Andrew Gillum needs to explain conflicts in stories of lobbyist pals, FBI agents | Cotterell
Bill Cotterell, Capital Curmudgeon
And he didn’t forget the race card as he suggested the records were just another attack on his integrity. “The goal is obviously to use my candidacy as a way to reinforce, frankly, stereotypes about black men,” Gillum said.
Whose goal? Are there unknown forces out there trying to torpedo him?
Meanwhile, what about the “Hamilton” tickets? And what about the previous explanations of the New York trip – as well as the Costa Rica vacation? Gillum says he paid his share for the Pacific coastal villa but the mayor’s former friend, lobbyist Adam Corey, provided the Ethics Commission records suggesting his firm may have written off the mayor’s expenses.
The FBI has been investigating the city-county development authority for over three years, although Gillum has repeatedly said the feds have assured him he’s not a target. The state Ethics Commission won’t finish its separate inquiry, which does involve Gillum, until well after the election.
Records subpoenaed by the Ethics Commission and released by Corey’s attorney included messages between Corey and Gillum about an FBI agent posing as an Atlanta developer named Mike Miller. During the New York trip, Corey texted, “Mike Miller and the crew have tickets for us for Hamilton tonight at 8 p.m. Let me know if you can join us.”
Gillum replied, “I can be free by 6 p.m. Awesome news about Hamilton.”
Last year, Gillum declined to answer questions from this newspaper about the trip. Asked about Hamilton and going to a New York Mets ballgame, he said, “I have no knowledge of any of that.” After he won the Democratic primary, Gillum told the Washington Posthe got the theater ticket from his brother, Marcus, whom he assumed had paid for it.
The mayor’s explanation on Tuesday, after Corey’s attorney made his document dump, was classic evasion. Broadway tickets from a businessman seeking favors from the city? Let me tell you about my grandmother. Ethics and gifts? Did I mention I’m the first in my family to graduate high school?
Early voting was already well underway when this latest news broke, with more than a million ballots already cast. As this is written, Wednesday afternoon, we don’t know how Republican Ron DeSantis will use this new information in their evening debate.
But it’s safe to assume DeSantis and the Republicans will work up some negative advertisements – probably featuring the words “FBI,” “investigation” and “Ethics Commission” as often as possible. Perhaps with grainy, sinister-looking photos of Gillum moving across the screen, with snatches of ominous headlines, amid shots of luxury resorts and glittering Broadway vistas, as a voiceover tells the tale in sepulchral tones.
Will it matter on the morning of Nov. 7?
That depends, partly, on how it influences the undecided voters – and if they will vote. Floridians enthusiastically committed to Gillum will be steadfast in their support. Probably hundreds of thousands already cast their ballots in the first two days of early voting, before the story broke.
And the same can be said for diehard DeSantis supporters, who mailed in their ballots last week or turned out bright and early when their polling places opened on Monday.
With polls indicating a tight race, and considering Florida’s history of deciding gubernatorial elections within a percent or two, this is not what Gillum needs to be talking about in the last two weeks of the campaign.
Bill Cotterell is a retired Tallahassee Democrat reporter who writes a twice-weekly column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org