Andrew Gillum

Graham grabs endorsement of progressive ‘trailblazer’ Tammy Duckworth

30789731_6102639375688_7819687006950129664_nWe don’t usually highlight endorsements, but this one caught our attention because, after all, the male-dominated U.S. Senate changed its rules to allow U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth to bring her new baby, Maile, onto the Senate floor. (She got her a jacket so the newborn could conform with Senate protocol.)

baby clothes

Plus Duckworth, a wounded war veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is a rock star among progressive Democrats, so her endorsement of former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, for what it’s worth, could be considered a coup in a heated Democratic gubernatorial primary. Especially if the Illinois senator campaigns for Graham in Florida.

Graham’s announcement of the endorsement carries on with an all-about-Trump theme (remember her first digital ad?), with both women bashing the president.

“No one is better equipped to defend Florida against Donald Trump and his harmful policies than Gwen Graham,” Duckworth said in the press release. “She will take on Trump to defend the Affordable Care Act and expand healthcare for Florida families. Gwen will protect Florida’s waters from Trump’s dangerous oil drilling plans. And she will put people — not special interests — first by passing an increased minimum wage.”

Graham, who last year nailed the endorsement of  New York U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and who served with Duckworth during Graham’s brief stint in Congress, called the Illinois senator “one of the toughest women I know” who “sets an incredible example for all Americans.”

“As governor, I will fight with her to take on Donald Trump and fight to expand healthcare, protect our environment, and defend Floridians from his bullyish attacks,” Graham said in the release.

The endorsement of the lefty Duckworth could give Graham — who’s been criticized by progressives for being too conservative — a nudge in a heated primary. Both Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who has has captured support from some progressives, and Orlando entrepreneur Chris King, bashed Graham for her congressional voting record during last week’s debate, which is certain to be an issue throughout the coming months in the match-up — also featuring former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine — to replace outgoing Gov. Rick Scott.

That’s probably why this morning’s announcement includes Duckworth bragging on Graham’s tenure in the House.

“Serving together in Congress, I saw Gwen fight for our shared progressive values. When Republicans tried to repeal Obamacare, Gwen voted to save it. She defended a woman’s right to choose and sponsored legislation to improve healthcare for mothers and babies. And after the devastating shooting at Pulse, Gwen took on Paul Ryan to demand a vote on common sense gun safety legislation,” she says in the release.

Here’s the full announcement:

On the heels of releasing her first digital ad slamming President Donald Trump, Gwen Graham is announcing support from U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, a progressive trailblazer leading the charge against Trump in Congress.

“No one is better equipped to defend Florida against Donald Trump and his harmful policies than Gwen Graham,” Duckworth said. “She will take on Trump to defend the Affordable Care Act and expand healthcare for Florida families. Gwen will protect Florida’s waters from Trump’s dangerous oil drilling plans. And she will put people — not special interests — first by passing an increased minimum wage.”

“Serving together in Congress, I saw Gwen fight for our shared progressive values. When Republicans tried to repeal Obamacare, Gwen voted to save it. She defended a woman’s right to choose and sponsored legislation to improve healthcare for mothers and babies. And after the devastating shooting at Pulse, Gwen took on Paul Ryan to demand a vote on common sense gun safety legislation”

Duckworth, a Purple Heart recipient, and Graham served together in Congress. Together, they fought for progressive values, to defend women and to support our country’s veterans.

“Senator Duckworth is one of the toughest women I know. She sets an incredible example for all Americans, and I am honored to have her endorsement,” Graham said. “As governor, I will fight with her to take on Donald Trump and fight to expand healthcare, protect our environment, and defend Floridians from his bullyish attacks.”

Gillum releases digital ad, “Opportunity”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat running for governor, released a five-figure digital ad, “Opportunity,” according to Gillum’s campaign.

“Were it not for a good public education, caring and loving parents, a grandmother who prayed for me and quite frankly people who believed in me enough to say that I could, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today,” Gillum says in the 30-second spot. “And I plan to work as hard as I can every day, if given the opportunity, to make sure that every child has that same opportunity.”

