If Andrew Gillum wins the Democratic nomination for governor, he wants to face Ron DeSantis in the general election.
That’s according to a campaign memo obtained by the Tampa Bay Times that outlines the kind of candidate the progressive Tallahassee mayor wants to face in a hypothetical general election.
DeSantis fits the bill.
"Ron DeSantis is the kind of matchup we are looking for this November: a right-wing ultra-conservative, member of Congress, backed publicly by Donald Trump and his billionaire friends," chief strategist Scott Arceneaux wrote to campaign manager Brendan McPhillips and communications director Geoff Burgan.
A DeSantis-Gillum matchup would be ideal because DeSantis would "energize our base, even beyond Trump," the memo reads.
Brad Herold, a DeSantis campaign spokesman, said, "If Andrew Gillum thinks that an Iraq veteran and top conservative like Ron DeSantis is a weaker candidate than a career politician like Adam Putnam, he may actually be a worse candidate than he is a mayor."
Gillum’s chances of facing any Republican in the general election seem relatively slim. For months, he has struggled to raise money. His city government has been embroiled in federal and state ethics investigations and in 2017, Tallahassee sported Florida’s highest crime rate.
Still, the 2018 midterm elections could be the perfect environment for an ultra-progressive candidate like Gillum. At the very least, the memo gives insight into the thinking of a serious candidate for Florida’s highest office.
For example, the Gillum campaign believes President Donald Trump’s recent endorsement of DeSantis will hurt the congressman more than it will help him.
The document also lays out a few points of strategic emphasis for a theoretical Gillum-DeSantis matchup. Under a section called "Extreme Attacks on President Obama," Arceneaux wrote that DeSantis once said that "Obama’s face should be placed on food stamps."
At a GOP candidate forum for Florida’s 6th Congressional District in May 2012, DeSantis "said Obama has a big ego, but there’s not room for him on Mount Rushmore or the $1, $5 or $10 bill," according to a Daytona Beach News-Journal recap of the event.
"A good place for him to be is on the food stamp," DeSantis said, according to the paper. "It’s funny, but the thing is, we’ve seen millions of more people up on dependency programs."
When asked about DeSantis’ 2012 statement, Herold called the expansion of food stamp enrollment under Obama a "major policy failure." (Food stamp enrollment grew by over 11 million people under Obama — and over 14 million under the previous president, George W. Bush.)
"Andrew Gillum’s corruption-tinged, big government liberalism has been bad for Tallahassee and would be a disaster for Florida," Herold said.
Let the food fights begin.
Another attorney general candidate?
Look for state Rep. Sean Shaw, D-Tampa, to announce this week that he’s running for state attorney general.
Shaw has been considering the race for months. According to sources close to Shaw, he plans to make an announcement of his decision in Tallahassee on Tuesday.
Shaw is the son of the late Leander Shaw, the state’s second black Supreme Court justice and first black chief justice.
If he enters the race, Shaw will be the fourth candidate in the crowded field from Hillsborough County, along with fellow Democratic lawyer Ryan Torrens and two Republicans: state Rep. Ross Spano of Dover and former Judge Ashley Moody of Plant City.
Republican state Reps. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and Frank White of Pensacola are also running.
Meet the bureau
The Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau is welcoming some new faces covering the state capital. Reporters Lawrence Mower, Emily L. Mahoney and Elizabeth Koh joined the bureau at the start of the legislative session to expand coverage of state government, politics and public policy.
Mower’s beat will include reporting on economic issues, the opioid epidemic, emergency management and the state Senate. Mahoney will cover immigration, public education and campaign finance, among other subjects. Koh will cover health care, medical marijuana, the environment and the Florida House.
Mower most recently was an investigative reporter at the Palm Beach Post. Mahoney comes from the Houston Chronicle, and Koh was a local government reporter for the Miami Herald.
They join co-bureau chiefs Steve Bousquet and Mary Ellen Klas. The Times and the Miami Herald joined forces in 2008 in a journalism partnership covering Florida government and state politics.
Alex Leary, Adam C. Smith and Steve Bousquet contributed.