It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
For Andrew Gillum, it should be the best of times. Well, at least it should be for his bid to win the Democratic nomination for Florida governor.
Racial animus swirls throughout the country and Florida. So who better than the telegenic African American mayor of Tallahassee to prod Gov. Rick Scott to take down a Confederate statute in front of the Old Capitol or to criticize Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam for not even remembering there was a monument to the Confederacy a few hundred feet from his Capitol office?
“What a luxurious place to be, the fact that you don’t have to be aware that these kinds of symbols of division and derision greet people as they enter the Old Florida Capitol,” Gillum said of Putnam during an appearance on MSNBC AM Joy.
The appearance on MSNBC served as a reminder of the upside of Gillum’s candidacy. He could be anywhere in the state right now, fighting on the front lines of the low-grade civil war that is threatening to fully engulf both Florida and national politics.
And while other Democrats can’t fully articulate where they stand on matters of race and justice — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s straddling of both sides on the Confederate monuments controversy being the latest example — Gillum is at his best when he is weighing in on difficult-to-discuss issues.
For Andrew Gillum, it is the worst of times.
Although he insists the FBI has told him he is not the focus of an investigation which has paralyzed business and political life in the capital, the cloud of uncertainty hanging over Gillum and Tallahassee has undoubtedly handcuffed his campaign.
There have been a steady stream of stories about how Gillum’s fundraising has not only all but stopped, but is actually moving in the wrong direction. A quick check of the latest filings for Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida, shows that he has collected just one check in the past five weeks; he’s received only 3 checks since April 30.
Gillum has yet to replace his campaign manager and finance director, both of whom stepped down last month.
Meanwhile, the hits on Gillum keep coming.
It was good news for Gillum after a Leon County grand jury cleared him after an investigation into whether software purchased with tax dollars was used for political purposes. But less than a week later, as if on cue, a pair of stories broke that ensured Gillum would not be allowed just yet to crawl out of any hole.
“Gillum took boat ride in NYC with undercover FBI agent” blared one headline. “Private plane took Gillum to see top Dems, developer” reads another headline. Both stories mention lobbyist and Gillum confidant Adam Corey, who is, to be honest, one of two or three people political observers believe is in the greatest legal jeopardy because of the FBI probe.
Even if Gillum did nothing wrong in New York or on that plane, the media coverage is a disaster for him. No serious donor is going to sign up with his campaign while those kind of headlines continue to be made.
The obvious damage that is being done to his campaign is likely why Gillum told reporters this past weekend he has communicated with the FBI about the need for its investigation to conclude to avoid influencing the governor’s race or impacting community business.
Well, it’s too late for that. The FBI investigation HAS impacted the governor’s race.
Even if Gillum is given a clean bill of health soon (the latest rumor is that indictments, if they come, will be handed down right after Labor Day), the opportunity cost to Gillum has been significant, if not game-changing.
Gillum should be everywhere right now.
Gillum should be in any and every Florida city where there is a fight over whether to remove a Confederate monument. He should be on any cable news program discussing the racial issues consuming the nation’s politics.
This should have been Andrew Gillum’s time.
Material from the Associated Press, the News Service of Florida, and the Tallahassee Democrat is used in this post.