Gillum’s facing off against former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Orlando entrepreneur Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who’s dumped upwards of $6 million on television ads thus far.

This from a press release issued by Gillum’s campaign spokesman, Geoff Burgan:

“Andrew is the only candidate in this race who truly understands what everyday Floridians need: a strong public education, a good-paying job, and a state that values its everyday people over its well-heeled and well-connected. “Opportunity” showcases Andrew’s compelling personal story and highlights the areas that a Governor Gillum will pursue.”


Oops. Debates can’t help, but they can kill

Florida’s top Democratic candidates for governor — Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Philip Levine and Chris King — spent an hour yesterday trying to burnish their creds as the best man or woman to succeed outgoing GOP Gov. Rick Scott.

After being repeatedly attacked by her opponents, former Congresswoman Graham probably scored the best line of the debate.

“I seem to be the one,” said Graham, the daughter of Bob Graham, who served as both U.S. senator and Florida governor. “It’s Gwen and the men.”

Graham’s response drew a quick rebuke from Gillum: “This isn’t just about the men against the women. Records do matter.”

There were a few gaffes, but nothing tat would rise to the level of candidacy-killing flubs by statewide and presidential wannabes in the past.

And that’s probably a good thing for the four Democratic contenders, according to Florida Atlantic University political science professor Kevin Wagner.

“Especially early on, you can’t win an election on a debate. It’s very rare you have a moment in a debate that puts you over the top. But you can make a mistake in a debate that might cost you,” Wagner, who’s made a study of debates, told Truth or Dara this morning. “You don’t win elections in debates but you do lose them from time to time.”

Wagner reminded us of a blunder by Democrat Bill McBride during a debate against incumbent Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002.

McBride was unable to say how he would pay for enhancements to public education, prompting Bush to label his foe as a “tax and spend” Democrat.

“It made him (McBride) look like he didn’t think through budget matters or how the budget works, and that really hurt him,” Wagner said, pointing out that McBride was close to Bush in the polls until the debate.

“Not many people watch the debates, but it shows you that sometimes what happens in debates starts to percolate in conversations that people have,” the political science professor said.

The demise of McBride due to the debate prompted us to revisit former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s unforgettable “oops” moment, when he forgot one of the three federal agencies he said he wanted to do away with during a 2011 debate between the Republican presidential candidates.

“I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education, and the — What’s the third one there? Let’s see,” Perry, who’s now the nation’s energy czar, said.

After much prompting, Perry wound up with: “The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”

Also on the presidential level, Wagner noted that former Vice President Dan Quayle was defined by one fatal line during a debate.

Dan Quayle likened himself to Jack Kennedy, aka former President John Kennedy, drawing this rebuke from vice-presidential contender Lloyd Bentsen in 1988.

“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy,” Bentsen said.  That last memorable line may have eclipsed Bentsen’s political legacy but has stuck with Quayle ever since.

In general, early debates largely serve as a helpful dress rehearsal for candidates to hone their skills before voters really start to tune into the upcoming elections.

But, in a modern age where every breath is documented, stored and shared, even the slightest swiff is saved for posterity, and potentially could be come back to haunt the candidates.

“In some cases, like Dan Quayle, it will live with you for the rest of your career,” Wagner said.

Gil Ziffer backs Graham over Gillum, who sez he would’ve shunned his endorsement

zifferThere’s apparently no love lost between Tallahassee City Commissioner Gil Ziffer and Tally Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat who’s running for governor.

gillum_standingIn what appears to be a slap to Gillum, Ziffer threw his support behind Gwen Graham, one of Gillum’s primary foes.

