You’re probably asking how Goodman made this list because, supposedly, he’s winding down his TV ad work while increasingly enjoying his time living in St. Pete. Yeah right. It was clear he was doing something for Philip Levine, whose ads (at least some of them) employed the same style — right down to the narrator’s familiar delivery — of Goodman. For his sake, we hope Goodman got paid because this is two high-profile races in a row (Levine, Rick Baker) in which his client, err, friend did not win.

Omar Khan — No one was expecting King to win the Democratic nomination, but the Orlando entrepreneur had the intelligence, pedigree, and money to do much better than he did. Khan has to take some of the blame for King’s disappointing finish. Like his friend Steve Schale, his candidate has underperformed in back-to-back gubernatorial races. Some free advice for Khan: Talk less, listen more.

David Jolly — Tuesday was a complete wipeout for the former Republican congressman who was briefly mentioned as a possible LG candidate if Patrick Murphy had decided to run. DeSantis, a former opponent of Jolly, comes from the #MAGA wing of the GOP opposite Jolly’s ‘Never Trump’ faction. Jolly was also pushing hard for Graham to pick Murphy as her running mate, but that’s obviously no longer an option. Down-ballot, Jolly was backing two legislative candidates, Berny Jacques (HD 66) and Vito Sheeley (HD 70), who got creamed like corn.

Joe Negron — Scratch up another loss for Rebecca Negron, who was sent packing from her gig on the Martin County School Board after Victoria Defenthaler dished out a double-digit beat down. Maybe if CD 18 flips in the fall she can give that one another go, but as it stands it looks like the Negrons will be spending a lot of time together, at least for the next couple years.

Pollsters — Nearly every pollster was way off the mark Tuesday. Florida Atlantic University should probably stop putting out primary polls with a 280-person sample size. Gravis somehow came up with a 12-point lead for DeSantis with 23 percent undecided and 10 percent of the vote going to Bob White and Bruce Nathan one day (!) before the election. And St. Leo … where to even start? One week out from the election they hit-publish a poll showing Putnam with a double-digit lead. How many of those respondents were from Polk County?

Steve Schale — Only the Chicago Cubs were a more likable loser than the Democratic strategist. Except the Cubs have won more recently than Schale. There’s no faulting him for being all in for Graham, but this is now two gubernatorial races in a row where his candidate entered as the prohibitive favorite but came up short. His 2008 win for Barack Obama feels like a lifetime ago.

Melissa Stone — In the course of six months, Stone was part of two statewide campaigns for the same office, both of which ended badly. First she hitched her wagon to ex-banker Jay Fant, whose early negative attacks on Ashley Moody made him look like a misogynistic weirdo before the donors stopped sending checks and he had to withdraw to save face. Then she signed on with Frank White, whose negative campaigning sunk him too. But hey, at least she’s still cashing checks from Rick Scott and Jimmy Patronis.

PredictIt sours on Democratic flip after Andrew Gillum nomination

Political prediction markets flipped forecasts on whether Democrats would take the governor’s mansion one day after Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s surprise win as the nominee.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Republican Ron DeSantis was selling at 57 cents on PredictIt; Gillum is selling for 45.

That said, Gillum beat the market on Tuesday night by quite a bit. At the time, PredictIt had Gillum selling at 5 cents, with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham the favorite at 79 cents and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at 20 cents.

Though notably, the market flipped by midday, with Gillum jumping up 46 cents in price and selling ahead of Graham 56 cents to 50, so an apparent “Gillum Surge” happened late in the markets as well as the polls.

DeSantis, in contrast, shocked nobody with his landslide victory of the GOP side. As the favorite candidate of President Donald Trump, the markets in advance of the primary selling a DeSantis victory at 87 cents and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam at 16.

But investors pegged the general election as a dead heat as of yesterday, and on August 24, a Democratic win traded for 60 cents to a Republican victory priced at 44 cents.

The change in the dynamic over 24 hours was enough for PredictIt to note the shift on social media channels.

But oddly, even as PredictIt’s buyers turned bullish on DeSantis, accompanying comments on the market were almost entirely pro-Gillum, with many seeing the progressive candidate as a representative of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ viability.

Incidentally, the Predict market for the U.S. Senate today remains gloomy for Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, whose re-election trades at 43 cents, but that’s a 4-cent boost from yesterday following Gov. Rick Scott’s formal election as the Republican nominee.

