Dozens of union workers sporting red, purple, and yellow T-shirts file into a sweltering auditorium on the grounds of the Greater Bethel AME Church in Overtown. As a speaker whips the crowd into a chant — “Fight for ’15! Fight for ’15!” — a pudgy, olive-skinned man in black slacks and a sweat-soaked white dress shirt stands near the podium while silently observing the audience.
Since January, Andrew Korge has been quietly attending worker rallies and holding small fundraisers for a possible run at public office. But don’t expect to find him on a ballot anytime soon.
The 33-year-old from one of South Florida’s most storied behind-the-scenes political families — himself a veteran money man for Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s campaigns — is pursuing a unique strategy for a state senate seat occupied by Gwen Margolis, an 80-year-old legislator who is one of the longest-serving politicos in the Sunshine State.
His plan is to build up a war chest and a public profile for 2020, when Margolis is termed out. And if Margolis decides to hang up her political heels next year, Korge says he is all in. In either race, he’ll square off against state Rep. David Richardson, the first openly gay legislator in Tallahassee, who has already promised to run whenever Margolis retires.
Korge says his ultimate goal is to lead a new generation to the top of Florida’s long-stagnating Democratic Party to actually challenge the Republican status quo in the state capitol. “When I first met President [Bill] Clinton, he was at PortMiami giving a speech about building a bridge to the 21st Century,” Korge says. “In Florida, we are stuck in the 20th Century. We haven’t crossed that bridge.”
Even though Korge’s political action committee, Friends of Andrew Korge, and his 2020 senate campaign raised an eye-opening $251,997 in March, Republicans say they aren’t worried about his candidacy. “He’s going to run for a seat where Mickey Mouse with a ‘D’ next to his name would win,” says Nelson Diaz, chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party. “The ideas of the Florida Democratic Party are the ideas of yesterday.”
If Korge’s basic pitch sounds like a Clintonian proverb, that’s because Korge grew up around the nation’s 42nd presidential family. His father, Chris Korge, has been a Clinton go-to rainmaker for more than two decades, hosting countless fundraisers at his lavish Pinecrest estate. A successful attorney and businessman, Chris Korge amassed his wealth as one of the top lobbyists during the two terms of Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, another Democrat who counted on Korge’s fundraising abilities. His ties to Penelas often raised questions of influence-peddling by Korge’s dad to win his clients lucrative county contracts at Miami International Airport.
More recently, Chris Korge was an investor in a company that turned out to be a Ponzi scheme run by disgraced magnate Claudio Osorio. Korge helped uncover much of the Venezuelan businessman’s fraud.
“It’s never fun to hear people say and write nasty things about one of your parents,” Andrew Korge says of his time growing up with such an influential father. “But a lot of good things were said about my old man when he caught that fraudster Osorio.”
Shortly after earning his law degree from the University of Florida, Korge went to work for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign as a field organizer in Philadelphia. Following Clinton’s loss in the Democratic primary, Korge joined team Obama, becoming the youngest member of that campaign’s national finance committee. He says he is reuniting with the former secretary of state to help her claim the White House in 2016.
Korge, who is married and has two children, says he wants to run for the Florida Senate instead of a local post because the legislature and Gov. Rick Scott ignore issues important to his district, which includes most of Miami-Dade east of I-95. “The only way we can accomplish anything is by having people who are bold and will stand up to the corruption in Tallahassee,” Korge says. “The issues I want to fight for are in Tallahassee.”