Morgan warns Gillum about re-run
FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORT
TALLAHASSEE – Democratic big-money contributor John Morgan threatened to sue Andrew Gillum, last year’s Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate, if Gillum runs for office again.
Morgan’s remarks Wednesday to the Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee were an escalation of a public tirade over Gillum’s decision to sit on more than $3 million ahead of the November 2018 election, which the Democrat narrowly lost to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
No money back
In October 2018, Morgan contributed $250,000 to Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida. When the powerful Orlando trial lawyer asked Gillum for his money back, Morgan said he was told “no.”
“If he does decide to run again, I do believe I have a cause of action,” Morgan told the crowd of political insiders on Wednesday. “I do believe I will sue him to get that $3.7 million back to the ones that gave at the end. I do believe that.” Gillum responded to Morgan’s Tiger Bay comments on social media, tweeting, “When keeping my name in your mouth makes you relevant…”
This is not the first time bad blood between the two men has been in full view. Morgan and Gillum have engaged in a series of Twitter spats, with the influential lawyer raising questions about the political candidate’s unspent campaign funds.
Morgan summed up the feud on Wednesday.
“Andrew Gillum kept that money to promote Andrew Gillum,” he said. “I gave my money to promote things I believe in.” After his November loss to DeSantis, Gillum, a former Tallahassee mayor, said he would use the money to register and “re-engage” 1 million voters for next year’s presidential election.
Amendment 4 use?
Morgan said earlier this summer – and again on Wednesday – that Gillum should use the money to help felons pay for restitution, fees and fines, so they can get their voting rights restored.
Under a new law approved by the Republican-dominated state Legislature this spring, Floridians who have been convicted of felonies must pay all court-ordered financial obligations before they are eligible to have their voting rights restored. The state law carried out a constitutional amendment, approved in November, that restored voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences.
But Gillum, responding to Morgan this summer on Twitter, insisted the money was already committed to the voter registration effort.
What’s the number?
“Really?” Morgan sarcastically asked Wednesday. “How many have you registered?”
Morgan said Gillum’s move is hard to comprehend because over the years, he has learned that “it is very hard to beat money” in Florida politics.
While he blasted Gillum for almost half of his 40-minute lunchtime talk Wednesday, Morgan also spoke about his two passions: the push to legalize medical marijuana and his latest fight to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Morgan spent about $4 million of his and his law firm’s money backing a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in 2016. More than 71 percent of Floridians supported the amendment.
A new mission
Now, Morgan is bankrolling a proposed constitutional amendment that would gradually raise Florida’s minimum wage.
In July, he gave more than $1 million to the political committee Florida For a Fair Wage, which is trying to get the amendment on the November 2020 ballot. Morgan and his law firm have contributed more than $4 million toward the effort, according to the state Division of Elections website.
Morgan said the fight for a higher minimum wage should not be seen as a political issue, pointing to lessons he has learned in church about loving God and your neighbors.
“This is an issue of morals and ethics and religion,” he said.
Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida contributed to this report.