PredictIt markets show Republicans chances of holding the U.S. Senate remain the safe bet at 75 cents, with a Democratic takeover at 26 cents.

But the market does predict Democrats will take the U.S. House, with that outcome trading at 66 cents and Republicans holding the chamber trading at 36 cents.

Bernie Sanders effect? Andrew Gillum touts poll showing him now tops

Andrew Gillum‘s fortunes clearly are rising, as shown by a couple of recent polls showing him surging into a solid third-place standing.

Now his campaign is touting the kicker: a new internal poll that has him strongly leading the Democratic field heading into next week’s gubernatorial primaries.

The poll from Change Research of San Francisco, released late Tuesday by Gillum’s campaign, has campaign communication director Geoff Burgan predicting the Tallahassee mayor and his campaign are about to shock the political establishment and the world.

The poll, taken Saturday and Sunday right after Gillum rallied in Tampa and Orlando with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, shows Gillum with 33 percent; former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham tied with 23 percent, each; and Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene fourth with 10 percent.

The poll is consistent with others showing Gillum rising, but looks like a clear outlier; all other public surveys have him third.

A new poll from the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative released Tuesday showed Gillum as a distant third behind Graham and Levine. One from also released Tuesday showed Gillum a solid third, not far behind, again with Graham leading, and Levine in second.

The Change Research poll of 1,178 likely Democratic primary voters was taken Saturday and Sunday.

“The Andrew Gillum for governor campaign is one week away from shocking the political establishment and the world,” Burgan said in a news release.

For months Gillum’s campaign has maintained its low-budget grassroots effort would lead to a surprise surge, which sounded all along like wishful thinking against the tens of millions of dollars spent by the campaigns of Graham, Levine, and Greene.

“This poll validates our theory that once voters hear about Mayor Gillum’s progressive platform, strong track record, and inspiring personal story, they’ll be excited to vote for him,” he continued. “While our opponents have been slinging mud at each other for weeks, we’ve run a positive race and with our campaign up on TV, we’re one week away from making history.”

Change Research declared that Gillum’s rise is dramatic since the firm last polled for him in May. The firm cited Sanders’ endorsement, appearances last week, and overall popularity with Democrats in giving Gillum a jump.

“This represents a significant improvement for Gillum from Change Research’s previous poll in May, in which he was at 13 percent, trailing Graham and Levine,” Change Research reported in a summary sheet for the poll. “The May polling showed that those who knew of Andrew Gillum liked him (32 percent favorable to 14 percent unfavorable), and his standing has only improved as voters have learned more about him. He has certainly done well introducing himself to Florida Democrats these past three months, as 76 percent of Democratic primary voters now have an opinion of him, with 63 percent viewing him favorably.”

The poll also found that 80 percent of Florida Democrats view Sanders favorably.

Bernie Sanders makes endorsements in several Florida races

Following his visits to Tampa and Orlando last Friday, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders is offering endorsements to some local candidates in Florida, including Anna Eskamani, Carlos Guillermo Smith, and Lee Mangold in Florida House races.

Sanders, the Senator from New Hampshire, went to both towns to stump for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s gubernatorial campaign. But before the speeches, he sat down with a number of local Democrats in each place.

The result: the patriarch of current Democratic progressive politics is weighing in on some of their races.

In Central Florida, Sanders announced endorsements of Mangold in House District 28, Eskamani in House District 47, and Smith in House District 49.

Sanders also endorsed Democrat Sanjay Patel‘s congressional campaign in Florida’s 8th Congressional District, covering Brevard County, north Indian River County, and east Orange County.

In addition, Sanders announced his backings for Cindy Polo in House District 103, Dotie Joseph in House Disrict 108, Wesley Anne Beggs for Sarasota County Commission, and Sarah McFadden in House Districxt 106.

“I’m proud to be supporting nine incredible candidates for office in Florida,” Sanders tweeted, with pictures of the nine, including Gillum. “Early voting has begun so let’s get out the vote to transform Florida from the bottom on up!”

A couple of the campaigns were touting their endorsements.

“Senator Sanders is a champion for all these values, as am I,” Mangold, who faces Republican David Smith in the HD 28 race, stated in a news release. “I’m truly honored to receive his endorsement and I will continue to fight for ALL working families – regardless race, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability – to ensure that we don’t reserve the American Dream for only a select few or allow it fade away.”

