Money Continues Pouring Into Andrew Gillum Political Committee Post-Election

Dec 13, 2018

In the weeks after Democrat Andrew Gillum lost the Nov. 6 Florida gubernatorial election, money continued to flow into a political committee that played a major role in his campaign.

From Nov. 7 to Nov. 30, the committee Forward Florida raised nearly $1.24 million, according to a state campaign-finance database. Most of the money came in small-dollar contributions from across the country, but large sums included $150,000 from a Teamsters political committee, $100,000 from the West Palm Beach-based law firm Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley and $100,000 from the Jacksonville law firm Pajcic & Pajcic, the database shows.

But according to a Pajcic & Pajcic accountant, that $100,000 contribution check was cut in October. Michael Binder, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Florida said it’s very possible that the check just didn’t clear until after the election.

“The month or two after the election, there’s a lot that goes on because people are out raising money like mad in September in October,” he said. “Sometimes you get a pledge and you have to track down the actual check... if it’s from a firm, it has to get cut then it has to get there... and all that takes time.”

And it could just be a reporting issue.

“Sometimes they hold onto a bunch of checks then they will dump them at the beginning of the week or at the beginning of the month, or something like that,” Binder said. “So all those things are possible. A lot of this might have come prior to the election.”

“But, don’t think for a second that Andrew Gillum doesn’t have eyes on future elected office,” he said. “And one way to get that kick started is to keep going with the fundraising operation that you’ve put in place.”

Forward Florida had about $4.79 million in cash on hand as of Nov. 30, according to a new finance report. And because that money was given to a political committee, rather than to Andrew Gillum the candidate, Binder said the funds could be used to fund future campaigns…

“He’s running for president!” Binder yelled, jokingly.

Binder did say he wouldn’t be surprised to see Gillum consider a 2020 campaign, but he thinks it’s more likely the Democrat will set his sights a little lower for now. “I don’t know that it’s out of the question that he might dip his toe into the national race, just maybe exploring-ish, a little bit,” he said. “It’s certainly not out of the question.”

The timing of the next U.S. Senate in Florida race might be difficult. Rubio was elected in 2016 so his seat won’t be up for grabs until 2022, at which time Gillum could run for governor again if he’s still interested in state politics.

“But then there’s Congress,” said Binder. “His Congressional District is represented, yes, by an African-American Democrat in Al Lawson, but certainly not nearly as progressive as Gillum. If Gillum wants to make a move on a Congressional seat, I have no idea the relationship that he has with Lawson and how that would play out, but that’s certainly an angle that he could challenge him in a primary. And he has a lot of support and you saw that from his vote totals in Duval County. He has a lot of support in that section of the Congressional District, so there’s certainly an opportunity for him there if he wanted to go to Congress and he has plenty of money to do that.”

“He could certainly get involved in the national party,” Binder went on to say. “I have no doubts the Democrats would love to put somebody like him in a prominent position.”

And according to Binder, that money doesn’t necessarily have to be used for another Andrew Gillum political campaign.

The money could be distributed to other candidates that Gillum aligns himself with, and it could even be returned to donors. But according to Binder, that doesn’t usually happen on any large scale. “Sometimes local officials will do that,” he said. “Larger offices, they tend to spend their money.”

Gillum lost by fewer than 33,000 votes to Republican Ron DeSantis in a gubernatorial race that went to a machine recount because of the narrow margin.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.