Rally kicks off Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Even before Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum officially announced that he will run to become the next governor of Florida, he’d been hearing about how slim his chances are to become the person to lead the state.
But on Saturday on the lawn at Kleman Plaza he told an enthusiastic crowd of about 300 that he is prepared to take on the challenge, although name recognition outside of his hometown makes him a long shot. He seemingly is relying on grassroots support, urging the crowd that included students from FAMU, FSU and TCC to help push his campaign forward.
“I invite you to join me on this improbable journey,” said Gillum, whose supporters also included his mother and other relatives. “Improbable it may be; possible it completely is.”
For several months before he stated his intentions publicly for the first time, Gillum had been hinting that he wants to become the state’s youngest governor at age 37. He could also become Florida’s first Black governor.
A reported survey of election experts expressed mixed reaction to Gillum’s announcement. Most cited the difficulty he faces in launching a campaign that could put him up against some more popular candidates.
It’s widely speculated that former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham could be in the race. Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn and Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine along with attorney John Morgan have also given hints that they are considering entering the gubernatorial race.
Gillum outlined some of his strategy for building his name statewide, saying that he intends to campaign in every city. None will be too small, he said.
“There isn’t a part of this state that I will be afraid of,” he said. “I’m going to go to every corner.”
While he might not measure up to his potential opponents in name recognition, Gillum is no stranger to big-time politics. Last fall he was one of Hillary Clinton’s top surrogates when she ran for the White House, making what many called an impressive appearance at the Democratic National Convention.
At the time Gillum was expected to win over millennials for Clinton. Now that seemingly is part of his approach for his own campaign. His message seemed to resonate with young people in the crowd.
“The message spoke of change and paying attention to the future,” said Mutaqee Akbar, a young Tallahassee attorney. “I think this generation has been ignored so much as far as special interest. He is speaking to the future and I think that’s what we need.
“His message speaks to the people and that’s important.”
Gillum gave a glimpse of the issues he intends to run on, running off a list of some of the issues that he’s fought against as mayor. He plans to take his message on the environment, solar energy, gun-control and jobs to the state, he said.
Gillum delved into education on all fronts, calling the system a failure because legislators won’t make needed changes.
“It may not be popular in this building behind me,” he said, pointing to the Capitol building nearby, “but Florida’s reform education system has been a failure. We have to recognize that it has been a failure to our children, our parents and our teachers. Our children are not failures; the system that we are creating for them is a failure.”
Before Gillum delivered his message, he spent time meeting and greeting the crowd. His two children, twins Caroline and Jackson, stood by his side along with his wife, R. Jai.
One of Gillum’s school teachers at Gainesville High School made the trip to say why Gillum will be good to govern the state.
“In this day and time, we need someone at the helm who is willing to work for everyone regardless of background or political party,” said Linda Awbrey, outlining his achievements from running his school’s SGA to becoming mayor. “He will be the kind of governor we can all be proud of.”
R. Jai was just as optimistic as her husband.
“We are excited about the future of Florida and it’s time for a change and a change is coming,” she said. “I’m proud. I’m proud. I’m proud to be standing here in support of his journey to become out next governor.”