Amid a crowded field of contenders for governor in 2018, Democrat Andrew Gillum is casting himself as the “slightly out of place” candidate who would bring years of government experience but also fresh ideas and “something different” than Florida has seen under two decades of Republican rule.
“It is our political leadership — or the lack thereof — that has failed us,” Gillum said Wednesday, speaking for nearly an hour in front of a couple hundred people at the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee. “We’ve had enough with slogans and showgames, enough with struggling to get ahead, enough with shrinking from our state’s challenges. ... Floridians need a champion again.”
Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, aimed to set himself apart from other Republicans and Democrats seeking to lead the nation’s third largest state, while also acknowledging his long odds against competitors who have more prominent names Floridians likely already know.
“I recognize this is more than a notion — to be on this journey,” Gillum said, when one Tiger Bay Club member bluntly asked Gillum if he’d settle for being just lieutenant governor.
“I don’t have a famous last name and I cannot stroke my own check to become the next governor of the state of Florida,” he said in an apparent reference to his Democratic primary opponents: former Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham — the daughter of Bob Graham, who is a former U.S. senator and Florida governor — and Orlando businessman Chris King, who this spring put $1 million of his own money into his campaign.
Gillum added: “I’m going to have to do this the old-fashioned way — that means going around, that means talking to people, that means asking people for their support, for their investment, for their belief that we can actually do it different.”
“If I become the Democratic nominee for governor, which I’m going to fight hard to accomplish, I believe I can go on and win this race. ... So, I’m running for governor,” he said, drawing applause from the room.
Gillum — who’s viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party and who spoke at the Democratic National Convention last summer — is trying to build up his name recognition across Florida as the 2018 race heats up.
Photo credit: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, talks to members of the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee before delivering a luncheon speech on Wednesday, May 31, 2017