Gwen Graham responds to negative ad by group that supports Andrew Gillum

The ad, paid for by a super PAC, tries to cast Graham as being too conservative to be governor.
Democratic candidates for governor of Florida, clockwise from upper left: Philip Levine, Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, Chris King,
Democratic candidates for governor of Florida, clockwise from upper left: Philip Levine, Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, Chris King,
Published May 10, 2018|Updated May 10, 2018

Gwen Graham's campaign is fighting back against a negative ad hitting Florida airwaves that's sponsored by a super PAC that supports opponent Andrew Gillum.

"I am disgusted that Andrew Gillum would allow a secret-money group to run a false attack against a fellow Democrat," Graham said in a Thursday morning response to the ad.

By Thursday afternoon, Graham's campaign was calling for the ad to be taken down.

The spot criticizes Graham, a former Congresswoman from Tallahassee, for not being liberal enough to be governor.

"Gwen Graham says she is the progressive Democrat for governor," the ad says. "But while in Congress she voted against President Obama 52 percent of the time. Graham trashed Obamacare. Voted with the big banks. And she voted for the Keystone XL pipeline – twice. Graham stood with Republican leaders over President Obama and Florida Democrats. Gwen Graham is not the progressive she claims to be," A narrator says in the ad, which was paid for by Collective SuperPAC.

Graham's attorney Mark Herron issued a cease and desist letter to television stations planning to air the spot Thursday.

"The advertisement falsely implies that Graham voted to repeal the ACA by saying 'Graham Trashed Obamacare' when the facts are clear that she voted in support of it," Herron wrote.

It's unclear whether television stations will heed the Graham campaign's warning. If they do, it wouldn't be the first time this cycle a candidate successfully got an attack ad pulled off of the airwaves. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican candidate for governor, got a dark money ad pulled in April after alleging it was misleading.

Read more: Ron DeSantis campaign gets attack ads pulled after citing PolitiFact in cease and desist letter

The anti-Graham ad was paid for by The Collective, an organization that supports black candidates. It is slated to air in West Pam Beach and in cable markets throughout the state, according to Politico.

According to Politico, The Collective's SuperPac arm is spending $782,000 for the 30-second spot. But its Federal Elections Commission reports show it had only taken in $167,000 as of April 2018.

When asked where the other $600,000 would come from Quentin James, the founder and executive director of the Collective, which has PAC, SuperPAC and 501(c)(4) branches, said that question will be answered when the Collective files its May paperwork with the FEC.

"The FEC gives Super PACs the option of reporting bi-annually or monthly. We're going above and beyond the minimum reporting requirement and plan to show our contributions and expenditures monthly," James said in a statement. "You will find April's contribution and expenditures on May 20, and May's contributions and expenditures on June 20 on the FEC's website at"

According to currently available FEC filings, George Soros and Planned Parenthood Action Fund are the SuperPac's largest donors. Soros gave $70,000 in December of 2017 — the same month the billionaire donated $100,000 to Gillum's political committee. (Soros gave Gillum an additional $250,000 in April.)

Knocking Graham's progressive credentials has been a consistent theme for Gillum, who is trailing in the polls but hopes to gain traction among the four Democratic candidates for governor by appearing the most liberal.

The Graham campaign shot back at the Tallahassee mayor by noting that Gillum denounced "dark money flowing into Florida" in a February tweet:

The Gillum camp responded to the ad by doubling down on their criticism of Graham:

"In this race no candidate will be able to run from their voting record, but if we had a choice in this ad, we'd want Mayor Gillum's progressive record to be the focus," communications director Geoff Burgan said. "The Graham campaign seems to be uncomfortable with her own voting record."

Read more: Who funds the group bankrolling this Democratic candidate for governor?