With the midterm elections just two weeks away, the Florida governor’s race remains a “toss up” as both candidates running to succeed outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott — who is running for the Senate — are locked in a tight battle.
The Real Clear Politics average of polls currently has Democrat Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum ahead of Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis by about 4.5 points, a lead that appears to be skewed higher than it actually is due to the inclusion of a CNN poll that has Gillum with a 12 point lead, while most other polls place the race much closer.
It is quite possible that Gillum’s lead over DeSantis could rapidly evaporate in the coming days as the Democratic nominee has become embroiled in an ethics commission probe into corruption in Tallahassee, and evidence has emerged that suggests that Gillum has lied to the public about his involvement in the alleged corruption.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that text messages and other records were just turned over to the ethics commission by a former lobbyist and friend of Gillum named Adam Corey as part of the corruption probe. Included in those records was a text message which showed that Gillum had received a ticket from undercover FBI agents to the popular Broadway show “Hamilton” ahead of a 2016 trip to New York City.
Those records were subpoenaed by the ethics commission on Oct. 15 as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of corruption in Gillum’s Tallahassee administration, including trips the mayor made to Costa Rica and New York in 2016. A complaint had been filed against Gillum in June of this year, and the mayor reportedly met with investigators in September.
The text message from Corey to Gillum on Aug. 10, 2016, read, “Mike Miller and the crew have tickets for us for Hamilton tonight at 8 p.m.,” to which Gillum had replied, “Awesome news about Hamilton.”
While a text message about a ticket to a Broadway show may not sound like a big deal, “Mike Miller” was an undercover FBI agent posing as a dirty developer in an FBI investigation into city corruption.
The real significant part of the text message, though, is that it runs counter to previous statements Gillum has made in regard to the “Hamilton” ticket, which Gillum had initially said in April had come from his brother, Marcus, who had obtained in from Corey in a swap for a concert ticket.
In spite of this evidence that Gillum was not only aware that the ticket had come from “Mike Miller” and not his brother, and that he’d also lied about it previously, Gillum nevertheless has stuck to his original claim of innocence in a statement released in response to the subpoenaed records.
“These records vindicate and add more evidence that at every turn I was paying my own way or was with my family, for all trips, including picking up tickets from my brother, Marcus, who was with a group of his own friends,” said Gillum in the statement. “But this isn’t about a Broadway show, it’s about a sideshow, because Ron DeSantis and his associates have no vision, no healthcare plan, and are running the most false, negative campaign in Florida history. Floridians deserve better.”
As for DeSantis, he has nothing to do with the ongoing investigation or release of documents that expose Gillum as having been, shall we say, less than truthful about the “Hamilton” ticket and New York City trip — an issue that has dogged Gillum since the Democrat gubernatorial primary race earlier this year.
However, DeSantis did broach the topic of the ticket, the trip and the FBI probe during a debate on Sunday, in which DeSantis asked bluntly, “Did you pay for the Hamilton tickets?”
Gillum danced around that question and declined to answer it directly, and instead said, “First of all, I am a grown man. My wife and I take vacations and we pay for our own vacations … I don’t take free trips from anybody. I’m a hard-working person, I know that may not fit your description of what you think people like me do, but I’ve worked hard for everything that I’ve gotten in my life.”
As for Corey, who had been close friends with Gillum since college until the two had a falling out in 2017, he seemed to indicate via a statement from his attorney, Chris Kise, that there was no ill will and the records had only been released because they were bound to soon be made public regardless.
“As reflected by those records, no criminal activity took place. Mr. Corey seeks, as he has sought in the past, to remove himself from the center of rampant and untoward speculation. Hopefully, disclosure of the actual facts will now permit him to do so, and to move forward with his life and career,” wrote Kise in the statement.
It remains to be seen what sort of impact this will have on the Florida race for governor, but odds are Gillum is going to have an exceedingly difficult time trying to explain away the fact that old text messages have revealed that he has lied to the public about something as trivial as tickets to a Broadway show, which can only serve to raise questions in voter’s minds about what else the potentially corrupt Tallahassee mayor may have lied about.
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