New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to campaign for Andrew Gillum in Palm Beach County

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will be in South Florida on behalf of Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio — occasionally mentioned in 2020 Democratic presidential chatter — will be in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties on Saturday to campaign for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s Democratic bid for Florida governor.

Gillum himself is in post-Hurricane Michael mayoral mode will not be on the campaign trail Saturday, his campaign confirmed.

De Blasio, who faces mayoral term limits in 2021, fanned 2020 presidential speculation with an Iowa appearance last December, but insisted he’s not seeking the White House. He also formed a federal PAC in July.

Gillum’s campaign announced that de Blasio and wife Chirlane McCray will speak to Gillum campaign workers in West Palm Beach at 11 a.m. with U.S. Rep.Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and Greenacres Mayor Joel Flores. De Blasio and McCray are also scheduled to visit Gillum campaign workers west of Delray Beach at 1:30 p.m. with Frankel and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton.

McCray is then slated to appear at a Florida Democratic Party Women’s Voter Summit west of West Palm Beach at 2:30 p.m. while de Blasio heads to Pompano Beach for a 3 p.m. event with labor unions. De Blasio also has a 4:30 p.m. event scheduled in Miami Gardens.

Campaigning for Gillum or Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is a great way for a potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to gain exposure and build team-player credentials in crucial Florida. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg campaigned for Gillum last week and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stumped with Gillum before the Aug. 28 primary.



Florida could set vote-by-mail record this election

Top row: Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum (left) and Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis. Bottom row: Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson (left) and Republican Gov. Rick Scott. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

With national attention focused on the Florida governor’s race between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis and the U.S. Senate contest between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, more than 2.7 million Florida voters have already requested mail-in ballots for the Nov. 6 general election.

That exceeds the total for the last midterm election in 2014 and threatens to eclipse the 3.3 million ballots mailed out for the 2016 presidential election. Mail-in ballot requests can be an indicator of voter enthusiasm — or of voters switching from in-person voting to the convenience of casting a ballot from home.

As of this morning’s update from the Florida Division of Elections, Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans in ballot requests — 1.132 million to 1.064 million. About 550,000 requests have come from voters with no party affiliation or who belong to minor parties. Republicans, however, have been more likely than Democrats to return their mail ballots.

In 2016, the GOP had an 85 percent return rate on mail ballots while the Democratic rate was 80 percent. In 2014 midterms, 78 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats returned their mail ballots.

Some of those who didn’t return their mail-in ballots voted by other means — at in-person early voting sites or at a precinct on the traditional election day.

Trump to visit Orlando; which Republicans will be there?

President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott at the Broward Sheriff’s Office in February a few days after the Parkland massacre. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

President Donald Trump will visit Orlando on Monday to speak to the annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Wednesday.

It’s an official trip rather than one of Trump’s signature campaign rallies.

Gov. Rick Scott, who has kept his distance from the president since launching his campaign for U.S. Senate, plans to attend the chiefs gathering, also in an official capacity rather than as a candidate.

Republican nominee for governor Ron DeSantis, whose endorsement by Trump was crucial to his GOP primary win, does not plan to attend.

“The event on Monday is an official event, not a political event,” said DeSantis campaign communications director Stephen Lawson. “But this won’t be the last time the plane comes down to Florida.”

At the police convention, Sanders said Trump plans to “speak about the work of the administration to protect American communities by restoring law and order, supporting local law enforcement, and securing the border.”

Trump’s last Florida appearance was a July 31 rally in Tampa in which he promoted DeSantis four weeks before the GOP primary. Scott did not attend the rally, but appeared with the president earlier in the day at a non-political event at a vocational high school.


Pollster sees Kavanaugh factor in Florida’s Nelson-Scott Senate race

Republican Gov. Rick Scott (left) and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson are virtually tied in a new Mason-Dixon poll. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

A new Mason-Dixon poll shows Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott in a virtual tie in their nationally watched U.S. Senate race.

Read Palm Beach Post coverage of Tuesday’s Nelson-Scott debate by clicking here.

Nelson gets 47 percent and Scott 46 percent in a survey of 815 likely voters with a 3.5 percent margin of error. President Donald Trump gets a 46 percent approval rating and a 48 percent disapproval rating in the survey, making him “a neutral factor, other than serving as a motivator for partisan turnout on both sides,” says Mason-Dixon’s Brad Coker.

A new Inside Florida Politics podcast is coming today. Get a rolling start by checking out the previous podcast here…

Coker says key elements of the race have been shifting in Nelson’s direction, and fellow Democrat Andrew Gillum‘s bid to become Florida’s first African-American governor should help the thee-term senator by bringing out minority voters who are otherwise less likely to vote in a midterm.

But, Coker also noted, “this poll was conducted during the week of the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, which may have sparked Republican voter interest and closed the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and the GOP. It could explain why Nelson may have had larger leads in several other polls conducted prior to last week, while this one shows him still in a toss-up contest. At least for the moment, the Supreme Court battle is casting a shadow in Florida.”


