Andrew Gillum shares his gubernatorial vision at the Woodson Museum

Andrew Gillum
A standing-room-only crowd packed into the Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum Saturday, Aug. 18 to hear Gillum’s views.

BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Fresh from the Hillsborough County NAACP Democratic gubernatorial candidate forum—where he was the only candidate to show—Andrew Gillum brought his vision of becoming Florida’s next governor to the Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum last Saturday.

Earlier that morning, Gillum sat alone on the stage at Middleton High School in Tampa where he was able to chat with more than 200 voters intimately.

Branch President Yvette Lewis said she met with each candidate two weeks prior about the forum, but claims they all backed out earlier in the week, except one.

After the Tampa forum and before he made across the bridge to the Woodson, he tweeted: “We don’t have a private jet, but I guess I was the only one of my opponents who could beat the I-4 traffic to make it.”

City Council Chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman was on-hand to introduce Gillum and spoke of their shared belief in “common sense” gun legislation. She spoke of how he challenged the gun lobby and the NRA when he refused to repeal ordinances preventing the shooting of guns in a public park.

“He never backed down as mayor, so as governor I know he will never back down,” proclaimed Wheeler-Bowman.

Andrew GillumThe crowd applauded enthusiastically when Gillum took to the mike. Flanked by his wife and two children, he joked, “We are a real family…when you cannot find a sitter, you got to bring your kids to work with you.”

Regarding his fight against the NRA, he explained, “They took us to court; the good news is we beat them at the circuit court, we beat them at the appellate court, and we said, ‘We’ll see you in the Supreme Court if you want to take it there.”

He spoke of founding the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, which brings together a national coalition of officials, organizations and individuals organized to push back against state preemption of local laws. Gillum said the campaign is “a way to make sure local governments are able to stiffen our spine and square our shoulders and be prepared to push back” through a unified and collective voice.

The Tallahassee mayor also took time to acknowledge Councilman Steve Kornell, Lorna Taylor, who sponsored the event and Terri Lipsey Scott, executive director of the Woodson. Gillum also personalized his relation to the museum, quoting from Carter G. Woodson’s “The Miseducation of the Negro,” and sharing the book’s impact on his life.

“We all ought to be in an everyday constant pursuit of liberation of the mind, and of the spirit – to make sure every single day we are living free.”

Stating that part of “living free” is not shrinking back but standing in one’s truth, joking that while Republicans often tried to catch him in a lie, they never could because videos showed he was always consistent “saying the same thing everywhere.”

“I honestly believe the way a Democrat is going to win this race is not by capitulating, pretending to be something we’re not…but by living the truth…giving people the reason to go out and vote for something, not just against [something],” he insisted.

He referred to Democrats losing the last five gubernatorial races, leaving a Republican governor in office for the previous 20 years. He also noted that in the last two elections, Gov. Rick Scott only won the race by single-digit percentages–fewer than 70,000 votes.

“We have to turn our voters out like we’ve never done before,” he asserted.

He also spoke of not only a metaphorical mess to clean up in government, but also a literal mess–our ocean’s waters.

“We’ve got algae blooms flowing out of the east and the west side of this state right now – of guacamole content in some places. It’s disgusting—but worse than disgusting…it is deadly,” Gillum asserted, speaking of the toxic blue-green algae bloom resulting from the rerouting of Lake Okeechobee that caused Gov. Scott to declare a state of emergency.

He noted that the last 20 years of Republican leadership had resulted in our environmental protection being overseen by the worst, largest “polluters” the state has ever seen and that when it came to corrective action, all that’s been required is a plan of “best practices,” but no follow-up or requirement for those practices to be carried out.

“When we win this race, we are going to hold those owners accountable for their actions and make them do right,” Gillum affirmed.

Also an advocate for renewable energy, he noted, “I’m proud that the same week Donald Trump—I ain’t proud of that part,” he joked, continuing, “but the same week Donald Trump pulled out the Paris Accord, in my city we broke ground on a 120-acre solar pump tripling the amount of solar energy that we can use.”

Listing other environmental accomplishments, he added he would hold his ecological record up against any of the candidates’ records in either party.

An outspoken advocate against “stand your ground,” he also spoke of the shooting of Markeis McGlockton.

 “Stand your ground has no place in civilized society,” a statement that also brought cheers. Speaking passionately, Gillum maintained that the law allowed individuals to become judge, jury and executioner. “That law has to be repealed, and that will be a top priority for our administration,” he reiterated.

He talked about education, a woman’s right to choose, supporting a $15 minimum wage and being a governor who would do what was in the best interest of all of Florida, regarding of class, color, sexuality and gender identity. He plans to transform the state into one that “works for everybody”…giving everyone the opportunity for “radical success.”

Stating that he would be a governor who could relate to the majority of constituents, he joked, “I think I may be the only Democratic running who has a mortgage.”

“My mother told me that the only thing in life I should ever ask for is a chance,” Gillum shared towards the end of the gathering. “So I’m asking for a chance to go to Tallahassee. Not as a mayor, but as the governor who is most qualified…who just happens to be a person of color… and isn’t a millionaire.”

With U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders making two appearances with Gillum last week on the I-4 Corridor, his numbers surged putting him in third place behind U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Primary Election Day is Tuesday, Aug. 28.

To reach J.A. Jones, email jjones@theweeklychallenger.com.

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