While Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was managing the city’s response to a hurricane of historic proportions, his supporters were engaged in a separate storm because of a negative campaign ad lobbed by backers of the Democrat’s gubernatorial opponent, Ron DeSantis.
With Hurricane Michael barreling toward Florida’s Big Bend and Panhandle regions, the Republican Party of Florida unleashed a caustic television ad declaring Gillum is “running for governor and also from the FBI.”
While the city of Tallahassee has been the focus of a long-running federal investigation, Gillum has insisted he is not a target of the FBI probe into possible public corruption. The mayor has severed his friendship with Adam Corey, a lobbyist who appears to be at the center of the investigation. Among other things, Republicans have drawn attention to a trip to Costa Rica in which Gillum paid cash for his share of a rental house shared with Corey and others.
In the ad that ran as Michael left hundreds of thousands of Northwest Florida residents and businesses without electricity, Republicans called Gillum “not just radical but corrupt.”
The ad drew the wrath of Democrats throughout Wednesday and Thursday, with Gillum’s campaign asking TV stations to yank it.
“It is abundantly clear that Congressman DeSantis is a liar who has no respect for Floridians and no positive vision for our state,” Johanna Cervone, a Gillum spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Also Thursday, a number of former prosecutors held a conference call with reporters castigating Republicans for the “shameful” spot.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, a former federal prosecutor, rebuked Republicans for running “untrue ads” in areas where panicked Floridians were “glued to their TVs” in preparation for the storm, which devastated coastal communities such as Panama City and Apalachicola.
Gillum is a witness who has cooperated with the FBI in the public corruption probe, Gelber, a former state senator., said.
“It should be abundantly clear to people that DeSantis has become the say-anything and do-anything candidate,” Gelber said of the former congressman whose early endorsement by President Donald Trump helped the Republican cruise to victory in the August gubernatorial primary.
The GOP yanked the ad --- which sparked a firestorm on social media --- as Michael continued to spread havoc in Northwest Florida.
“As we stated earlier today, the order to take the ads down in the affected areas was made. Any statement to the contrary is simply wrong,” Republican Party of Florida spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice said in a blast email Wednesday afternoon.
JOLLY DONE FIGHTING TRUMP AS A REPUBLICAN
David Jolly --- a former congressman and “Never Trump” cable TV pundit --- is a Republican no more.
Appearing Friday on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Jolly said he and his wife dropped their party affiliation to protect their unborn daughter’s future.
“I left the party about five weeks ago … because I don’t think the future is between the two parties,” Jolly, who served a full term and a partial term before being defeated by former Gov. Charlie Crist in 2016 after his Pinellas County congressional district was redrawn.
Jolly said he hopes his daughter learns two things from her parents’ example.
“The first is, for three years we fought a fight for something we truly believed in, that the Republicans could answer to better angels. But the other lesson I hope our daughter learns is this: There are fights that at times wiser men and women walk away from. And this is a fight,” he said. “Somebody else can fight for the dignity of the Republican Party now. It’s not my fight anymore.”
When asked if he would vote Democratic in the midterm election, Jolly noted that, during a speech on the House floor three years ago, he urged Trump to abandon his presidential run. Jolly also reminded viewers that, a year ago, he said the nation would be better off if Democrats were able to retake control of the House.
“I think we’ll be safer in a divided government,” Jolly said.
After losing in 2016 to Crist, Jolly’s been part of a bipartisan push for compromise. Jolly has appeared at an ongoing series of public forums with former Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy, who was a Republican before running in 2013 for a Republican-leaning district that covers a large part of the Treasure Coast.
THEY GOT THE BALLOT, BUT WILL THEY VOTE?
In celebrating getting more registered Democrats than Republicans to sign up to vote by mail in the Nov. 6 election, Florida Democrats acknowledge they still have to get their party peeps to return the ballots.
"Our teams in the field will be using new data and technology to ensure those same voters that requested ballots, return them,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said in a news release boasting that the increase in vote-by-mail requests by Democrats “is an indication of enthusiasm.”
County supervisors of elections sent out the first large batches of vote-by-mail ballots last week, with requests by Democrats outstripping Republicans by about 80,000 ballots.
Democrats have returned about 35,000 of the 1,203,947 ballots requested, compared to nearly 50,000 returned by GOP voters, who sought 1,120,689 ballots.
Voters with no party affiliation requested another 577,423 ballots, and 15,692 were requested by people with third-party registrations.
During this year’s primary elections, Democrats edged out Republicans in vote-by-mail requests, but Republicans completed more of the ballots.
Republicans have used that advantage to maintain they are poised to beat back a so-called “blue wave” of Democratic voters in November.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “Departing the @WhiteHouse for Erie, Pennsylvania. I cannot disappoint the thousands of people that are there - and the thousands that are going. I look forward to seeing everyone this evening.” --- President Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Wednesday night as Hurricane Matthew pummeled Florida.