Public polling in the Florida governor’s race shows a razor-thin advantage for Democrat Andrew Gillum heading into the final weekend. But the race has tightened dramatically in the closing week after devastating new disclosures about a criminal corruption probe, ethics charges, and a crime wave of murders, robberies and shootings in Tallahassee that further undermined Gillum’s attempts to portray himself as an effective mayor, and have undercut his credibility as he’s been forced to twist or distort facts to keep the scandals contained.
Voters, though, are starting to figure it out. Republican Ron DeSantis has closed the gap from as many as 12 points down a week ago to bring the race within the margin of error on most public polls. The question now is whether the Republican wave that swamped the polls in 2016 will show up in force again. Election analysts report that Republicans “still have legions of reliable voters” who have yet to cast a ballot. If they show up, DeSantis could cruise to an easy win.
But that’s a big “if,” and the slim polling lead for Gillum continues to confound poll watchers, especially given the news coverage of that has consistently contradicted Gillum on the campaign trail. If he can keep voters from learning the facts of these three major controversies through Tuesday, November 6th, Andrew Gillum will likely become Florida’s next governor:
Gillum has been under a cloud of suspicion related to an FBI public corruption investigation over the entire duration of his gubernatorial campaign. While he’s not been formally charged or officially accused of wrongdoing, text messages, emails, photographs and other evidence paint a compelling picture that Gillum was targeted by undercover FBI agents and likely accepted bribes in the form of premium event tickets, luxury hotels, and at least $4,000 in campaign contributions – all paid by a mystery man who used the alias “Mike Miller.” The Tallahassee Democrat and other media outlets have determined through court filings and subpoenas that “Mike Miller” is an alias for an undercover FBI special agent.
Many election observers believe that Gillum won the Democratic nomination precisely because his opponents believed he was so badly damaged by these FBI revelations that they never took him seriously as credible threat to win. But the lack of news about the case, and the lack of negative attention paid to Gillum over the previous year resulted in many voters not realizing just how badly Gillum was mired in controversy.
Now, Gillum is suffering from precisely the opposite effect. Text messages and emails came to light over the past two weeks that dramatically contradict Gillum’s prior explanations about how the FBI’s “gifts” made it into his possession.
As voters learn more about the contradictions between Gillum’s version of events and the hard evidence that is now public, the polls have started to shift, albeit slowly.
Tallahassee is a relatively small city. It’s hard to believe with so many other large metro areas in the state that Tallahassee owns the title as the crime capital of Florida. Andrew Gillum has faced significant criticism over this fact, including from his own mayoral chief of staff. But he’s tried to push back by pointing out that crime has gone down on his watch in the past year. That much is true, but any decline in the crime from a record-high spike the year before is nothing to brag about.
Crime remains bad in Tallahassee, as evidenced by a 52% spike in the murder rate last year, and overwhelming anecdotal evidence from several very recent, violent events: multiple armed bank robberies – one in broad daylight, the other with a woman being robbed and shot at an ATM, a drive by shooting in the quiet suburban neighborhood of Killearn last month, and this weekend’s mass shooting in which a gunman murdered two people at a yoga studio, shot five others, and then took his own life.
Obviously, Andrew Gillum didn’t cause these crimes to occur, but he is the chief executive of the Florida city with the worst crime rate in the state. And voters are right to question what he’s done (or hasn’t done) to address the problem. Were the police provided adequate funding and support? Is the city’s economy contributing to the crime rate? There are a variety of ways a mayor can have a direct impact on crime.
Which brings us to the final controversy that has voters concerned about Gillum’s ability to lead the 3rd largest state in the nation.
Controversial Anti-Police Statements
Against the backdrop of Tallahassee’s violent crime wave, Andrew Gillum has openly undermined his own city’s police force, and all police throughout the state in two crucial ways. First, he signed a pledge to support the agenda of the radical anti-police group “Dream Defenders.” The pledge Gillum signed contains anti-police language, including this nugget:
“Police were never meant to serve me and you … Police and prisons since their founding have always been about safety for the haves while wreaking havoc for the have-nots.”
When Gillum’s opponent, Ron DeSantis, hammered him repeatedly during the CNN debate, Gillum lied to the audience and denied that he’d ever signed the pledge.
If that isn’t enough to convince voters that Gillum is anti-police and willing to lie about it, he then took the the airwaves on a liberal podcast and made even more controversial comments, claiming police officers are “going to far” if they pull out a gun, taser, or baton.
That is why police officers and law enforcement leaders around the state have turned against Gillum’s campaign in the final weeks:
The question for Andrew Gillum is whether or not he can keep the lid on this controversies before they boil over in voters minds. If so, he’ll be Florida’s next governor.