Florida's first Democrat to announce for next year's governor's race held his first campaign rally in his Tallahassee hometown on Saturday (3/4).
Mayor Andrew Gillum is vowing none of the negatives being leveled against him will discourage his candidacy. Kleman Plaza behind City Hall was filled with supporters. There were plenty of students in the crowd. Among them Quinton Knight Baker, who addressed the often-heard criticism that Gillum lacks experience beyond his municipal governance work.
"I don't think experience is always what matters," he said. "I think it's also the value of the person who's running."
Fellow FSU student Stephen Cawford voiced a similar assessment.
"He's proved himself as a mayor and even though he's a little bit of a risk, I think there's no reason in waiting and having someone else who's not going to do as good of a job now."
A longtime Gillum colleague who helped introduce him from the podium, former Tallahassee City Manager Anita Favors-Thompson.
"God gives certain gifts to certain people and I think Andrew just got his share and then some," she said, adding that when Gillum was first elected as the youngest-ever member of the Tallahassee City Commission in 2003, Favors-Thompson had some reservations about his ability to meet the challenges of the job; reservations she said that have long since evaporated.
After several more introductions, which included one of Gillum's high school teachers, the first Hispanic female ever elected to the Osceola County Commission and Gillum's wife R. Jai, the candidate took the stage.
"I want to ask your permission to share just a little bit of what you've put in me with the rest of the state of Florida," Gillum said to cheers and applause.
So far, Gillum's only primary challenger is Orlando businessman Chris King. But the field is expected to grow.