Steve Bousquet and Elizabeth Koh, Miami Herald, August 29, 2018
Democrat Andrew Gillum rode a surge of liberal support from young people and African Americans to a stunning primary victory Tuesday and the historic opportunity to be the first black governor in Florida’s history.
With 94 percent of the votes counted, Gillum had an unofficial 3 percentage point lead over his closest rival, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham. Gillum overwhelmed Graham in Miami-Dade and Broward, the state’s two largest Democratic counties, by more than a 2-to-1 margin, in the highest turnout for a midterm primary election in Florida history.
Running to the left of his rivals and despite being vastly outspent, the charismatic and proudly liberal Gillum built a devoted statewide following of progressives. He had a well-received message of social justice and lifting up the downtrodden and an appeal to Florida’s growing diversity.
“Now we must put all our efforts behind Andrew Gillum,” she said. “And make sure that we do everything we can to have him elected governor on Nov. 6.”
Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, whose support provided a major lift in the campaign’s final days, said Gillum is leading a “political revolution” in Florida.
Gillum, the brash 39-year-old mayor of Tallahassee, staked his claim to the state’s most powerful office on the party’s progressive wing as he struggled early on against a field of much better-funded opponents.
His progressive agenda includes support for Medicare for all, a $15-an-hour minimum wage and staunch opposition to the Stand Your Ground self-defense law. That law gained new notoriety last month in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man, Markeis McGlockton, in a dispute over a parking space in Clearwater.
But Gillum, who announced his candidacy in March of last year, has also struggled to shake off the stigma of a long-running FBI investigation of possible corruption at Tallahassee City Hall.
No charges have been brought in the probe, which focuses on development deals involving the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency and a former Gillum political ally.
Gillum’s victory is a blunt repudiation of Florida Democrats’ history of nominating cautious, centrist candidates who have tried and failed to appeal to Republicans in the November election.
The Vermont senator and 2016 presidential candidate was one of several national celebrities who endorsed Gillum, along with actress Jane Fonda, television producer Norman Lear and basketball star Grant Hill.