State Politics

Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign leaderless after split with top staff

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum announced Friday that both his campaign manager Phillip Thompson and deputy campaign manager and finance director Brice Barnes were leaving his operation.
Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum announced Friday that both his campaign manager Phillip Thompson and deputy campaign manager and finance director Brice Barnes were leaving his operation. CateComm

The top two people in charge of Democrat Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign are out, barely four months into Gillum’s run and following weeks of relatively low fundraising totals.

With both campaign manager Phillip Thompson and deputy campaign manager and finance director Brice Barnes leaving, it’s unclear who’s now in charge of Gillum’s campaign.

A person familiar with the campaign described Barnes’ departure as an “amicable” one and told the Herald/Times Thursday evening she “remains a trusted friend and ally to both the mayor and the campaign team.”

Gillum’s campaign on Friday publicly confirmed Barnes was leaving and also announced Thompson was out the door, too.

“Both have been instrumental to our campaign’s early success, including raising $1.2 million in the first three months, earning more than two dozen endorsements around the state, and putting Mayor Gillum on the path to success,” campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan said in a statement. “We wish them both the best in their next pursuits.”

Burgan declined to comment further on why specifically Thompson was leaving and who would replace him to manage the campaign.

Both Thompson and Barnes previously worked for the Florida Democratic Party.

Barnes had been the state party’s finance director for more than two years before she joined Gillum’s campaign when it launched in March. Thompson was state director for a national progressive group, For Our Future, prior to the 2016 election. Before then, he was deputy executive director for FDP for more than a year.

It’s not uncommon for political campaigns to shake up their staff from time to time, but the simultaneous loss of Thompson and Barnes — who was in charge of raising money for the campaign — is striking and comes at a critical juncture.

Although the campaign raked in $1.2 million in its first three months, Gillum yielded weak fundraising numbers in May compared to his two Democratic primary opponents: former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando businessman Chris King.

And Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, also now faces an additional hurdle: The stigma of an FBI investigation into the city he’s in charge of. After the investigation became public last month, Gillum said the FBI “assured me I was not the focus of an investigation”; however, the probe is likely to loom over his gubernatorial bid, potentially deterring donors.

Gillum’s full fundraising numbers for June are not yet available, but contributions posted on the website for his Forward Florida political committee show the PAC received just two donations last month — totaling $25,000. Donations to his official campaign for June will be reported July 10.

Gillum’s campaign explained last month that his low fundraising totals for May — which trailed Graham’s and King’s — were because Gillum took time off from campaigning after the birth of his third child. But as his June numbers for his PAC indicate, the money doesn’t appear to be flowing in since Gillum returned to the trail.

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, kclark@miamiherald.com, @ByKristenMClark

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