Thoughts about the 2018 Florida governor’s race
By Dorothy Inman-Johnson
Special to the Outlook
Almost a month after the Nov. 6, mid-term election, I am still wondering if anything could have been done differently that would have resulted in Florida celebrating the historic election of its first Black Governor. Andrew Gillum ran an almost perfect campaign with high profile supporters and excellent national media, won every debate, and worked harder than anyone in recent history. Even the polls seemed to be on his side after being completely wrong during the primary. I was very proud of our Mayor. So it was particularly disappointing when the anticipated result did not happen. Andrew has a very bright future ahead of him, and made history despite the very close loss. However, with less than half of a percentage point separating him from victory, it is hard not to speculate on what might have made the difference.
It is not an exaggeration to say Gillum’s announcement of his running mate surprised most political observers. Most bets were on former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and for good reason. She was the second highest vote getter in the Democratic Primary with 471,439 votes to Gillum’s 515,235 votes. She’s a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives having defeated Republican Congressman Steve Southerland for the District 2 seat in the 2014 mid-term election by 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent, in a year when Democrats suffered major losses. It also did not hurt that her father is a well respected former Florida Governor, former U.S. Senator, and a good Democrat.
So, yes, it was a real surprise when Gillum chose Chris King as his running mate. The general rule for selecting a running mate is to select someone who adds something to the ticket that the candidate does not. Chris King was considered as liberal as Gillum. With strong support from the Democratic Party and notables from the liberal wing of the party like Bernie Sanders and Gillum’s own liberal background, that base was well covered. Gwen, as a moderate Democrat with the proven ability to turn out those voters, could have ensured more reluctant moderates and independents voted for the Democratic ticket. His choice of Chris King, a political novice who had never held office and who was virtually unknown throughout the state when Gillum tagged him as his running mate_ added nothing helpful to the ticket. In addition, King finished in last place in the Democratic Primary with only 37,000 votes that likely came from his home base in the Orlando area.
Further, I have to wonder if Gwen being snubbed by Gillum for a lesser qualified Lt. Governor running mate may have turned off some of her more moderate Democratic supporters, who may have just chosen not to vote in the Governor’s race. In comparing vote totals for Nelson and Gillum even in Gadsden and Leon counties, the only blue counties in Florida’s panhandle, Nelson received a higher percentage of the vote. Had Gillum received Nelson’s 65.1 percent in Leon instead of 63.4 percent in his home county and 69.7 percent instead of 68.4 percent, it could have helped whittle down the .4 percent difference that separated Gillum and Desantis. We will never know for sure.
But it is always easier to “Monday morning quarterback” when all of the information is readily available to you. Still, with the race that close, it’s hard not to wonder if a different decision had been made, could it have changed the result; and could we have a Governor Gillum ready to be inaugurated in January 2019. Regardless, Andrew Gillum has made Tallahassee and Florida very proud. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for representing us so well.
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