“Gwen Graham has a proven record of standing up for Florida families — as a local PTA volunteer, as a public school official, and representing us in Congress,” Ziffer, who’s also the president of the Florida League of Cities, said in a statement released by Graham’s campaign Wednesday. “She also is a fierce defender of home rule and strongly supported local communities in their fight against Fracking in Florida. Gwen defeated an incumbent, NRA-endorsed, tea party Congressman and is a fighter who’s proven she can win the big battles. I am proud to offer her my most enthusiastic endorsement for governor.”

From the release:

Ziffer’s endorsement comes one day after Graham’s pledge to use her legal resources as governor to support local governments challenging the state’s firearm preemption law with common-sense gun safety regulations.

But Gillum — who’s made stricter gun regulations one of his key campaign issues, and  has boasted of taking on the NRA — didn’t want city colleague Ziffer’s endorsement anyway, according to Gillum’s campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan:

“Gwen Graham’s a self-described “very conservative Democrat” and voted to weaken Dodd-Frank provisions, while Gil Ziffer voted against “Ban the Box” legislation in the City Commission and didn’t back the Mayor’s renewed push to fight the gun lobby following the shooting in Parkland. We never sought his endorsement, and would not have accepted given these strong policy differences.”

Burgan also pointed out that “two of Graham’s colleagues in Congress have endorsed us: Rep. Alcee Hastings and Rep. Frederica Wilson, and that Gravis Marketing poll that shows Graham dropping to 3rd place yesterday.”

That’s a “back at ya” to this morning’s Graham press release, which notes that “Ziffer joins Leon County Commissioners John Dailey, Kristin Dozier and Leon Soil and Water Commissioner Tabitha Frazier in endorsing Graham.”

Left out of immigration debate, Levine takes out his checkbook

In a one-two advertising punch, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is taking on both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, lashing them for promoting hate and intolerance.

The former Miami Beach mayor’s campaign is launching a one-week $250,000 buy in Florida for a 30-second television ad that slams Corcoran for “broadcasting a message of hate,” referring to the Republican House speaker’s ad on “sanctuary cities” and a shooting involving an undocumented immigrant.

Levine’s camp announced the ad buy a day before Corcoran is scheduled to debate Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat facing off against Levine in a primary later this year.

“I have zero tolerance for intolerance. Speaker Richard Corcoran is attempting to divide our state and our country by attacking and bullying those who do not look like him, on a cynical belief that this will propel his campaign for governor,” Levine said in a statement. “Those are the qualities of a bully, not a leader.”

In a more unusual move, Levine’s campaign is also doing a $20,000 targeted cable buy for the ad in Washington, D.C., running on the Fox News and CNN channels, aiming at Trump.

“I want President Trump to know that his efforts to divide us through intolerance is intolerable, and the people of Florida and this country stand united against his divisive rhetoric and policies,” Levine said in a statement.

Political consultant Christian Ulvert, senior advisor to Levine’s campaign, told reporters Monday morning the campaign is going to keep up an “aggressive push” on digital media as well.

“We are going to continue to do that to make sure that this type of race-bating by the speaker is rebutted directly with Floridians and they hear a different message from our campaign, one of respect and inclusion,” Ulvert said.

Here’s the transcript of the ad, which is also running Spanish:

Levine: In Washington these days, they’re taking shots at immigrants who’ve devoted their lives to this country.

Levine: Now one Tallahassee politician is broadcasting a message of hate aimed at every man, woman and child that doesn’t look like him.

Levine: It’s bad enough we hear this from a President who bullies for a living. What’s worse are those who encourage it.

Levine: I want Florida to show America that we won’t be threatened by anyone, because we believe in everyone.

Announcer: Philip Levine for Governor.

— By Lloyd Dunkelberger

Poll: Voters meh on Fla guv race

Agriculture Commish Adam Putnam and Fox News darling Congressman Ron DeSantis are neck-and-neck, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has a slight edge over former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll.

“Right now, the only things that are certain about Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial primaries are that the outcomes are far from certain, a lot of money is going to be poured into these two very competitive races and the voters are not fully tuned in,” pollster Brad Coker said in a press release announcing the poll results.