Offered Eskamani, who awaits a winner of the Republican primary, Mikaela Nix or Stockton Reeves, in the November election:

“We envision a Florida where every person — no matter who they love, how much money they make, where they live, or who they worship — can live life to its fullest potential. I feel confident that with our victory in November, we’ll be able to build that state together.”

Bernie Sanders calls for ‘revolution’ in Florida led by Andrew Gillum

National icon of progressive Democratic politics U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders called for a political and economic revolution in Florida led by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum as Governor, rousing a crowd Friday at the University of Central Florida.

“This state needs a political revolution,” Sanders declared. “You have a candidate in Andrew Gillum that is going to lead that revolution.

“It’s time we had a government in Washington and a government in Florida that represents all of the people, not just the 1 percent,” Sanders added.

Gillum, too, spoke of  “a progressive revolution, right here in the state of Florida.”

And then he and Sanders each laid out essentially the same progressive playbook: raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and calling for living wages, addressing climate change, committing to environmental protection, declaring health care as a right and seeking universal Medicare, equal rights, investing in education and increasing teachers’ pay, protecting women’s rights to abortion choice, pushing for campaign finance reform, demanding gun law reforms, making commitments to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy, seeking criminal justice reform, restoring rights for convicted felons who served their time, supporting immigration reform and acceptance of immigrants, and for Florida to not be, as Gillum called it, “a show-me-your-papers state.”

“We’re seeing ideas that just a few years ago seemed really radical and fringe, now those are the ideas that the American people overwhelmingly support,” Sanders professed in his 27-minute speech.

“Bernie Sanders has been fighting this progressive battle across this country for decades,” Gillum said in his 16-minute address.

And right back at you, Sanders offered, extolling Gillum as a Governor who can do that in Florida.

“What this is about is looking into your world and trying to figure out what’s going on in the lives of real people. That’s what it’s about,” Sanders. “And after that figure out where you go from here to improve the lives of people who are working. When I look at what is going on in America and what is going on in Florida, it is clear to me we need a revolution to transform what goes on economically, and what goes on politically.”

Most of Central Florida’s leading progressive Democrat revolutionaries joined Sanders and Gillum on stage: State Attorney Aramis Ayala, Orlando Commissioner Regina Hill, Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla, and state Reps. Kamia Brown and Carlos Guillermo Smith. The latter worked up the crowd as Gillum’s last warm-up speaker.

They and a crowd of mostly students, which Gillum’s campaign estimated at 1,000, packed the atrium foyer of UCF’s CFE Auditorium.

“In Andrew, you will have a Governor who understands that the future of this state and the future of our country is with the young people,” Sanders told them.

Gillum first must get through the Aug. 28 primary, where polls consistently have shown him trailing the leaders, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, by more than 10 points.

Friday’s rally was all about getting out the vote for Gillum. He and Sanders each took indirect shots at his Democratic rivals, who also include Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene and Winter Park businessman Chris King, though they did not call them out by name.

They both referred to the quartet of opponents as millionaires, compared with Gillum’s more humble economic status, and Sanders declared you should not have to be a millionaire to run for governor.

And Gillum heated up the crowd with his call for an unabashedly progressive Democrat to run for Governor, part of his standard pitch from the beginning.

“I believe we’re going to see a surge of progressive voters all across the state of Florida who are saying, ‘Enough is enough. We’re tired of Republican Lite. We want someone who fights for our values and our beliefs,'” he said.

Bernie Sanders to join Andrew Gillum for Tampa, Orlando rallies this Friday

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is coming to Florida to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum.

The Gillum campaign announced late Tuesday that the Senator from Vermont will join Gillum at two rallies on Friday — less than two weeks away from the Aug. 28 primary.

The first of the rallies is set to take place in Tampa, where Sanders and Gillum will speak to voters at 11 a.m. in Armature Works — Gathering Room. In the afternoon, the two will head to Orlando for a 2 p.m. rally at the CFE Arena at UCF.

Sanders endorsed Gillum at the beginning of the month, christening him as the progressive option for Florida voters.

“As governor, Andrew Gillum will work to provide health care for all through a Medicare-for-All program, raise the minimum wage to a living wage, invest in sustainable energy, improve education, make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share of taxes, and be welcoming to immigrants,” Sanders said then.

