With mounting pressure from Democrats and EMILY’s List, the campaign of Andrew Gillum on Thursday denounced “name calling” by supporters and sought to distance itself from Sunshine State News writer Leslie Wimes who on Thursday was defending calling Gwen Graham a “skank.”

Any relationship between Wimes, who declares her whole-hearted support for Gillum and is often quoted as a surrogate, and the campaign appeared to be strained or broken Thursday after EMILY’s List weighed in, following Democrats who earlier had condemned her for calling Graham that and also a “porcelain princess,” and who had urged Gillum to also denounce her.

The campaign did not explicitly denounce her Thursday, but went further than it had Wednesday when James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat first reported on the name-calling and the growing blowback, which started from a couple of of Wimes tweets about Graham.

“Leslie is not an employee of the campaign,” the Gillum campaign stated.

“To be clear, the mayor and our campaign denounce name-calling, and we agree with EMILY’s List on that point. Our supporters should stick to the Congresswoman’s record,” Communications Director Geoff Burgan stated.

Wimes could not be immediately reached to respond, but she laid out a new blast on Graham and on anyone offended by the “skank” description in a column published Thursday on Sunshine State News.

Burgan’s latest comment is a step further than the response he provided Call on Wednesday, which stated, “This race should be about the Congresswoman & the Mayor’s differences in record, not about name calling from any supporters.”

The new response came after EMILY’s List, the powerful national progressive woman’s campaign organization, called on Gillum Thursday to “make clear to his supporters that negative, gendered attacks have no place in political discourse.”

“Instead of calling for an end to sexist attacks on Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum has obfuscated and perpetuated the negativity. It is time for him to do the right thing and tell his supporters that use of attacks like this or any other nasty way of demeaning a woman in leadership has no place in our democracy,” Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, stated in a news release.

It’s one of two spats between the Graham and Gillum campaigns involving third-party activities that erupted in the past couple of days, the other involving an attack commercial from The Collective Super PAC, tied to another group, Collective Future, which has been funneling dark money into Gillum’s independent political committee, Forward Florida.

EMILY’s List weighed in on that one too.

Wimes replied to the initial criticisms with a column Thursday morning headlined, “Skank, Oh, My!” in which she declared, “That one word has completely consumed Gwen Graham’s campaign and her supporters and it has been fun to watch! How can a candidate claim to be tough on guns, stand up to the Republicans on education or anything else for that matter, yet crumble over the word ‘skank?’

“They called on Andrew Gillum to denounce me. Why? I don’t work for his campaign. He doesn’t control what I say or do. Let’s say he denounces that. I’m just going to come back and call her something else. Then what are they going to do?” she added.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “skank” as: “an unpleasant person, especially a woman who has sex with a lot of different people.”

Graham’s campaign responded by focusing on The Collective’s commercial, and by renewing its call for Gillum to run a positive campaign.

“Andrew Gillum should tell his out-of-state group, The Collective, to take down their false negative ad attacking Gwen. Live up to your words about dark money politics, start running a positive campaign,” Communications Director Matt Harringer stated.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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