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  1. Florida Politics

Republican media strategist Adam Goodman could work for a Democratic candidate in 2018 governor race

State Rep. Darryl Rouson has a 76-vote lead in the Democratic primary for Senate District 19. A recount may loom. [Rouson campaign]
State Rep. Darryl Rouson has a 76-vote lead in the Democratic primary for Senate District 19. A recount may loom. [Rouson campaign]
Published Dec. 31, 2016

If Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine makes a run for governor, as he's widely expected to, he may have a surprising media strategist – Adam Goodman of Tampa.

Goodman is a nationally prominent Republican media strategist whose clients have included John McCain's presidential campaign, Republican governor and Senate candidates in a half-dozen states, Attorney General Pam Bondi and numerous Florida GOP congressional candidates. He was just named a teaching fellow in media and politics at Tufts University.

Goodman has worked for Democrats in non-partisan races — Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Levine — but never for a Democrat seeking a partisan office.

The two got to be close friends when Goodman worked on Levine's 2013 race, he said.

"He's a phenomenal guy," Goodman said of Levine. "He's the kind of Democrat Republicans should worry about … a modern, post-partisan leader whose trademark is 'get it done.'

"If he runs, I'd be tremendously interested in working for him."

Levine, meanwhile, who says he's still deciding about the 2018 governor's race, said he has "tremendous respect for Adam's political acumen … He can view things before they happen and understand the pulse of the people better than anyone I've ever seen in his field."

Levine, a self-made multimillionaire, has long been close to the Clintons and has business ties to the business media, entertainment and cruise industries.

Backers call him a pragmatic, business-oriented Democrat, but he's from the state's liberal bastion of Southeast Florida.

"We line up on a lot of issues — not on every issue, obviously," Goodman said. "But I'm 61, and at that age, friendship starts becoming more important than ideology."

Goodman acknowledged the move could affect his standing among Republicans; political insiders tend to expect party loyalty from campaign operatives.

"I don't know how people will take this," he said. But he said partisan loyalties are fraying in U.S. politics – "Donald Trump was elected as a party of one."

Did Soros money affect Ober-Warren race?

There's been heavy publicity about Democratic billionaire George Soros's involvement in local judicial races nationwide, including helping upset two Florida state attorneys, Orange County Democrat Jeffrey Ashton and Jacksonville Republican Angela Corey.

But did Soros money also influence the Hillsborough state attorney's race, in which Democrat Andrew Warren unseated Republican Mark Ober, as local Republicans contend?

It's possible, but because of the way political contributions are reported in Florida, there's no solid proof — and the evidence didn't become apparent until three days before the Nov. 8 election.

That evidence: According to the state Democratic Party's most recent finance report, Soros gave the party $1.3 million on Sept. 26.

The next day, the state party wrote a check for $991,600 to a New York-based public relations and advertising firm, BerlinRosen Public Affairs. The firm was also used by the Soros-funded Florida Safety & Justice PAC, and by Warren's campaign, but never previously by the state party, according to state campaign finance records.

Within a few weeks, the state and county Democratic parties dropped $86,000 into Warren's campaign.

The state party also did three mailers and ran "three-pack" television ads on Warren's behalf – ads that don't count as campaign contributions because they include a brief reference to two other Democratic candidates.

Under state law, that meant the ads, used extensively by both parties, didn't have to be shown on Warren's campaign finance reports. And the Soros donation to the party didn't have to be reported until the party's last pre-election finance report, filed Nov. 4 – the Friday before election day.

Spokesmen for the county and state parties both denied the Soros money was aimed at the Warren-Ober race.

The local party's contributions to Warren came from local fundraising, said executive director Mark Hanisee.

State party spokesman Max Steele couldn't provide a figure for total party spending on the race, but said the Soros donation "was just toward our overall effort to elect Democrats, not for a particular race."

Asked about the Soros money, Warren said he's never met Soros and added, "We're grateful for the support that we got from people that share my vision of criminal justice."

Ober didn't return calls for comment.

Warren's campaign raised and spent slightly less than Ober's — $397,477 to Ober's $420,950 — but both sides had outside help, and it's impossible to calculate how much was spent in all on each side.

The Republican Party ran ads for Ober; in addition to the state Democratic Party, the national Color of Change organization, to which Soros contributed $250,000 Oct. 4, also did electioneering for Warren.

Rouson filed popular vote bill

In the wake of Donald Trump's win while losing the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes, state Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, is filing legislation to include Florida in a national movement to elect the president by popular vote.

The goal of the National Popular Vote interstate compact is to eliminate the Electoral College's role without requiring a constitutional amendment.

"It's about the voters and their votes being counted and respected," Rouson said.

He said he believes the national mood could give the bill a chance of passage in the Florida Legislature, where it has failed three times before.

In states that lean strongly toward one party, he said, voters in the other party become less likely to vote, cutting turnout in down-ballot races.

"We should be incentivizing people to participate," he said.

The bill would require the state's presidential electors to vote for the winner of the national popular vote, but it wouldn't take effect until enough states join to total an Electoral College majority of 270 votes. At that point, the law would kick in for states that have passed it, and the popular vote winner would have an Electoral College majority.

So far, the movement's web site says, 11 states totaling 165 electoral votes have passed it, all blue states; battleground states like Florida, which have a greater chance of deciding the Electoral College race, have less motive to join.

Similar bills in the Florida Legislature failed to make it out of committee in 2007, 2008 and 2011.

Some legal scholars have raised constitutional questions about the compact's validity, and told Politifact recently that a court challenge would be likely.

The U.S. Constitution sets the Electoral College as the mechanism for choosing the president, and it prohibits agreements among states that would infringe on federal authority, unless Congress consents. But it also gives state legislatures the authority to decide how their electors are chosen.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com