State Politics

Where have Gwen Graham and Adam Putnam been since losing the Florida primary?

Democratic gubernatorial candidates, from right, Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Chris King, Jeff Greene and Andrew Gillum await the start of a debate ahead of the Democratic primary for governor on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, in Palm Beach Gardens.
Democratic gubernatorial candidates, from right, Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Chris King, Jeff Greene and Andrew Gillum await the start of a debate ahead of the Democratic primary for governor on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, in Palm Beach Gardens. AP

When former Congresswoman Gwen Graham tweeted Wednesday a statement of support for Andrew Gillum, it earned thousands of retweets and praises of Democratic Party unity.

“To healing our divisions, meeting our challenges, and realizing the future Florida’s children deserve, there is an answer. Vote @AndrewGillum for Governor,” she wrote.

But it’s about all the public support she’s given Gillum since his come-from-behind victory in the August primary.

Since then, the former Democratic and Republican front-runners for governor have been mostly quiet on the campaign trail.

For Graham, the reason could be simple: She hasn’t needed to be.

Unlike past years, Democrats have quickly rallied around their nominee, who is hoping to ride a blue wave and become the first Democrat to win a Florida governor’s race in 20 years. And, in a twist, it’s some Republicans who still have bitter feelings heading into Tuesday’s election.

“Initially, a lot of us observers thought that there were so many [Democratic] candidates that it might be more difficult to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” said University of South Florida political science professor Susan McManus, “but it hasn’t been that way at all.”

Compare Graham to her Republican counterpart, a fellow establishment favorite who was leading for most of the race.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam soundly endorsed former Congressman Ron DeSantis the night of the Republican primary.

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Republican gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis, left, and Adam Putnam debate Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, in Jacksonville. John Raoux AP

But since then? Barely a peep or a tweet.

“A lot of Putnam people have been very resentful about how DeSantis came in,” McManus said.

Putnam has made only one public appearance with DeSantis, at a Sept. 6 party unity event. His Twitter account doesn’t feature any tweets in support of DeSantis.

Even when DeSantis marches onto Putnam’s home turf, Putnam is absent.

DeSantis is scheduled for a campaign event in Lakeland on Saturday, alongside Sonny Perdue, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture — in Putnam’s home of Polk County. The DeSantis campaign extended an invitation but was told that Putnam would be out of town.

Putnam, the GOP front-runner and heavy establishment favorite until President Donald Trump endorsed DeSantis, has been stingy, also.

He hasn’t directly transferred any money from either his gubernatorial campaign account or his political committee, Florida Grown, to DeSantis. Instead, in mid-September, Florida Grown transferred about $674,000 to a newly formed PAC called Conquistador PC. It has the same chairman as Florida Grown, Justin Hollis.

The purpose of the PAC is unclear, and neither Hollis nor the registered agent of Conquistador PC, Austin Jones, responded to requests for comment.

Amanda Bevis, a spokeswoman for Putnam, said the commissioner has been busy in recent weeks because of his official role in helping with post-Hurricane Michael recovery but contended that he has been fully engaged with the political cycle.

“Beginning with his concession speech, Adam Putnam has gone above and beyond to support not only Ron DeSantis but the entire Republican ticket, including grassroots and finance events across the state,” she said in a statement.

DeSantis’ campaign declined to comment on its relationship with Putnam.

The other Republican contender for governor, state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, dropped out to endorse Putnam and bashed DeSantis to reporters.

But since then, he’s transferred $50,000 from his political committee to DeSantis, in addition to more than $20,000 worth of in-kind contributions of voter research and software, according to state campaign finance reports. He’s joined DeSantis’ ranks and has been seen with him at several rallies.

Graham hasn’t been that visible either.

Since the primary, Graham has tweeted twice in support of Gillum — the same number of times she’s tweeted about the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and Hurricane Michael recovery.

After a robust, energizing primary election with record-breaking Democratic turnout, Democrats came together to celebrate their 2018 general election nominees.

She gave $3,000 to Gillum and the three Democrats running for Cabinet seats. And aside from a public event with all of the candidates just a few days removed from the primary, she’s been mostly absent on the campaign trail.

By comparison, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who got 20 percent of the primary vote, has tweeted five times about the race and was seen verbally brawling with DeSantis surrogate U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz outside the most recent governor’s debate. Levine has given Gillum at least $10,000.

And Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, who entered the race late and finished with just 10 percent of the vote, wrote Gillum’s political committee a $100,000 check on Wednesday.

After the primary, Graham was still considered a valuable asset in the party, and many Democrats were wondering — and hoping — that Gillum would name her as his running mate.

Graham’s former adviser pushed back against the idea that she hasn’t been visible.

“Since the primary, Gwen Graham has stood on stage with Mayor Gillum campaigning for him, she has donated to his campaign, sent emails in support of his campaign to her supporters, posted her support on social media, and continues doing everything she can to elect Andrew Gillum as Florida’s next governor,” Graham adviser Julia Gill Woodward said in a statement.

When asked about Graham’s contribution to Gillum’s efforts in the general election, a campaign spokeswoman replied: “Mayor Gillum is deeply thankful to have Congresswoman Graham’s support.”

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