The race to become Florida’s governor is already shaping up to be a microcosm of the nation’s political climate, with Andrew Gillum cast in the role of David preparing to take on Goliath.
Tuesday night, jaws dropped all over the country as it was announced that a 30-something year-old mayor who many polls said was a 4th place long-shot had somehow won the Democratic Party primary against competitors with a lot more political connections and clout.
“Tonight, we proved what’s possible when people come together & show up to build FL into a better state for all,” Gillum tweeted following his shocking victory. “I’m truly honored to represent people across the state as the Democratic nominee—and I promise to stand up for everyday Floridians and the issues that matter most.”
While everyone scrambles to figure out “How did he pull this off?!” below are five quick things you need to know about the first Black, major-party candidate for governor in Florida history.
He’s the only Democratic candidate in the primary who was not a multi-millionaire
Everyone knows it costs a TON of money to run a successful election campaign, which is why all the Democratic candidates in this race were multi-millionaires, except Gillum.
Gwen Graham, who was the presumed frontrunner in the primary race, comes from a political dynasty and is the daughter of a former Florida governor. But it just wasn’t enough to overcome to grassroots support that the Tallahassee mayor had on his side.
“My opponents have spent, together, over $90 million in this race. We have spent 4 [million],” Gillum said Saturday, according to the New York Times. “Money doesn’t vote. People do.”
He’s been endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders has a track record of supporting young politicians looking to shake up the system, so it came as no surprise when he chose to endorse Gillum. And many have speculated that the 39-year-old’s association with the senator and the more left-leaning wing of the Democratic Party provided him with the extra boost he needed to nab the nomination.
Florida is a notoriously moderate swing state so Republicans will most likely attempt to damage his reputation by painting him as a radical to turn off voters. But supporters like Sanders think the win of other unconventional candidates like 28-year-old Latina, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shows there is a building nationwide trend working in Gillum’s favor.
If he wins, he’ll be Florida’s first Black governor
While the country may just be finding out about him, Gillum has been a trailblazer most of his life. He’s proud of his humble beginnings, often citing that he was raised in Miami where, according to his campaign website, his mother drove a school bus and his father was a construction worker.
While still in school, Gillum became the youngest person ever elected to the Tallahassee City Commission, before running for mayor.
And now he has a spot in the history books next to Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democratic candidate for governor and the first black woman to earn a major party gubernatorial nomination, for running for a historic spot in statewide office.
His progressive platform supports expanding Medicaid
The self-described “non-millionaire” has a campaign platform includes pushing for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, legalized marijuana, and staunch opposition to Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law that has allowed racists to target members of the Black community without being reprimanded.
Gillum is also proposing Medicare for all, in a state that has stubbornly refused to expand Medicaid to a wider segment of the population since the implementation of Obamacare. Florida’s resistance to expand the program has left hundreds of thousands of residents with few options for health insurance, reports Vox. So if he takes the governorship, Gillum would be put in a position to fight on their behalf.
He’s already been called a monkey by his GOP opponent
In November Gillum will face off against Ron DeSantis, a supporter of President Donald Trump.
Wednesday morning, Trump wasted no time starting his smear campaign against the politician tweeting, “Not only did Congressman Ron DeSantis easily win the Republican Primary, but his opponent in November is his biggest dream….a failed Socialist Mayor named Andrew Gillum who has allowed crime & many other problems to flourish in his city. This is not what Florida wants or needs!”
Gillum immediately responded to the president’s attack and posted: “What our state and country needs is decency, hope, and leadership. If you agree, join us at http://AndrewGillum.com . Also, @ me next time,
— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) August 29, 2018
While social media was still cackling at the mayor for basically telling the president, “Next time you better @ me bro!” DeSantis was already working on a sneak diss of his own.
During an appearance on Fox News with Sandra Smith, the GOP opponent, who is white, handed out backhanded compliments to Gillum, by calling him “an articulate spokesman.” He then conceded that Gillum performed better than other candidates, right before arguing that Florida still shouldn’t elect him.
“The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state,” said DeSantis to Smith.
Uh Ron DeSantis just said FL shouldn't "monkey this up" by electing Andrew Gillum pic.twitter.com/nDPp3Hx7zc
— Steve Morris (@stevemorris__) August 29, 2018
When asked for comment about the thinly veiled racist remark, Gillum’s campaign left addressing that up to Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo.
“It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles,” Rizzo said in a statement sent to the Huffington Post.
DeSantis’ campaign now claims the comments were about Florida’s economy.
“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses. To characterize it as anything else is absurd,” said campaign communications director Stephen Lawson. “Florida’s economy has been on the move for the last eight years and the last thing we need is a far-left democrat trying to stop our success.”
But after receiving swift backlash on social media, Fox News aired a follow-up segment, calling the comment “inappropriate” and indicating that DeSantis has since “clarified” his statement.
“We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement,” said Smith in the segment.