“He’s a really unusual candidate,” Steyer said of Gillum in an interview with POLITICO. “You can see we don’t often get involved in D-on-D so it must be because we have such high regard for him, for the ideas he represents and what he can do for Florida.”
The sudden cash infusion — which coincides with a pro-Gillum $3.5 million get-out-the-vote effort by a coalition of liberal groups — comes five days before the Aug. 28 primary and follows new polling suggesting that Gillum, Tallahassee’s mayor and the only African-American in the race, is gaining the most traction in the five-candidate Democratic field.
Gillum currently is polling in about third place, but he’s generating a significant amount of free-media buzz and talk of a “surge.”
“We like what we’re seeing on the ground,” said Olivia Bercow, a spokeswoman for Steyer’s NextGen America group, which is turning out voters for Gillum. “We see real momentum on the ground and in the polls, and with some extra resources we feel we can push Andrew, the most progressive candidate in the race, across the finish line.”
Steyer, who already contributed $500,000 to Gillum’s Forward Florida political committee, is chipping in $300,000 more today. Soros, who already contributed $1 million to Forward Florida, is giving another $250,000. And currently anonymous donors affiliated with Steyer and Soros plan to give at least $100,000, Bercow said.
A scarcity of money has been one of the biggest challenges for Gillum, and he has been outgunned on television. Nevertheless, Gillum polled at about 18 percent in the most recent survey by SEA Strategic Polling and Design. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former Rep. Gwen Graham were virtually tied at 26 percent and 25 percent, respectively, according to that poll.
Where Gillum is the only African-American in the race, Graham is the only woman.
So far, 61 percent of the 580,000 Democrats who have already voted early in person or by absentee ballot are women, and 35 percent are white females over 50 — the profile of likely Graham voters. About 21 percent of those who have voted are black, which could benefit Gillum. More than 28 percent of registered Democrats in Florida are African-American, and many expect a large turnout Sunday for the last day of in-person early voting, in what has become known as “souls to the polls” voting after church.
Gillum’s candidacy has been a proving ground for progressive activists, who repeatedly watched their candidates get clobbered in 2016 Democratic primaries, from Bernie Sanders in the presidential race to Alan Grayson for U.S. Senate to Tim Canova in his bid to unseat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
In the governor’s race, Steyer would not speak ill of any of the other Democratic candidates. He said he just liked Gillum best because of his biography and his policies.
“We endorsed the most progressive candidate,” Steyer said. “We found a candidate who represents a very progressive outlook who has stood up and done the right thing as a public servant and who in our mind would represent a real step forward for Florida.”