TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Andrew Gillum, who engineered a surprising upset victory in Florida’s Democratic primary last week, is picking up endorsements, money and plenty of national attention in the aftermath of his win.

But as the Tallahassee mayor mounts his bid to become Florida’s first black governor, he is already coming under swift attack from Republican opponents who are trying to use a slow-moving corruption investigation into Tallahassee city government to portray Gillum as untrustworthy.

The investigation broke into the open last summer shortly after Gillum joined the race, but it was not extensively debated or discussed by his Democratic opponents before he won Tuesday’s primary. But by Thursday, the Republican Governor’s Association launched a digital ad that blasted Gillum. It focused on both the City Hall probe and an earlier incident in which Gillum paid back the city after he used city money to buy software that was used to send out campaign emails. Likewise, the campaign of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who won the Republican primary, is also trying to draw attention to the investigation.

The 39-year-old Gillum – who will appear on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CNN”s “State of the Union” on Sunday – contends he is ready for the onslaught of attacks that have just begun to ramp up.

Andrew Gillum

“A lot of people counted us out, they thought we would completely surrender under all the innuendo and the pressure of the moment,” Gillum said last week. “I spoke directly to voters. I answered their questions. … It wasn’t as if those voters weren’t aware of all the issues that were swirling.”

The first public knowledge of the FBI probe came in June 2017 when a federal grand jury subpoenaed five years of records from Tallahassee and a local redevelopment agency that involved high-profile projects and developers, including an ally of Gillum.


In February, a federal search warrant was accidentally made public on a court website. It detailed that the FBI launched its corruption investigation in 2015 and that agents posed as out-of-town real-estate developers and medical marijuana entrepreneurs in order to gain access to various city officials. The warrant said that agents were focusing on City Commissioner Scott Maddox, a former head of the Florida Democratic Party, and his former chief of staff and whether Maddox was paid to help out businesses seeking help from the city. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Earlier this summer, the FBI asked for thousands more records, dealing primarily with The Edison, an upscale restaurant frequented by lawmakers and lobbyists that is located in a city-owned building. The Edison received $2 million in financial assistance from both the city and the local community redevelopment agency.

One of the owners of the restaurant was lobbyist Adam Corey, who once served as Gillum’s campaign treasurer and has known him since college. Gillum says he has talked to the FBI and that he is not the target of an investigation. He also has told local news outlets that he has broken off his friendship with Corey.

The Tallahassee Democrat has done a series of stories delving into the web of connections and has reported that Gillum vacationed at a luxury resort in Costa Rica in May 2016 with Corey.

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