Gillum triumphs in bid to become Florida’s first Black governor

Republican challenger says a vote for his Black opponent would ‘monkey this up’

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Andrew Gillum

Crusader Staff Report

He’s the son of a construction worker and a bus driver, but Andrew Gillum in a stunning victory clinched the Democratic nomination for Florida governor on Tuesday, August 28. Gillum now inches closer to a historic achievement in a state that has never been led by a Black man or woman.

Behind in the polls and outspent by his opponents 10 to 1, Gillum surprised his opponents and ran away with nearly 39 percent of the vote with a big boost from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

He becomes the first Black candidate ever to win the primary for Florida’s highest office. In November, Gillum will face Republican opponent Ron DeSantis, who won nearly 68 percent of the vote in the nation’s biggest swing state.

While DeSantis’ win was impressive, all eyes are on Gillum, the mayor of Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee. He seeks to break racial barriers in the pinnacles of politics in the sunshine state. If he wins, Gillum will become Florida’s first Black governor in the state’s 173 history. He joins two other Blacks who are running for governor in neighboring states. They are Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Ben Jealous, who’s seeking the highest political office in Maryland.

Gillum faced heavy competition from his Democratic opponents, mainly former Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine and Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Florida Governor Bob Graham. All three candidates campaigned hard in Florida’s most populated Black communities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. They are two Democratic strong-holds that have suffered from low voter turnout in the last two elections. Black turnout among voters in both electorates was even lower.

But Gillum ignited a spark among weary Black voters as he campaigned against big odds in a state where Latinos have dominated the polls for years. Now, everyone is watching to see if Gillum, a Progressive, and graduate of the historically Black Florida A&M University, will take down DeSantis, a Yale and Harvard-educated, conservative Congressman.

“It’s exciting to see Andrew Gillum become the latest Black politician making history in the Deep South,” said Dorothy R. Leavell, chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). “It’s also refreshing to see a product of an HBCU school break racial barriers in Florida’s lily white politics. Our nation has too few people of color heading major governments. I applaud Gillum for his stunning, come-from-behind victory as the Democratic candidate for Florida governor. We look forward to seeing Gillum take it all in the November election and become the first Black governor in Florida’s 173-year history.”

DNC Chair Tom Perez issued the following statement on the results of Tuesday night’s Democratic primary races in Florida:

“Andrew Gillum ran an inspiring campaign on his way to becoming the first African American to win a major-party nomination for governor in the Sunshine State. Democrats came out in record numbers to support an incredible slate of candidates who are committed to fighting for greater access to affordable health care, better public schools, and protecting the environment for Floridians.

“Andrew Gillum is the son of a construction worker and a school bus driver who understands the challenges hardworking families face on a daily basis. He is committed to fighting for Florida’s families by ensuring access to quality, affordable health care, creating good-paying jobs, and making sure every child gets a world-class public education.”

DeSantis immediately drew criticism with a racially-tinged comment hours after his opponent swept the primary. Calling him “an articulate spokesman” for the far left, DeSantis said during an interview on Fox News “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda,” DeSantis said.

Hours later, DeSantis’ office attempted to clarify his comment, saying:

“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses,” spokesman Stephen Lawson said in a statement. “To characterize it as anything else is absurd.”

“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,” the statement said.

DeSantis’ remark drew instant fire from Democrats, who accused him of using “racist dog whistles.”

In a morning tweet, Trump attacked Gillum as a “failed Socialist Mayor” and called him the “biggest dream” for Representative DeSantis. The Republican’s victory in Tuesday’s GOP primary was propelled by Trump’s endorsement over a more moderate opponent. Trump alleged that Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, “has allowed crime and many other problems to flourish in his city,” adding: “This is not what Florida wants or needs!”

“It’s very clear that Mr. DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump,” Gillum told Fox News’ Shepard Smith hours later. Gillum later said, “I’m not going to get down in the gutter with DeSantis and Trump. There’s enough of that going on.”

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