Bil­lion­aire’s po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion reg­is­ter­ing vot­ers to help Gil­lum

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Local - By An­thony Man South Flor­ida Sun Sen­tinel [email protected]­sen­tinel.com, 954-356-4550 or Twit­ter @broward­pol­i­tics

Some were at­tracted by the pizza. One was mo­ti­vated by re­gret over not vot­ing in 2016. And many walked or skate­boarded by — ig­nor­ing over­tures to be­come reg­is­tered vot­ers in time for the 2018 midterm elec­tions.

Vol­un­teers and paid staff from Nex­tGen Amer­ica, have been on 40 Flor­ida col­lege and uni­ver­sity cam­puses this fall, en­cour­ag­ing stu­dents to reg­is­ter to vote. On Tues­day, they were on mul­ti­ple cam­puses with events for Na­tional Voter Regis­tra­tion Day, tar­get­ing po­ten­tial vot­ers who — if they ac­tu­ally show up at the polls — are likely to vote for Demo­cratic can­di­dates fa­vored by Nex­tGen and its bil­lion­aire backer, Tom Steyer.

Mis­sion

“We want to use the power of the youth vote in or­der to go out and vote for can­di­dates that rep­re­sent us best,” Wy­att Robin­son, Nex­tGen’s re­gional or­ga­niz­ing direc­tor for Palm Beach County and the Trea­sure Coast, told about 50 po­lit­i­cally ac­tive stu­dents at Flor­ida At­lantic Uni­ver­sity in Boca Ra­ton.

“We don’t want to have what hap­pened in 2016 hap­pen again,” he said. “If we par­tic­i­pate in the sys­tem, rather than pulling away from it … we can make our voice be heard, and we can cre­ate the fu­ture that we have been sit­ting around wait­ing for.”

Sign-ups

Out­side, most stu­dents walked or rushed by the Nex­tGen en­camp­ment, im­per­vi­ous to clip­board-hold­ing vol­un­teers ask­ing if they were reg­is­tered. The dead­line is Oct. 9.

Oth­ers stopped, with a few writ­ing while they swayed back and forth to stay bal­anced on their skate­boards while com­plet­ing Beth Wie­gard, mother of Park­land shoot­ing sur­vivor Emma Gon­za­les, hosts a voter regis­tra­tion drive at the Park­land Li­brary in 2016 as part of Na­tional Voter Regis­tra­tion Day.

and sign­ing the pa­per­work.

Nex­tGen reg­is­tered 70 peo­ple at FAU on Tues­day, out of a to­tal of 300 in Broward and Palm Beach coun­ties, and 1,200 statewide.

Tyler Stephen, 21, an FAU busi­ness man­age­ment ma­jor from Mi­ra­mar, filled out his voter regis­tra­tion form de­spite a bro­ken fin­ger on his writ­ing hand.

He said he is cer­tain he’ll vote in No­vem­ber, as a res­i­dent of Palm Beach County.

Orig­i­nally from the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands, where U.S. cit­i­zens like Stephen can’t vote for pres­i­dent, he didn’t re­al­ize he could have voted for pres­i­dent when he be­came a res­i­dent of the main­land U.S. “I re­gret it. I didn’t think I could,” he said. “If I knew, I would have.”

Stephen said he wants to be part of change he be­lieves is com­ing. “Our coun­try is go­ing in a new di­rec­tion,” he said, adding some praise for Demo­crat An­drew Gil­lum. “It would be nice if we elected our first African-Amer­i­can Flor­ida gover­nor.”

Gil­lum

The Demo­cratic nom­i­nee is a top pri­or­ity for

Nex­tGen and Steyer.

They were among the few prom­i­nent back­ers of Gil­lum’s can­di­dacy when most big donors and prom­i­nent Democrats were sup­port­ing other can­di­dates for the party’s nom­i­na­tion. Steyer pro­vided money for ad­ver­tis­ing and staffers for door-to-door can­vass­ing of neigh­bor­hoods.

Though Nex­tGen Amer­ica is ac­tive in 11 states, Steyer’s in­volve­ment in the pri­mary was un­usual. He en­dorsed Gil­lum in Flor­ida and one of the U.S. Se­nate can­di­dates in his home state of Cal­i­for­nia.

For the gen­eral elec­tion, Nex­tGen is ramp­ing up ef­forts in Flor­ida. On Wed­nes­day, Steyer an­nounced his or­ga­ni­za­tion is spend­ing $5.2 mil­lion in the state to help Gil­lum, U.S. Sen. Bill Nel­son and other Flor­ida Democrats.

The spend­ing in­cludes

$2.5 mil­lion for dig­i­tal ads,

$800,000 for mail ad­ver­tis­ing, $700,000 on Nex­tGen’s field pro­gram and $1 mil­lion for the po­lit­i­cal group For Our Fu­ture Flor­ida’s field pro­gram. It also un­veiled its first gen­eral elec­tion dig­i­tal ad, “For­ward with Gil­lum.”

CAR­LINE JEAN/SUN SEN­TINEL

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