39-year-old Andrew Gillum has been declared the winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary, upsetting centrist political scion Gwen Graham.
At 9:15 PM Eastern Time, with 5,212 of 5,968 precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the election for Gillum. He was the top vote-getter in a tough primary election, running against not only Graham — the daughter of a former governor and U.S. senator — but also former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine (who has a net worth of more than $100 million).
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) August 29, 2018
Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, was the only non-millionaire running in the primary, and the only black candidate on either side running for governor. His campaign won several key endorsements from progressive figures like Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and from grassroots progressive groups like Democracy for America and Our Revolution. He was the underdog in nearly every poll, with RealClearPolitics showing Graham having a lead of anywhere from seven to 12 points in all but one poll.
According to his campaign website, Gillum is running on a staunchly progressive platform of supporting Sanders’ Medicare for All bill, raising the state’s minimum wage to $15/hour, repealing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law that allowed George Zimmerman to get away with killing Trayvon Martin, and legalizing and taxing marijuana for recreational use, as Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington state have already done.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Andrew Gillum defended his unabashedly progressive policy agenda as something that is more likely to attract general election voters, rather than drive them away. He pointed to the fact that Florida has had Republican governors for the last 20 years as evidence that voters need to nominate more progressive Democrats, and fewer centrists.
“The last two elections for governor, we lost to the man [Rick Scott] who committed the largest Medicaid fraud in the country — right here in the Medicaid state, if you will,” Gillum said. “The only way to change that is by not shrinking from who we are and what we believe as Democrats. Putting our flag in the ground and giving people something to vote for and not just vote against — that’s how we win.”
Andrew Gillum will be running against Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) in the November general election. DeSantis was able to clinch the Republican nomination with help from President Trump, though it remains to be seen whether or not the Trump endorsement will be an asset or a liability in November.
Nick Jewell is a freelance political writer, and a proud resident of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.