Andrew Gillum hires new finance director to ramp up fundraising

in 2017/Top Headlines by

Andrew Gillum added a new finance director this week, as the Democrat gubernatorial candidate looks to spark fundraising after losing ground to opponents Gwen Graham and Chris King.

Akilah Ensley heads to the Gillum camp from Invictus Strategy Group, a political and nonprofit fundraising consulting shop she founded. Her past experience also includes a stint as deputy director of major gifts at the Truman National Security Project.

“Our campaign is thrilled to add Akilah R. Ensley, a nationally-recognized leader in Democratic politics and nonprofit causes, as our new Finance Director,” said Gillum communication director Geoff Burgan.

“She brings a wealth of knowledge to the Gillum campaign, including numerous statewide campaigns in the Southeast. With the Democratic primary under a year away, her addition comes at a critical time, and we’re thrilled that she’ll be leading the charge as we run a strong people-powered campaign to take back Florida.”

Ensley does arrive at a crucial time.

While the Tallahassee mayor got off to a strong start on the fundraising trail, recent contributions — both to his campaign and his committee, “Forward Florida” — have slowed somewhat.

In March, his first month in the race, he brought in $241,000 for his campaign and another $428,000 through his committee.

After the initial excitement wore off, numbers dipped, but by the three-month mark, Gillum had raised $1.2 million. However, after the specter of an FBI investigation into the City of Tallahassee’s Community Redevelopment Agency, fundraising began to slow.

Gillum is not a target of the investigation, but his proximity to the case may have had a chilling effect on fundraising. An earlier investigation over the mayor’s use of city email software for campaign messages — although cleared of any wrongdoing — also hasn’t helped.

The campaign’s lowest point came in July after two weak fundraising months, which led to the loss of several high-level campaign staffers. Momentum slipped even further from Sept. 1 through Sept. 26 when the committee raised just $6,000, according to the Forward Florida website,

By August, the most recent month with full data available, contributions dropped to $75,000 combined, while spending came in at more than $125,000. Heading into September, Gillium had about $600,000 on hand, compared to about $2.5 million in the bank for Graham’s campaign and committee, $1.5 million on hand for King’s two accounts.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.