Governor race more volatile than ever, with candidates deadlocked eight days out

Donald Trump tweet
President Donald Trump criticizes Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum in a tweet early Monday, praises Florida Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis. Credit: campaign photos and Twitter screenshot.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is maintaining a one-point lead over Republican Ron DeSantis in the latest poll of Florida voters — 47%-46% — putting the governor’s race into an almost unstoppable attack mode as the Nov. 6 general election looms.

It’s the first poll conducted since reports surfaced last week from an ongoing state ethics complaint about Gillum’s out-of-state trips, including New York City and Costa Rica.

Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, is vying to become Florida’s first black governor, and is neck-and-neck with DeSantis, an attorney, Navy veteran and former Congressman.

The CBS News – YouGov online survey of 991 voters took place between October 23-26 of last week, and has a margin of error of 4 points.

Among independent voters, DeSantis leads Gillum, 51 percent to 38 percent.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, who will be in Florida this Wednesday stumping for DeSantis, again criticized Gillum in a tweet on Monday, calling him a “thief.”

In a tweet Trump wrote this morning, “In Florida there is a choice between a Harvard/Yale educated man named @RonDeSantisFL who has been a great Congressman and will be a great Governor – and a Dem who is a thief and who is Mayor of poorly run Tallahassee, said to be one of the most corrupt cities in the Country.”

Earlier Monday, Tallahassee attorney Chris Kise released a third batch of electronic communications related to Gillum’s trips with a former lobbyist — part of an ethics complaint against the Tallahassee mayor.  The latest records relate to an afternoon trip to Tampa that Gillum took in February 2016, more than a year before he launched his campaign for governor, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Prior records released include a trip to New York City and a pricey ticket to see the blockbuster Broadway show Hamilton. Gillum has said he assumed his brother bought the show ticket, but records suggest a developer — who turned out to be an uncover FBI agent — got tickets for the group.

The Florida Democratic Party responded by sending out a memo on “Republican Smear Attacks on Mayor Gillum,” describing Kise as a “Republican hatchet man” and “Republican operative,” and stating that Kise has “begun to leak information about Mayor Gillum in an attempt to smear his candidacy for governor.”

The Democratic Party states: “CHRIS KISE IS COORDINATING WITH THE DESANTIS CAMPAIGN,” and, “The Kise operation is an extension of the deeply dishonest campaign Ron DeSantis is running to destroy Mayor Gillum.”
The Florida Phoenix contacted Kise for a comment, but the attorney was not immediately available.
The Phoenix reported earlier that turmoil over the ethics complaint could damage or cripple Gillum’s campaign so close to the general election.
At the same time, DeSantis has been criticized about taxpayer money for travel: The Naples Daily News recently reported that DeSantis “spent more than $145,000 in taxpayer money for travel, including trips to New York to appear on Fox News as he increased his public profile before his campaign to become Florida’s next governor. But DeSantis is refusing to release records detailing that travel.”
In other races polled, Bill Nelson and Rick Scott are deadlocked in their U.S. Senate contest at 46 percent each.

The poll also asked several questions about immigration.

Regarding the caravan of Latinos, mostly from Honduras, making their trek up to Mexico and perhaps ultimately into the U.S., 43 percent say that those migrants pose a threat to the United States. But 38 percent say they do not pose a threat.

On the issue of health care, Floridians were asked to weigh in on whether to expand Medicare — currently a program for adults 65 and older. The poll said 49 percent of people polled said they would support the idea of Medicare expansion to everyone. But 36 percent opposed it.

Meanwhile, updated records from the state’s Division of Elections website show that more than 2.7 million people have already voted in the midterm election, as of this morning.

Registered Republicans are still voting in larger numbers in early voting and vote-by-mail, but the margin is getting closer. Right now, Republicans have a 2.2 percent lead over Democrats in early voting and vote-by-mail.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.
CD Davidson-Hiers
CD Davidson-Hiers is a 2017 summa cum laude graduate of Florida State University with a degree in Creative Writing and French. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Key honors societies, and has received multiple writing awards for fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Prior to joining the Florida Phoenix, CD worked at the Tallahassee Democrat and has bylines in Tallahassee Magazine. She is a native of Pensacola and currently lives in Tallahassee with her tabby cat, Faulkner.

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