2020 watch: Michael Bloomberg to visit Broward, West Palm Beach

Michael Bloomberg during a 2008 visit to West Boca. (Palm Beach Post staff photo by Chris Matula)

Potential 2020 presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire gun-control activist and former New York mayor, is making at least two appearances in South Florida this week.

Check out the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast — and rearrange your schedule now for a new podcast Thursday…

Bloomberg is slated to appear in Coral Springs on Friday at a gun-control event with parents and survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

On Saturday, Bloomberg will be keynote speaker at the Palm Beach County Democratic Party’s annual Truman Kennedy Johnson dinner in West Palm Beach.

Bloomberg was mentioned as a potential independent candidate for president in 2008, 2012 and 2016. He’s said to be leaning toward a Democratic bid for 2020.

Campaigning and raising money for 2018 candidates — especially in key states like Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire — is one way for presidential hopefuls to boost their visibility and amass chits for 2020. Bloomberg recently announced he’ll contribute $20 million to help Democratic Senate candidates this year. 


Koch network steps up help for DeSantis against Soros- and Steyer-backed Gillum

Republican Ron DeSantis at his campaign launch in Boca Raton in January. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

With liberal billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer supplying at least $2.5 million so far to help Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, a group linked to the conservative Koch network is stepping up its assistance to Republican nominee Ron DeSantis.

Check out the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast here…

Concerned Veterans for America Action mailer for Ron DeSantis.

The Koch-affiliated Concerned Veterans for America Action says it will spend at least $100,000 on mailers supporting DeSantis.

Another Koch network group, Freedom Partners Action Fund, formed a Florida committee in July and spent $323,415 on digital ads and mailers to boost DeSantis in his GOP primary against Adam Putnam.

Libertarian-leaning Charles and David Koch have often clashed on trade and other issues with DeSantis’ biggest backer, President Donald Trump, who tweeted in July that “the globalist Koch Brothers” are a “total joke” and “overrated.” David Koch stepped down this year from Koch Industries and political activities, citing health reasons.

Hedge fund billionaire Soros has given $1.2 million to Gillum’s Forward Florida PAC. Steyer’s NextGen America spent at least $1.3 million to help Gillum before the Aug. 28 Democratic primary.

The CVAA mailers will highlight DeSantis’ service as a Navy attorney advising forces during the 2007 U.S. “surge” in Iraq and his support in Congress for reforms to the Department of Veterans Affairs. CVAA is supported by the Koch-affiliated Freedom Partners.

CVAA made independent expenditures in 2016 on behalf Republican Sens. Marco Rubio ($90,155) and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania ($139,447) and losing GOP Senate candidate Joe Heck of Nevada ($158,482), according to data compiled by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.

This year, CVAA is also involved in efforts to unseat Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in Montana.



Barack Obama’s Florida endorsements: Who made the cut, who didn’t?

Former President Barack Obama during a 2012 campaign rally in West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

President Barack Obama today endorsed Democrats Andrew Gillum for governor, Sen. Bill Nelson for a fourth Senate term and Lauren Baer for a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast U.S. House seat as part of a nationwide list of endorsements.

Check out the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast here…

Obama endorsed a total of 19 Florida candidates in competitive races from state House to Congress to the high-profile contests for Senate and governor.

From Barack Obama’s latest round of endorsements.

Noticeably absent from Obama’s list: Donna Shalala, the former Health and Human Services secretary and University of Miami president who’s running for the open Miami congressional seat of retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Ros-Lehtinen’s district voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has been regarded as a top Democratic pickup opportunity, but many Democrats have been underwhelmed by Shalala’s campaign against Republican Maria Elvira Salazar.

Obama also declined to weigh in on Florida’s statewide races for attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner.

Baer, who is challenging freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, is the only Palm Beach County candidate on the list.


Endorsement watch: Democrats Gillum, Nelson to appear today with Puerto Rico governor

Democratic governor nominee Andrew Gillum (left) and Dem. Sen. Bill Nelson are expected to pick up endorsements from Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló today. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló will make a “special campaign announcement” with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson at 10:45 a.m. in Orlando this morning, then make a “major campaign announcement” with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum at 1:15 p.m. in Kissimmee.

Check out the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast here…

The apparent Rosselló endorsements could help Democratic efforts to turn out Democratic-leaning Puerto Rican voters, who are a growing force in Florida politics, particularly in and around Orlando. Democrats have sought to gain from criticism of President Donald Trump‘s response to Hurricane Maria last year.

The number of Floridians who identify as Puerto Rican Hispanics in the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey was estimated at more than 1 million in 2016 — up from 482,027 in the 2000 census. About 30 percent of Florida’s Puerto Ricans live around Orlando in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Nelson in the Senate race, has made eight trips to Puerto Rico since Maria hit in Septemberr 2017. In a pre-emptive strike Sunday night, the Scott campaign released the names of 46 Puerto Rican officials who have endorsed his campaign, including U.S. Del. Jenniffer González-Colón, Lt. Gov. Luis Rivera Marin and former Gov. Luis Fortuño.

Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott weigh in on Kavanaugh

Gov. Rick Scott (left) and Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio all weighed in this morning on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson announced on Twitter this morning that he will vote against confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court while Republican Sen. Marco Rubio issued a lengthy statement supporting Kavanaugh.

Nelson’s challenger in the November Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, responded to Nelson’s announcement by accusing him of being a puppet of Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. Scott later issued a statement supporting Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Check out the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast here…

Nelson’s decision wasn’t surprising as he also voted against President Donald Trump‘s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the high court last year.

Scott tweeted from his campaign account that Nelson was “always going to do exactly what your party leaders told you do do. You decided no before you even knew who the nominee was. Your vote does not even belong to you – it belongs to @SenSchumer.”

Later, Scott issued a statement saying he found Christine Blasey Ford‘s testimony that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s when both were teenagers “convincing.” But Scott said he also found Kavanaugh’s denial convincing and supports his confirmation.

Scott said both Ford and Kavanaugh “have been used and abused as pawns in a partisan Washington political theater, which is clearly the product of career politicians playing games at the expense of these individuals’ lives and reputations. This hearing was a very good example of why we need term limits in Washington.

“I don’t know what happened 36 years ago in suburban Maryland. The truth is that none of us really know. So, I have to go with what I do know – Judge Kavanaugh has been a fair and brilliant Judge, one of our nation’s very best. He should be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

In his statement, Rubio said: “This entire ordeal is indicative of something that goes beyond the nomination before us. It has revealed how our culture has become increasingly sick and demented, unmoored from the values upon which this great nation was founded and which have allowed our society to flourish.”

Rubio said both Ford and Kavanaugh offered testimony that was “unequivocal, compelling and heartbreaking.”

Rubio added: “Under these circumstances, I must make my decision on the basis of evidence and established facts. Especially since voting against Judge Kavanaugh would no longer be simply a rejection of his nomination, but an endorsement of the serious allegations against him.

“I will not vote against the nomination of someone who I am otherwise inclined to support and in the process add credence to charges which have already done permanent damage to his reputation, on the basis of allegations for which there is no independent corroboration and which are at odds with everything else we have heard about his character.”


Hillary Clinton to campaign with Andrew Gillum in South Florida

Hillary Clinton at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth during the 2016 presidential campaign. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

After courting liberals in the primary by campaigning with progressive icon Bernie Sanders, Florida Democratic governor nominee Andrew Gillum is reaching out to the party’s establishment wing and bringing in Hillary Clinton for a rally somewhere in deep-blue South Florida on Oct. 23, the Gillum campaign announced today.

Check out the brand-spanking-new Inside Florida Politics podcast here…

It will be the sixth consecutive Florida governor’s race in which a Clinton has campaigned for the Democratic nominee. Former President Bill Clinton stumped in the Sunshine State for every Democratic gubernatorial nominee from 1998 to 2014, but the #MeToo movement has put a 2018 Bill Clinton visit in question.

Hillary Clinton lost Florida to Donald Trump in 2016 with 47.8 percent of the vote — a 2.2 percent drop-off from former President Barack Obama‘s winning margin in the state four years earlier. But Clinton racked up big margins in heavily Democratic Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Turning out Democrats in those counties will be a key for Gillum against Republican Ron DeSantis.

“I’m honored to have Secretary Clinton join me in Florida next month,” said Gillum, who backed Clinton over Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primaries and spoke at the Democratic National Convention that year. “Hillary knows just what’s at stake in this election — affordable healthcare, a brighter future for our children — and that the choice in this election could not be clearer.”

Republicans sought to exploit the split within the Democratic Party between Clinton loyalists and backers of Sanders, whose endorsement of Gillum was a key to his Aug. 28 primary win.

“Clinton’s sudden re-emergence and fundraising tour will do far more to hurt Gillum’s cause than help it,” said RNC spokeswoman Taryn Fenske. “Gillum’s socialist base isn’t going to like him aligning with Clinton who is tainted by decades of controversy and failed policies. Floridians rejected Hillary in 2016 – he better watch out or he’ll alienate his far-left base.”

Gillum is trying to become Florida’s first black governor. He’s also trying to be the first Democrat to win a Florida governor’s race since Lawton Chiles barely won re-election in 1994 over Republican challenger Jeb Bush.

Four years later, Bush began a 20-year winning streak for the GOP by winning election in 1998 and re-election in 2002. Charlie Crist, now a Democratic congressman from St. Petersburg, won the governorship as a Republican in 2006. Republican Rick Scott was elected in 2010 and re-elected — over Crist — in 2014.

The Democrats who lost those races presented themselves more or less as moderates, but Gillum staked out a variety of liberal positions and urged the party’s voters to try something new this year.

“We have nominated five pretty centrist Democrats, white Democrats, for the last 20 years and not one of them have won,” Gillum said in an August interview with the GateHouse Media. Gillum added: “Black voters, brown voters, young voters, poor voters — I trust my chances at being able to reach those constituencies over anybody else running, and if we’re going to win, our nominee must move more of those voters to the polls.”

In a five-candidate Democratic primary, the endorsement from Sanders helped Gillum get a 34.4 plurality to claim the nomination.