Dem state Sen. Jeff Clemens endorses Andrew Gillum for governor

Tallahasse Mayor Andrew Gillum, left, has won the endorsement of state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Atlantis, who’s in line to become Senate Democratic leader in 2018.

State Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Atlantis, who’s in line to become Senate Democratic leader in 2018, is endorsing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary for governor.

Two other elected Democrats from Palm Beach County — Tax Collector Anne Gannon and state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach — have also announced their support for Gillum, who faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and businessman Chris King in the Democratic primary. Trial lawyer John Morgan and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are also eyeing the Democratic race.

Said Clemens, in a statement released by Gillum’s campaign: “Andrew Gillum is a bold leader whose vision will transform Florida as our next Governor, and I’m proud to endorse him. Andrew will prioritize the people we serve, not the privileged few who have had their way in Tallahassee for decades. Strong values like top-flight education for every child, an economy that works for workers as well as small business owners, and healthcare that protects the vulnerable by covering Floridians with pre-existing conditions.

“Florida deserves better, and Andrew is the best person to challenge the status quo. He won’t stand for a budget that ranks 43rd in education funding or 50th in mental health spending, while big corporations get tax breaks. Andrew knows we can do better, and I have confidence he will make the Legislature do its job.”

Early shake-up for Republican Adam Putnam’s governor campaign

A sea of supporters greeted Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam as he formally rolled out his 2018 campaign for governor in Bartow on May 10. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has parted ways with two top campaign staffers only a few weeks after what looked like a picture-perfect launch for his 2018 Republican bid for governor.

In changes first reported by Politico and confirmed by Putnam’s campaign today, campaign manager Kristin Davison and political director Jared Small are out.

Putnam at the Riviera Beach Marina last week. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

“We’re very grateful for her efforts to help this campaign get off to the strongest possible launch. We wish her the best,” Putnam campaign spokeswoman Amanda Bevis said of Davison.

After years of expectation, Putnam formally opened his campaign for governor this month and rolled out his candidacy with a large rally in his hometown of Bartow on May 10.

He then embarked on a 22-city bus tour that included stops in Palm Beach County and drew good crowds while introducing Putnam to all the state’s media markets..

A former state House and U.S. House member elected ag commissioner in 2010, Putnam is considered the front runner for the GOP nomination to succeed term-limited Gov. Rick Scott. Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Bob White of Melbourne announced his candidacy Monday. State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, are also eyeing the race.

Democrats running include Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and businessman Chris King.


Democrat Philip Levine floats indy trial balloon for governor’s race

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has long been expected to enter the 2018 race for the Democratic nomination for governor later this year.

But Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam Smith notes that Levine, a registered Democrat and major Democratic donor, raised another possibility at a Tiger Bay lunch in Tampa on Friday.

When asked about working with a Republican-controlled legislature, Levine said: “There’s one assumption that you made there – that somehow if I ran for governor I would be a Democratic governor…Too much is about Democrat and Republican. It needs to be about the people. … Maybe possibly it’s time we do something different.”

Levine highlighted Smith’s article on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend:

The Democratic field already includes former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and businessman Chris King, with trial lawyer John Morgan considering the race as well.

The last major independent candidate to run statewide was Charlie Crist, who began a 2010 campaign for Senate as the state’s elected Republican governor but left the party when Marco Rubio overtook him in GOP polls. Running as a no-party candidate with universal name recognition as the sittitng governor, Crist got 29.7 percent in the 2010 general election for Senate. Rubio won with 48.9 percent and Democrat Kendrick Meek got 20.2 percent.

Dem Andrew Gillum snags another Palm Beach County endorsement in governor race

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, left, and state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach.

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic governor candidate Andrew Gillum has picked up an endorsement from state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach.

Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon has also endorsed Gillum.

While lacking the star power of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who endorsed Democrat Gwen Graham in the governor’s race on Wednesday, both Abruzzo and Gannon are well-connected among the Democratic club presidents and party activists who can be influential in a Democratic primary in Florida’s third-largest county.

Abruzzo says the 37-year-old Gillum can fire up the Democratic base in a way other candidates can’t.

Said Abruzzo in an endorsement statement released by the Gillum campaign: “Only a few times in a generation do we have the opportunity to elect a leader like Andrew Gillum. He brings the integrity, experience, and energy to ignite the Democratic base. As Mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew has had a front-row seat to state government’s inner-workings and he possesses a strong grasp of state issues. As Democratic House Whip, I can attest that Andrew has worked with the Democratic Caucus and will be ready to lead as Governor from Day One. He is the Democrat in this race who can rebuild our economy so that it works better for everyone in Palm Beach County and the Sunshine State. Andrew will work tirelessly to ensure that every worker has the opportunity to earn a paycheck that supports their family, and that’s just the kind of leadership Florida needs in our next Governor. I will be joining him on the campaign trail, in South Florida and throughout our state, to have discussions with veterans, teachers, and first responders about why we need Andrew Gillum as the next governor of the state of Florida.”

