“We will flip this state of Florida blue in 2018, and then we’re going to flip this country blue in 2020!”
BY ALLEN A. BUCHANAN, Staff Writer
PETERSBURG – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum held a rally and barbeque on the Deuces last Saturday, Oct. 27 to encourage St. Pete voters to not only vote, but to take as many people possible with them to the polls.
So who is Andrew Gillum? He seemed to come out of nowhere to win the Democratic nomination. He has defied all odds, becoming the first black person ever to be nominated for the state’s highest office.
His progressive liberal politics once thought too extreme now resonates with voters. If he pulls off a win next Tuesday—and judging by the latest polls he has a good chance–Gillum will be only the fourth black governor in the history of the United States. And although he’s young, he has been in the political arena for quite some time now.
At the age of 20 and still a sophomore at Florida A&M University (Go Rattlers!), Gillum and three other students crashed then-Governor Jeb Bush’s office and promised to wait as long as it would take to push for changes to the governor’s plan to do away with affirmative action in state college admissions.
Bush agreed to a meeting and promised the measure would be looked at every three years. Although he did end affirmative action in college admissions, Gillum and the Florida A&M protestors helped maintain the university’s master and doctoral programs.
Before graduating in 2003 with a degree in political science, he was elected to the Tallahassee City Commission. So although he is only 39 years old, he racked up 15 years in politics, 11 as a commissioner and four as the mayor of Tallahassee.
With charisma for days and persuasive air about him, he’s been likened to Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. As the nominal frontrunner, he’s on track to becoming the first Democratic governor in more than two decades.
When Gillum’s silver and blue tour bus pulled up on 22nd Street South, the crowd cheered ecstatically. Many of them had arrived at the intersection hours before to position themselves as close to the stage as possible.
Before stepping onto the podium, State Rep. Wengay Newton reminded everyone to return their absentee ballots. With almost 800,000 ballots not turned in, he stressed that not one vote can be left on the table.
“I believe that we’re going to flip Florida Blue this time y’all,” exclaimed Gillum to screams and cheers.
He shifted emotional gears to acknowledge the negative social shift of the country in less than two years.
“I just have to say that we’re living in some really difficult moments and times right now,” asserted Gillum, revealing the news of the mass shooting in a Pittsburg Jewish synagogue.
“We deserve a governor who’s prepared to stand up against the NRA and their radical agenda, a governor who’s willing to stand up and say enough is enough,” said Gillum.
The day before, outspoken Trump supporter, Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr., 56, was arrested for mailing pipe bombs to high-profile Democratic figures. Gillum emphasized the necessity to “raise the level of discourse” to resolve differences and conflict instead of letting them fester and explode as they did at Pulse nightclub, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
“It is critically important that as leaders in our communities that we raise the level of discourse. It begins at the top obviously, but the truth is if we’re going to continuously be let down at the very top in Washington, D.C., and the White House, that is no excuse for the rest of us to race to the bottom.”
Gillum supporter Cynthia Smith was one of several people who is volunteering to help Gillum across the gubernatorial finish line Nov. 6.
“I was inspired to get home and get on that phone and tell him to get those mail-in ballots out because we deserve it. Teachers deserve better pay. Our schools are falling apart, and I just think that he’s going to address the issues that affect regular people.”
Although sixth grader Layla Lord may have a few more years before she can cast her vote, she is tuned in on the historic governor’s race and its significance in changing the tone of politics in Florida.
“I really liked what Andrew Gillum said because he was relating to the people and how he had gone through something. So he knows it better than most governors would have,” said the Thurgood Marshall Fundamental School student.
With less than a week to go to Election Day, the gloves are off. Gillum said he believes that it’s possible to win races by giving people something to vote for and not vote against, and challenges the Republicans to use their time and energy to talk about what they have planned for Florida instead of just talking about him.
“That’s what happens when you don’t have a vision,” stated Gillum. “Those of you know, without a vision, people perish.”
Republicans are leading in early voting and Gillum is encouraging everyone to get out and vote.
“We gotta do everything within our power to move our voters to the ballot box,” he said. “Vote like our lives depends on it.”
Election Day is next Tuesday, Nov. 6, and early voting ends Sunday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. Click here to find your precinct.