A Gubernatorial Primary Surprise and Other Florida Voting Mayhem

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, left, and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum hold hands during a campaign rally Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)


One thing you can always count on in Florida politics is getting some results which defy convention. Also corruption. Okay two things — unconventionality, corruption, and candidates in legal trouble winning office. THREE things…oh, forget it. This place seems to defy normal categorization.

This state – and South Florida in particular – can usually be described as a high-rent banana republic.

The big news last night was in the Democrat primary for governor. Rick Scott is making a term-limit exit (and giving Bill Nelson a fit in trying to steal away his Senate seat) and many across the country are watching to see how the mansion in Tallahassee is filled. All summer it looked to be Gwen Graham making a comfortable move at the head of the ticket as she held near double-digit leads according to all the experts. A number of wealthy opponents were funneling shovels of cash into advertising with little to show.

But then Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum upended all projections. Gillum, who has been polling a distant fourth for months, surprised most by overtaking Graham to win the democrat nod. There was a torrent of money pouring in from out of state to back Gillum. George Soros and his affiliated groups made numerous 6-figure donations to the cause.

Likewise billionaire Tom Steyer’s political organization NextGen America was contributing more than $1 million to the progressive mayor. This marked the largest donation Steyer has made to a candidate in a primary. Gillum also flew out to Hollywood, for a fundraiser involving Alec Baldwin, Alyssa Milano, Rashida Jones and producer Norman Lear. Another name backing him of note: Bernie Sanders.

Gillum is a far-left candidate who is running on a platform that understandably stokes the passion of socialist-loving luminaries. He wants to hike up the corporate tax rate in this state that has been attracting businesses as a tax haven. He has plans for single-payer health insurance even as Florida was one state to resist Obamacare. The Florida economy has been surging so, of course, he wants to throw a pipe wrench into that machinery with his $15 minimum wage proposal. And in a state where immigration is a constant concern he is joining the chorus of those wanting to abandon ICE — national polls be damned.

Meanwhile in the State Attorney General race Democrats fielded a pair of Tampa candidates who took a novel approach to prove they were worthy of becoming the Top Lawyer — they sued each other. State Representative Sean Shaw went to court to say his opponent Ryan Torrens received an improper campaign donation – from his wife. Shaw states Torrens was too broke to pay for his candidacy application, and only made the payment after his wife donated over $7,000. Torrens counter sued for libel, saying the funds were drawn from a joint bank account.

In another Democrat race, this for the US House District 9 seat, the always entertaining yet rarely balanced politician Alan Grayson was making a bid to return to Washington. He took a curious step by showcasing a number of celebrity endorsements — which were from his past campaigns. In one commercial spot he had the late Ed Schultz singing his praises, from his MSNBC set that he vacated three years ago. Michael Moore and Oliver Stone were shown giving Grayson tributes, which had been given by them back in 2010.

Despite these past-their-expiration-date endorsements, Grayson was beaten like a reporter asking about spousal abuse (allegedly). He lost so badly to incumbent Darren Soto (a 33% margin of victory) that he should file a restraining order.

And just to underscore the usual dysfunction here in the Paradise Asylum waiting room that is South Florida, we even managed to create high drama in what are normally overlooked school board elections. Three different candidates from the Parkland area were vying for seats on our now proven inept Broward County School Board.

This is the body ordered by a court to release a study on the Stoneman Douglas shooting on a Friday, and promptly redacted two-thirds of it. However they did so in digital format, so the local paper was able to reveal the entire report. The board sued the paper that Monday, and then the following day claimed they were never aware of the lawsuit. These people are not our brightest in the Sunshine State.

This past week has seen numerous episodes of police being called out to polling locations where people affiliated with standing board members got into confrontations with volunteers for the new candidates. Recall, we have been lectured repeatedly that merely questioning anyone involved with the Parkland shooting constitutes “attacking” them. Apparently it is perfectly acceptable for school board member supporters to actually attack Parkland backers.

Imagine — we have almost 3 more months of this ahead of us.