A surprise outcome in Florida’s democratic gubernatorial primary has Democrats hopeful to reclaim the governor’s mansion and wrest control from Republicans for the first time in 20 years. It also marks a strong shift to the left — and hopes rest with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who could become the first black governor in Florida’s history.
Already, the general election looks like it might get nasty. Gillum’s competition, Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis, took to Fox News Wednesday morning to slam the Democratic nominee.
“The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda,” DeSantis told a Fox News host.
DeSantis’ comments drew ire from the Democratic Party, which called them racist. Fox News says it does “not condone” DeSantis’ language. Just hour earlier, the Gillum campaign was on cloud nine after shocking Florida politicos.
“We had over 500,000 people come out yesterday and support the underdog candidate at a very, very grassroots level,” Gillum said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Wednesday. “I think my four opponents combined may have spent close to $90 million dollars to our six.”
It was cheers, tears and hugs as Gillum celebrated his victory in the democratic gubernatorial primary in a downtown hotel. He focused his campaign on education, environmental protection and a livable minimum wage. In the waning weeks, Gillum campaigned with former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and attended a protest at the Capitol over gun control and a push to repeal the state’s Stand Your Ground Law.
Tuesday night, Gillum brought a message of unity during his victory speech.
“I want you to know as I’ve said as I’ve moved all across Florida, this thing is not about me. It never has been and it never will be,” Gillum said. “This race is about every single last one of us.”
In 2003 Gillum became the youngest person elected to the Tallahassee City Commission. He was elected mayor in 2014, and is consistently rated as a person to watch in Democratic politics. His name was briefly floated as a potential running mate for Hilary Clinton, and he addressed the Democratic National convention in 2016. But even with all that, he never climbed higher than third in most polls.
As a result, Gillum’s win has shocked even longtime election observers. Tampa Bay Times political correspondent William March says Democrats have a long history of nominating moderates. Gillum’s victory breaks with that tradition.
“Andrew Gillum’s win, to me is very surprising,” March said. “They’re nominating someone on the left side of the field of primary candidates, Andrew Gillum. It shows the extent to which both parties are being pushed to the extreme.”
As it stands now, the Florida Democratic Party is coalescing behind Gillum. The rest of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates are all backing him, with Gwen Graham, telling Gillum to, “bring it home.”