With respect to the Democratic field, Gillum faces former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, billionaire investor Jeff Greene, former Mayor of Miami Beach Philip Levine and Orlando businessman Chris King. Most recent polls have shown Gillum trailing Graham, Levine, and Greene, though a large swath of likely Democratic voters still haven’t picked their candidate yet, according to the same polls.

Whether a rally could give the Tallahassee Mayor the much-needed boost is unknown.

On the Republican side, candidates Adam Putnam, the Agriculture Commissioner, and Ron DeSantis, the Congressman from Ponte Vedra, were “virtually tied,” according to a Florida Chamber poll in July.

But that was before President Donald Trump endorsed DeSantis on Twitter (for the second time) and came to Tampa to rally on the Congressman’s behalf. Now DeSantis appears to be firmly in the lead in the Republican primary.

Trump, however, is battle-tested against Florida’s electorate. He captured 45 percent of the party’s vote in the Republican primary in 2016. Sanders, in the same primary, lost to Hillary Clinton, who captured more than 64 percent of Democratic votes.

Bill Nelson too old for office, GOP super PAC suggests

A Washington-based super PAC backing Republican Senate candidates dispensed this week with what had been more subtle campaign hints aimed at U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s age.

In a news release titled “Bill Nelson Tragically Forced to Admit His Memory Is Failing,” the Senate Leadership Fund pointed to Nelson saying a day earlier that he couldn’t recall a 2010 letter he wrote to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about delaying the implementation of water-quality standards for Florida lakes, springs and other waterways.

“It’s time for Bill Nelson’s caretakers to keep better tabs on the Senator’s whereabouts and public statements so that he is not embarrassed into admitting he’s no longer dealing from a full deck,” Senate Leadership Fund spokesman Chris Pack said in the release.

The news release came amid an increasingly nasty race between Nelson, a Democrat, and Republican Gov. Rick Scott for Nelson’s Senate seat.

The eight-year-old letter by Nelson, along with one written around the same time by Scott, also added to a fierce political blame game over water-quality problems across South Florida.

Nelson’s campaign called the super PAC’s news release “a desperate attempt to distract from Rick Scott’s record of cuts and deregulation that helped create this toxic algae crisis.”

Nelson is 75; Scott is 65.

Susan MacManus, a distinguished professor of government and international affairs at the University of South Florida, said such age-based attacks are becoming less effective.

“Look at younger voters’ support for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and longer life expectancies among older voters,” MacManus said. “What polls are showing is more effective in an era of voter disgruntlement is candidates’ longevity in office rather than their sheer age.”

Scott, a two-term governor, has worked to make Nelson’s lengthy political career, which started in the Florida House in 1972, an issue in the contest.

Asked Tuesday — the day before the super PAC news release — about Scott’s campaign making “subtle hints” about his age, Nelson responded with some indignation.

“Any time he wants to have a contest about push-ups or pull-ups, and we’ll see who is not up to it,” Nelson told reporters before a dedication ceremony at a Tallahassee veterans’ health-care center.

When asked Tuesday about his 2010 letter to the EPA, Nelson said he would need to look up the issue.

“Not only do I not recall that, that simply could not be true,” Nelson said. “There must be a nuance there. So, I’ll have to look at it and see.”

In the letter to the EPA, Nelson wrote: “Clean water is a goal we all share,” adding that he was sharing the concerns of residents, businesses, farmers and local governments about the “potential cost of compliance with these standards and the validity of the science.”

“That is why it is imperative that this regulation is finalized in a deliberative manner, utilizing sound science and considering the effects of implementation,” Nelson wrote in the letter. “Rushing to finalize the rule could result in further uncertainty and unnecessary economic hardship for municipal governments and Florida industry.”

His campaign noted that Nelson annually has hundreds of pieces of correspondence.

Nelson’s letter was similar to a lobbying effort by Scott against the proposed changes after he was elected governor in a November 2010. In a letter, Scott called the changes in water-quality standards “onerous” and requested a delay “so that we have time to fully analyze the rule” and its effect on Florida.

And after Nelson’s claim this week that Russian agents “penetrated” at least some U.S. voter registration systems before the 2018 election, the Department of Homeland Security all but said it didn’t know what Nelson was talking about.

“While we are aware of Sen. Nelson’s recent statements, we have not seen any new compromises by Russian actors of election infrastructure,” said Sara Sendek, a spokesperson for the department. “That said, we don’t need to wait for a specific threat to be ready.”


Senior Editor Jim Rosica contributed to this post from The News Service of Florida, republished with permission.

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