Philip Levine

Dueling Dems go after Trump, cigar-toting Republicans in latest ads

Democrats Gwen Graham and Jeff Greene launched new TV ads this week, as time runs out before voters start casting ballots in the Aug. 28 primary.

Greene, the Palm Beach billionaire who lives next door to President Donald Trump, takes aim at his neighbor in one of two ads totaling a $2.7 million weeklong buy, according to Greene’s camp.

Or rather, Trump is the one taking aim in the ads — with his golf club.

The spot features the president swinging away on the golf course, and complains that “Florida taxpayers are paying for it — literally ” every time Trump visits the Sunshine State. The presidential drop-ins cost millions in overtime and road closures, according to the ad, in which Greene pledges “to put a stop to that, day one” if elected governor.

A second Greene ad’s more upbeat, and stars the candidate, his wife and his three young sons — Malcolm, Brandon and Cameron — he says are the reason he’s in the race to succeed outgoing Gov. Rick Scott.

Greene is a late entry into the crowded Democratic field, but he’s pledged to spend what it takes to move into the govenror’s mansion.

In her latest ad, Graham — who ousted former U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in 2014 and served a term in Congress before deciding to seek re-election after her North Florida district was redrawn — continued what appears to be a general-election strategy by going after Republicans.

“It has been really bad for Florida that, for twenty years, the Republican Party has been in total control. It’s these high-paid lobbyists that are in charge in Tallahassee,” Graham says while black-and-white images of GOP legislators posing with cigars on the floor of the state House flash on the screen.

Graham and Greene are facing off in the primary against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando entrepreneur Chris King.

 

John Morgan: “If I was Bill Nelson, I’d be worried”

IMG_0124Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan held court with reporters moments before a hearing in a lawsuit he initiated kicked off Wednesday morning.

Morgan is a political rainmaker who largely bankrolled the constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida and was overwhelmingly approved by voters nearly two years ago.

Morgan, who had toyed with the notion of running for governor, spoke about his decision to stay out of the governor’s race.

“I’ll tell you. To run for governor, you’ve got to be done making money. And I’m not done making money. Or you have to be a professional politician. And I’m not a professional politician,” he said.

Morgan said he spoke yesterday with Philip Levine, the former Miami Beach Miami who is a contender in the Democratic primary for governor.

“I told him he’s lucky I’m not in ‘cause I would win in a landslide,” Morgan said, adding that he didn’t know which Democrat would capture the nomination.

“All I know is I’ve never known any governor that’s ever done anything for any of us. Ever. So it’s not a job that I really think I’d be good at every day. I’m better at this,” he said, standing outside the courtroom.

Morgan also said he supported House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s decision to stay on the sidelines in the governor’s race.

Morgan said Corcoran visited him a few weeks ago.

“I said, look, here’s the deal. It’s all about money. And if you don’t got the money, you can’t run. I said at the end of the day, questions answer themselves. And I think the question was answered for Richard Corcoran when the money froze up,” Morgan said.

While Corcoran is a friend and someone he would have helped, Morgan said the Land O’ Lakes Republican made the right choice.

“I think he made the right decision because I think he would have gotten beat and I think he knew he was going to get beat. And if I’m going to get beat, I don’t like to go to my own ass-kicking,” Morgan said.

Morgan also had what appeared to be a dim view of incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s odds against challenger Rick Scott, who’s finishing his last year as governor.

“I think Sen Nelson is in for a dog fight. I think he’s got to get busy. You cannot underestimate this Rick Scott. He is a methodical, Eveready bunny, a bald-headed Eveready bunny who just never stops. He’s focused, and he’s got the money, and he’s got the message, and if I was Bill Nelson, I’d be worried,” he said.

 

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.

In first digital ad, Graham runs against Trump

Florida gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham’s first digital ad serves up a taste of what’s sure to be a common theme for Democrats in the 2018 election season.

The former congresswoman’s digital spot focuses solely on her favorite whipping boy, President Donald Trump, whom she calls “an embarrassment,” a “bully,” and someone “that could not be more ill-suited to be president” of the U.S.

Graham’s campaign “is placing a significant buy behind the ad across various digital platforms, starting in Palm Beach, where Trump and administration officials will continue to visit Mar-a-Lago through the month of April, before expanding the ad statewide,” according to a press release announcing the ad this morning.

Graham’s entrée into the campaign ad world comes after competitor Philip Levine has forked over more than $4 million in TV spots in advance of the August primary.

 

Post-Parkland, Levine targets guns

Less than a week after a 19-year-old shooter gunned down 14 teenagers and three faculty members at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine’s campaign released a new TV ad targeting gun laws.
Levine’s political committee, All About Florida, is spending $725,000 for the 10-day ad buy in all of the state’s 10 media markets, according to a release issued Tuesday.

“The new ad is a direct response to the Marjory Douglas Stoneman shooting, and an urgent appeal from Mayor Levine for common-sense gun reform in the state of Florida,” according to the release.

In the ad, entitled “We Will,” Levine blasts Florida for having some of the weakest gun laws in the nation.

“The tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High is a wake-up call we can’t ignore,” Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach, says. “If the legislature won’t do it, we will.”
Watch the video here.
“As the brave students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas spearhead a movement to pass needed gun reform legislation in Florida and across our country that is garnering bipartisan support, the people of Florida are now saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ This new ad takes Mayor Levine’s strong stance on these issues directly to the people. As Mayor Levine states in the ad, if leaders will not pass better background checks, more mental health funding and a permanent ban on assault weapons in the state of Florida, then we will,”  Christian Ulvert, senior advisor to the campaign, said in the release.