Gillum, Graham and businessman Chris King have opened Democratic campaigns for governor while trial lawyer John Morgan and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine could also enter the Democratic race.



Civil rights legend John Lewis endorses Gwen Graham in Dem primary for governor

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., is backing former Rep. Gwen Graham’s Democratic bid for Florida governor.

U.S. Rep. and civil rights legend John Lewis, D-Georgia, is endorsing former colleague Gwen Graham in the 2018 primary for the Democratic nomination for governor.

“Only one Democrat for Governor of Florida —my good friend Gwen Graham — has the passion and commitment, the track record and the leadership skills to stand up, speak out, protect our priorities, and get things done,” says Lewis in a statement released by the Graham campaign. “Gwen is a champion for the progressive values so many of us share, and I am proud to give Gwen Graham my strongest endorsement for Governor of Florida.”

The endorsement should help Graham with black voters, who were about 29 percent of the Democratic electorate in 2016. Graham’s rivals include Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is black, and Central Florida businessman Chris King. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and trial lawyer John Morgan are also eyeing the Democratic race.


Adam Putnam: ‘Florida can be the launch pad for the American dream’

A sea of supporters greet Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam as he formally rolls out his 2018 campaign for governor. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

BARTOW — Adam Putnam formally rolled out his 2018 campaign for governor in picturesque fashion here today, with a cheering crowd and a high school band in front of an historic courthouse in his home town.

Putnam’s campaign said more than 1,600 people checked in at the outdoor rally to hear the two-term Republican agriculture commissioner and former congressman.

Putnam in front of the historic Polk County Courthouse. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

“We’ve got to put Florida first to make sure this isn’t only the place where people come after a life well-lived somewhere else — it’s where they come to launch their own American dream,” Putnam said.

“Our state can be the launch pad for the American Dream. The state that is the fishing capital of the world can also be the state that builds the boats and trains the craftsmen. The state that trained millions of soldiers and sailors and airmen can retrain our citizens with the skills that allow them to compete in a rapidly changing world – and win. The state that put a man on the moon can build the tools for the next giant leap for mankind,” Putnam said.

Putnam, whose Florida Grown political committee began April with more than $7.7 million in cash on hand, is the early favorite to win the 2018 Republican nomination. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, and state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, are other potential GOP candidates.

Several Democrats are running or contemplating campaigns. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and businessman Chris King are in the Democratic race. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and trial lawyer John Morgan are also considering Democratic bids.

Florida governor money chase: Putnam PAC tops $300,000 in April; Gillum, King near $100,000

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam talks with Republican activists in West Palm Beach in 2014.

A political committee supporting Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam‘s Republican bid for governor collected more than $300,000 last month and has raised $4.5 million since November.

A committee supporting Democrat Andrew Gillum‘s gubernatorial bid, Forward Florida, raised $92,000 during the month. A committee backing Democrat Chris King for governor, Rise And Lead, Florida, collected $97,500. A committee supporting Democrat Gwen Graham for governor isn’t due to file until Wednesday.

Putnam formally declared his candidacy for governor last week and has a kickoff rally and barbecue scheduled for Wednesday in his hometown of Bartow. But he’s been widely expected to seek the job for years. His Florida Grown PC, formed in 2015 shortly after Putnam began his second term as agriculture commissioner, has received more than $10.5 million in contributions over three years.

Florida Grown began April with $7.7 million in cash on hand.

The committee has until Wednesday to file a report with the Florida Division of Elections covering its April activity. The Florida Grown website reports more than $300,000 in contributions and about $165,000 in expenditures for the month.

Biggest contributors to Florida Grown since 2015 include Juno Beach-based Florida Power & Light, which has given $585,785. Committees linked to Associated Industries of Florida have given $1.2 million and committees affiliated with to the Florida Chamber of Commerce have given $930,000.

Republican Adam Putnam enters governor race; Dem Gwen Graham tomorrow?

Time to re-wrap the campaign bus: Adam Putnam in 2010 when he first ran for agriculture commissioner. He’s now a 2018 candidate for governor.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam‘s long-anticipated campaign for governor became official when he filed paperwork this afternoon in Tallahassee to open a 2018 campaign.


Gwen Graham with her father, former Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham, at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Republican Putnam will likely be joined on the campaign trail by Democrat Gwen Graham, who has scheduled a “major announcement” for Tuesday morning in Miami Lakes. Graham is a former congresswoman whose father, Bob Graham, was a Democratic senator and governor.


Putnam, a former U.S. House member who was twice elected agriculture commissioner, faces term limits in his current job. The governor’s mansion will be open because Republican Gov. Rick Scott faces term limits and is expected to run for the seat of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.


Said Putnam: “I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world because I get to call Florida home. It’s our responsibility as Floridians to keep our economy at work, to increase access to high quality education, to fiercely protect our personal freedoms, to keep our state safe, and to welcome our veterans home with open arms. I hope everyone will join me on May 10 at 11:00 a.m. on the old county courthouse steps in Bartow, where I’ll share my vision for Florida’s future.”


While Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign begins today, his Florida Grown political committee began April with more than $8 million in the bank.


House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-o’-Lakes, could join Putnam in seeking the GOP nomination.


Graham is expected to enter a Democratic race that already includes Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando-area businessman Chris King. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and trial lawyer John Morgan are also potential Democratic candidates for governor.


Although Florida is a perennial swing state in presidential elections, Republicans have won the last five governor’s races. The last Democrat to win a gubernatorial election was the late Lawton Chiles in 1994.




Poll suggests voters uncomfortable with Trump’s time at Mar-a-Lago, golfing

President Donald Trump talks to a caddie during a round of golf at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach this month. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

President Donald Trump‘s frequent visits to his Mar-a-Lago estate and his time on the golf course are not wearing well with American voters, a new Quinnipiac University poll finds.


Democratic governor candidate Andrew Gillum is seizing on the cost of President Trump’s visits to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.

And a Democratic candidate for governor — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum — is injecting Trump’s Mar-a-Lago visits into the 2018 campaign, issuing a statement today calling on the president to help local taxpayers get reimbursed for security expenses when Trump visits.


Quinnipiac’s poll of 1,062 voters nationwide was conducted April 12-18 and has a 3 percent margin of error. The poll doesn’t mention Mar-a-Lago specifically, but asked voters “Do you think that President Trump spends too much time at properties that his company owns, or not?”


Fifty-five percent say he’s spending too much time at his properties, with 34 percent disagreeing and 11 percent not having an opinion.


Trump has played golf an estimated 16 times as president, including 14 outings when he’s in Palm Beach County. Voters were also asked how “comfortable” they are with the amount of time Trump spends “golfing and doing other leisure activities.”


Fifty-two percent say they’re “not so comfortable” or “not comfortable at all” with Trump’s golf and leisure time, with 42 percent saying they’re comfortable.


On a separate question, 50 percent of voters say Trump is not spending enough time at the White House, while 38 percent he’s spending the right amount of time there.


Asked about security costs associated with the president and his family when he is away from the White House, 60 percent say they are uncomfortable with the costs to some degree and 35 percent say they are comfortable.


Gillum, who has picked up big early money from high-profile liberals as he seeks the Democratic nomination, today called on Trump to “step up and repair the financial damage he’s done” to local taxpayers when he visits.


Palm Beach County taxpayers have spent more than $3.7 million on Trump’s visits, mainly to pay sheriffs deputies who assist the Secret Service. Local officials have called on the federal government to reimburse the costs, and Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has raised the issue personally with Trump.


“President Trump’s frequent jaunts down to Mar-a-Lago have taken a toll on Floridians’ wallets, and as we approach the 100th day of his presidency, it’s time for him to step up and repair the financial damage he’s done,” Gillum’s statement says.


“According to reports, Palm Beach taxpayers are spending millions of dollars for law enforcement protection, while small businesses are losing thousands of dollars in reservations and bookings. Local institutions like the Lantana Airport are falling on hard times thanks to the President’s inability to spend the weekend in Washington. On my trips to Palm Beach I’ve heard from residents that it’s an enormous concern, and I hope the President treats this issue accordingly. I commend Senator Nelson and Reps. Frankel, Hastings and Deutch for their fearless advocacy on behalf of Palm Beach taxpayers.”



George Soros, Jane Fonda, Norman Lear help Dem Andrew Gillum governor bid

Hedge fund billionaire George Soros and his son gave a combined $150,000 to a committee supporting Democrat Andrew Gillum for governor. (Soros photo by Kevin Wolf/AP)

With significant help from some of the biggest names in American liberalism, Tallahasee Mayor Andrew Gillum raised $765,000 in his first month as a Democratic candidate for governor, his campaign says.


Gillum announced  his candidacy last month. His Gillum for Governor committee raised $243,000 and his Forward Florida political committee raised $522,000, a Gillum spokesman said.


Billionaire George Soros gave $100,000 last week to Gillum’s Forward Florida committee and son Alex Soros chipped in another $50,000. TV producer and People For The American Way founder Norman Lear gave $50,000 to the committee and actress Jane Fonda contributed $7,000, according to a report filed by Forward Florida.


Gillum’s campaign says it also has grass roots support, including more than 3,500 online contributions averaging about $60 and donors from 56 of Florida’s 67 counties.


The other Democrat who has opened a campaign, Orlando-area businessman Chris King,  has raised more than $500,000 from contributors and added $1 million of his own money, according to his campaign. King’s fundraising figure includes $181,000 raised by his campaign itself and $325,000 raised by his Rise and Lead, Florida, a committee set up last month.


Gillum and King are among several Democrats who could run in 2018, when Republican Gov. Rick Scott faces term limits (and is expected to run for the seat of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson).


Neither Gillum nor King is well-known statewide, so raising early money is crucial to build recognition across America’s third-largest state.