TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Andrew Gillum for Governor campaign has released a new video touting their candidate’s roots and community ties. In it Gillum speaks briefly about his upbringing and what will be his approach to winning Florida voters to his side.
“Mayor Gillum is the son of a bus driver and construction worker, and he’s running for Governor because he understands Floridians need a true champion for working people again. He’s fighting to make sure that every Floridian has the opportunity to thrive, no matter where they come from.”
The positive message of this digital ad has, however, been shattered by the online storm unleashed when a black woman, Leslie Wimes, called former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham a “skank” in a tweet.
We wondered how long it would take for things to get ugly.
Graham supporters responded right away, calling on Gillum to distance himself from Wimes.
Wimes got back in the fray with a column she writes for the conservative newspaper The Sunshine State News. Her Thursday column appeared under the headline “Skank, Oh, My!”
Things quickly went from being about gender (women being called “skanks”) to being about race– at least according to Wimes, who questioned why EMILY’s List stayed neutral in the 2014 primary when both Democratic candidates for governor were white (Nan Rich and Charlie Crist), and where Crist had been a professed pro-life Republican before crossing the political aisle to run as a Democrat.
“It’s all about race,” Wimes concluded, noting also that in 2014 Graham ran for office as a “very conservative Democrat” and not the “progressive” Democrat EMILY’s List now calls her.
“[W]hen someone who described herself as a ‘very conservative Democrat’ runs against a black man who’s a true progressive, [EMILY’s List jumps in] waist deep for her,” Wimes said.
EMILY’S List may have waded into this contest too soon. Wimes’ charges will likely inflame at least a good portion of the 25% of the electorate that is black. Unanswered, Wimes’ charges against the abortion-rights group ring loud. But Tallahassee mayor Gillum may face some backlash, too.
The Collective PAC announced its ad campaign in press releases sent to virtually every news organization in the state, saying that “disparities in funding . . . and support for Black candidates” made it necessary to create a Super PAC designed to help “level the playing field.” Organizers say they “are unapologetic” about their mission.
Gillum can use whatever cash The Collective manages to bring to his campaign, estimated to date to be a little more than $260,000. Currently, both Phil Levin and Graham have out-funded him. All three candidates have some name recognition among voters.
This contest is probably going to get a whole lot uglier before it gets better.