Here we go again. An email scandal involving a Democrat running for high office. In case you missed it, The Tallahassee Democrat blew the lid off something that has been percolating on the cocktail circuit and among Democratic insiders for months – Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum’s sloppy use of email.
At best, Gillum’s actions show a certain sloppiness, and at worst a degree of recklessness that is reflective of someone who has worked his entire adult life in politics and got elected to public office at 23, having held office since.
It’s unfortunate that this has surfaced because Gillum has looked the part since announcing his candidacy – embracing progressive ideals, showing a keen understanding of executive power and demonstrating a willingness to talk to people across this ENTIRE state that the Democrats have generally lacked in recent election cycles. But ideology and campaign rhetoric cannot mask the potential seriousness from a perception standpoint of these revelations which we stress at this point remain allegations from The Democrat.
Has the party learned from Hillary Clinton? Whether or not you want to believe Clinton’s election was “stolen” from her by Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump or not, the fact remains the race was tighter than it should have been thanks in large measure to Clinton’s recklessness in the use of her emails, and the public reaction/perception to this. The potential here is equally serious because Gillum it could be interpreted (allegedly) according to The Democrat’s reporting may have consciously blurred lines even in the text of emails.
Gillum has been in office since he was 23 years old. In an era where politicians aren’t trusted and outsiders seem to have an electoral advantage, Gillum’s alleged actions could be perceived as an arrogant entitled politician not thinking the rules of ethics apply to him. Is that fair? Probably not, but Democrats must learn from prior failures and misreading of the electorate’s attitudes towards these sorts of transgressions (which again in Gillum’s case are simply alleged by The Tallahassee Democrat at the time of this writing) and weigh the potential of nominating a flawed candidate.
Many in the political class have already privately told me this is “no big deal,” but again like the Trump phenomena, Clinton’s inevitability, Brexit, rise of Sanders etc the chattering class has so consistently been wrong the last two years because they tend to exist in an echo chamber, this makes little difference in how we perceive the potential fallout from these allegations. Moreover, the Democrats have time and again misread the electorate in this state so it’s important that either the damage to Gillum be limited or understood in a way that the party can work around it to help him become the next Governor of this state in November 2018.
In a state where the Democrats have massive institutional disadvantages and seemingly cannot get out of their own way, this is another unwanted impediment. Gillum and the party whose insider class has shown an early fondness for the Tallahassee Mayor need to work through this. Gillum remains at or near the top of any prospective list of Democratic candidates for Governor but taking on Adam Putnam or the ethics-driven Richard Corcoran will require as little baggage in this regard as possible. That means the Democrats need to figure this out and work past a potentially massive problem for the electorate.