The chair of the capital area’s Republican Party is firing back after Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum ignited a partisan firestorm this weekend over recent subpoenas into city-backed redevelopment deals.
Gillum told the Tampa Bay Times’ Windy March on Saturday weekend, “ ‘I just know that based on the way they have come after me ever since — prior to my jumping into this race, back during Hurricane Hermine … all I can tell you there’s enough on the record” to suggest Republicans would like to sabotage his campaign.”
March, formerly The Tampa Tribune’s longtime political writer, noted Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s criticism of the city’s response after last year’s Hurricane Hermine, claims that Gillum quickly rejected at the time.
“I think I would say the Republicans are terrified,” Gillum told March. “And I believe that they are as intent on … trying to put as much dirt on me as they can.”
March wrote: “But asked directly whether there could be political motives behind the probe, Gillum said, ‘I don’t want to make any leaps of assumptions here … I cannot ascribe that to the FBI.’ ”
Leon County Republican Party Chairman Evan Power, in a Monday statement, called it “embarrassing that Mayor Gillum would try to point to me and my fellow Republicans as the source of the problems in his campaign.”
“We did not tell him to turn down help during Hurricane Hermine, to create a political email system with tax dollars, or generate the FBI probe of Tallahassee,” Power said.
Gillum has previously denied charges he turned down the state’s hurricane response help: “Our people were practically working side-by-side in the field,” he said in September.
The mayor now is under a separate Leon County sheriff’s investigation into whether he violated the law by using a taxpayer-funded software program to send political emails to supporters.
And the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in north Florida are looking at the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, seeking information on redevelopment projects that involve the agency. Gillum, who was not named in the subpoenas, has said FBI agents assured him he was “not the focus” of the investigation.
“It is sad that when people start hearing the real record of Mayor Gillum he has to grasp at such fantastical straws,” Power added. “Tallahassee and the State of Florida deserve much better than the failed leadership of Mayor Andrew Gillum.”