March 15, 2019 - 9:00am
Andrew Gillum is toying with us.
The Tallahassee Democrat, who narrowly lost a bid for governor to Republican Ron DeSantis in November, has started to tease supporters and critics with a slick “save the date” video.
The promo features chants of Gillum’s “Bring It Home” campaign slogan in the background, alongside tidbits from the trail.
After a surprise primary election victory, the former Tallahassee mayor had hoped to make Florida history by becoming the state’s first black governor. DeSantis dashed those dreams, but the campaign skyrocketed Gillum onto the national stage.
Despite the loss, Gillum has been rumored to be considering a run for president in an already-crowded Democratic field.
Will that be the “major announcement” coming next Wednesday, or will Gillum throw his support behind one of the other contenders?
Maybe he’ll go another route, emulating former state Rep. Sean Shaw, the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for attorney general last year. Shaw has launched a non-profit progressive center called People Over Profits.
In an email to supporters last week, Gillum, who recently joined CNN as a political analyst, said, “what we fought for last year still holds true today.”
“Health care should be a right and not a privilege,” Gillum said. “Teachers should be paid what they are worth. Our water and air should be safe for our children. And most importantly: we need to do everything in our power to make Donald Trump a one-term president.”
“This fight is about the future of our state and our nation,” Gillum continued. “I’m not going anywhere --- and I know neither are you. We have to stand strong and speak out.”
FLIGHTS OF EXPLANATION
DeSantis says the state Republican Party paying for him to hop a flight to New York City was legal. But perceptions don’t always provide the same cover.
DeSantis faced a series of questions from reporters this week after Sun Sentinel columnist Steve Bousquet reported the governor flew to a meeting with New York business leaders aboard a chartered jet owned by Jeffrey Soffer, the owner of the Fontainebleau resort hotel in Miami Beach and the Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach.
A sampling of the questions:
“Did you know it was Jeffrey Soffer’s plane?”
“Did you know he has lobbyists?”
“Did you know he has gambling pursuits before the Legislature?”
“How can other interests and people with bills coming before (you) believe they’ll get a fair shake when they haven’t provided you with a plane ride?”
DeSantis countered that the Feb. 28 flight was “all legal,” “ethical,” and the charter flight covered by the Republican Party of Florida was the “most efficient” means to travel without costing taxpayers.
It’s not a surprise DeSantis would face such questions at some point. He has been relegated to using a twin-engine aircraft acquired by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to get around. The state’s main planes were sold in 2011 by then-Gov. Rick Scott, who had his own aircraft.
Back in October, former Gov. Bob Martinez argued that the state needs to have aircraft so any governor who isn’t independently wealthy can get around. Martinez also stressed the need to avoided taking flights paid for by anyone, including the state party.
“The question is, who is donating the money?” Martinez said. “There would be a constant state of controversy over who is giving money to the Republican Party so I could fly down to Miami to give a speech. So that doesn’t work.”
The FDLE aircraft DeSantis is using to get around the state doesn’t have a lot of range, which adds to the need for alternatives. DeSantis isn’t the first governor to travel on a state party’s dime. And his flight to New York wasn’t his first with the Republican Party footing the bill, according to a spokeswoman.
DEMS PUSH FOR FLORIDA DEBATE
Florida Democrats are pushing for the Sunshine State to host a presidential primary debate for the ever-widening 2020 field.
In an email, the Florida Democratic Party has been pushing support for a petition imploring the Democratic National Committee to hold a primary debate in Miami.
“With so many qualified and inspiring Democrats stepping up to run against Trump in 2020, the Democratic primary debates will be more important than ever,” the email said.
The request takes on more importance for Florida after the DNC on Monday picked Milwaukee over Miami-Dade County to host the 2020 party convention.
The Florida Democrats’ petition effort comes as the national party announced it will not hold 2020 presidential primary debates on Fox News.
State party spokeswoman Caroline Rowland said the Florida party has no opinion on the conservative news network hosting debates.
“We’d just really like a debate in Miami,” she added.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “Today’s action to finally allow smokable medical #marijuana brings four words to the lips of people across our state: It’s about damn time. It’s long past due that Florida honored the will of the people & allowed doctors to determine their patient’s course of treatment.” --- Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (@NikkiFriedFL) after the House approved a bill repealing a ban on smokable medical marijuana on Wednesday.