On the Democratic side in the race to replace Gov. Rick Scott, who’s term-limited out of office this year, Graham captured 20 percent of the vote, while 17 percent of Dems said they’re backing Levine. Ten percent of likely Democratic voters support Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and 4 percent are behind Chris King.  And nearly half of likely Dem voters — a whopping 49 percent — are undecided.

On the GOP side, 43 percent of likely Republican voters haven’t yet made up their minds, the poll found. Statewide, 27 percent of GOP voters back Putnam, while 23 percent are for DeSantis. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who hasn’t announced if he’s running yet, captured support from 7 percent of those polls.

The Mason Dixon Polling & Strategy survey of 500 likely Democratic voters and 500 likely Republican voters was conducted from Jan. 29 through Feb. 1. The margin of error was +/- 4.5 percent.

The current results largely reflect name recognition and none of the candidates appear to be hampered by high negative ratings from their party voters.

Here’s more from Coker:

It is interesting to note that both front-runners have leads that are smaller than their recognition advantages. Graham, the daughter of former Governor & Senator Bob Graham, has an 8-point name recognition margin over Levine, but just a 3-point lead.

Putnam, the only candidate to have run statewide, has a name recognition advantage of 7-points over DeSantis, but only a 4-point lead. Graham’s total recognition of 65% among Democrats is likely lower than many insiders would expect, but her father’s name has not appeared on the state ballot in 20 years. Putnam has only 63% recognition among GOP voters, as his position in the state cabinet is low profile.

Traditional expectations in primary elections based on insider baseball no longer apply in a growing and ever-changing state. As both parties have polarized, establishment backing is no longer a great advantage.

Corcoran anti-sanctuary state video: “race-baiting” or simply red meat?

House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s political committee dropped a new video Monday that plays up his conservative creds, immigration-style.

The 30-second screed, entitled “Preventable,” dishes up a serving of GOP red meat by excoriating “sanctuary cities.”

The campaign-ish video might put to rest any (remaining) questions about whether the the Land O’ Lakes Republican intends to run for governor.

The video opens by alluding to the 2015 killing of Kathryn Steinle along Pier 14 in the Embarcadero district of San Francisco by depicting a bearded man in a hoodie pointing and firing a handgun at a woman walking the sidewalk of a suburban community.

A voice-over by Corcoran states: “A young woman, gunned down by an illegal immigrant who should’ve been deported but was protected by a sanctuary city.”

The video than fades to Corcoran, who is in his final House term and has said he’s waiting until after the Legislative session to make an announcement regarding his political future, who personalizes Steinle’s story.

When he heard of Steinle’s death, “I thought about my own daughter Kate,” Corcoran, a father of six, says.

“Incredibly, some Tallahassee politicians want to make Florida a sanctuary state,” a seemingly incredulous Corcoran, shown with his arm draped around Kate’s shoulders, says. “On my watch, Florida will never be a sanctuary state.”

The Republican-dominated House voted 71-35 on Jan. 12 in favor of a measure (HB 9) that would ban “sanctuary cities’ in the state. A similar version in the Senate (SB 308) has its first appearance before the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Worth noting: A jury last month found Jose Ines Garcia Zanate not guilty of second-degree murder charges in Steinle’s death. Garcia Zanate said he found the gun on the pier and that it accidentally went off. Authorities confirmed the bullet ricocheted off the ground before striking Steinle.

The video drew  strong rebuke from the campaign of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat running for governor.

Gillum’s campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan, who called the video “race-baiting,” said it epitomizes “everything that’s wrong with politics today.”

“In the age of Trump, Corcoran is vilifying immigrants,” Burgan said in a press release. “It’s a vile ad that seeks to divide us against one another, and the Speaker ought to be ashamed of himself. Mayor Gillum is running a substantive, progressive campaign on the issues facing everyday Floridians, and we encourage the Speaker to do the same when he finally joins the race.”


By Dara Kam and  Jim Turner.