Gillum campaign names new finance director after summer shake-up

The team still lacks a campaign manager to replace the one who left in July.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaks at the meeting of the Tiger Bay Club at the Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee on May 31. (Hali Tauxe/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaks at the meeting of the Tiger Bay Club at the Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee on May 31. (Hali Tauxe/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)
Published Oct. 3, 2017

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has brought in a new finance director in an effort to revitalize his campaign’s fundraising, which languished over the summer.

Gillum’s campaign announced Tuesday it had hired Akilah Ensley, a Democratic political advocate who is also a lifestyle coach. Ensley’s political resume includes work on President Barack Obama‘s 2012 re-election campaign and on the U.S. Senate campaigns for Kay Hagan and Erskine Bowles in North Carolina, Gillum’s campaign said.

“She brings a wealth of knowledge to the Gillum campaign, including numerous statewide campaigns in the Southeast,” Gillum campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan said in a statement. “With the Democratic primary under a year away, her addition comes at a critical time, and we’re thrilled that she’ll be leading the charge as we run a strong people-powered campaign to take back Florida.”

The hire comes three months after Gillum’s campaign was left leaderless when both campaign manager Phillip Thompson and deputy campaign manager and finance director Brice Barnes left.

No formal replacement has yet been hired for Thompson. Burgan has taken on more day-to-day work in the interim.

The Gillum campaign explained the shake-up as a typical “reset” in the year prior to the primary election; however, Thompson’s and Barnes’ departures came after Gillum saw weeks of relatively low fundraising totals in May and June.

That was also when Gillum first felt the stigma of an FBI investigation into the city of Tallahassee. Gillum is the capital city’s elected mayor. He has emphasized that he’s not the focus of the investigation, but the matter has nonetheless likely dissuaded potential donors.

Financial contributions to Gillum’s campaign haven’t rebounded.

His political action committee, ”Forward Florida”, reported eight contributions since mid-summer -- one in July, five in August and two in September -- totaling just $30,000.

Meanwhile, his campaign took in $48,500 in July and $60,900 in August -- significantly down from the first four months of Gillum’s bid when he raised between $97,000 and $242,000 each month. He’s raised $706,000 in all since he launched his bid in March.

September figures for the gubernatorial campaigns will be reported Oct. 10.

By comparison, Gillum’s monthly hauls have paled in comparison to a couple major opponents in the governor’s race, who have raised vastly more money over less amount of time.

Republican Adam Putnam, the state’s agriculture commissioner, has raised more than $2.5 million since May for his campaign, including more than $300,000 in August alone. Former Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Graham, also of Tallahassee, took in more than $240,000 in August for her campaign and has raised $1.1 million since May. Putnam and Graham also took in additional sums through their political action committees, adding to their warchests.

Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, launched his campaign in mid-August, so a complete picture of his first full month of fundraising isn’t yet available.

Meanwhile, Orlando businessman Chris King, like Gillum, saw a dip in fundraising over the summer. He has raised $1.6 million since launching his bid in March -- which includes a $1 million personal donation King made to his campaign. His campaign took in $14,000 in July and $34,000 in August. His PAC, “Rise and Lead”, took in more than $162,000 in those same two months.