In what could be one of the biggest upsets in recent political history in Florida, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum won Tuesday’s Democratic primary for governor, setting up a battle against Republican Ron DeSantis in November.
Gillum, 39, captured more than 34 percent of the vote, compared to former Congresswoman Gwen Graham’s 31.4 percent.
A crowd of supporters assembled at The Hotel Duval in Tallahassee was exuberant as election results showed Gillum slowly making gains on Graham throughout the evening, chanting “Bring it home” and “I believe we will win.”
The race “is not about me,” Gillum told an ecstatic crowd.
“It never has been, and it never will be. This race is about every last single one of us,” he said. “Those of us inside this room. Those outside of this room. Those who voted for me. Those who didn’t vote at all. And those who didn’t vote for me because they are Republicans. But I want to be their governor, too.”
Gillum has long been considered a rising star in the Florida Democratic Party but trailed in the polls in a crowded primary that featured Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene.
But Gillum’s campaign gained momentum in after picking up endorsements from progressive icon U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, and financial backing from billionaires Tom Steyer and George Soros.
“I sincerely believe that what is going to deliver us to victory in November is the fact that there are everyday, hard-working people in this state who believe that they deserve a voice in our government too. We are going to give it to them,” Gillum said Tuesday night.
At a concert venue in downtown Orlando, hundreds of Graham supporters appeared stunned by the election results as it became clear that Gillum had bested Graham, the daughter of former Gov. Bob Graham who was long considered the frontrunner in the race.
“I was expecting to give a much different speech tonight,” she said.
Graham urged her supporters to “put all of our efforts behind Andrew Gillum,” pledging to do whatever she could to help him defeat DeSantis.
“This election is about the future of Florida,” she said, reiterating a campaign theme. “That’s what we were fighting for. It was never about the candidate.”
Privately, some of Graham’s supporters — a mix of veteran Democratic organizers, younger voters and women of all ages — appeared skeptical about Gillum’s chances for success in November.
But publicly, Democrats quickly rallied behind Gillum, saying he had the opportunity to make history by becoming the state’s first black governor.
“He represents the future in many ways,” Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, a former state representative, told The News Service of Florida at Graham’s election-night watch party.
Gillum trailed in the polls and in fundraising over more than a year of campaigning.
“What has made Andrew’s campaign so powerful is that he’s not just working hard to win an election, he has laid out a vision for a new course for the state of Florida and our country. No one person can take on the economic and political elites on their own. Tonight, Floridians joined Andrew in standing up and demanding change in their community. That’s what the political revolution is all about and Andrew Gillum is helping to lead it,” Sanders said in a statement following Gillum’s primary victory.
Tuesday’s primary set the stage for what will be one of the most closely watched races in the country, as Democrats try to flip the governor’s mansion after being shut out of power for nearly two decades.
Each of the Democratic gubernatorial wannabes harped on a theme of being the best-situated candidate to recapture the governor’s office and rekindle the dominance Democrats held for a century in the Sunshine State.
With support from national groups backing black candidates and progressive politicians, Gillum laid out a campaign strategy relying on “black voters, brown voters, younger voters and poor voters,” he told The News Service of Florida in an interview this month.
Greene, a latecomer to the race who poured nearly $38 million of his own money into the primary campaign, insisted that he was the only Democrat who could outspend Republicans. Greene also pledged to unfold his wallet to aid Democrats, who consistently have been outraised and outspent by the GOP, up and down the ballot.
After continuing to trail in the polls, however, Greene appeared to pull the plug on his campaign in the days leading up to Tuesday’s primary. Greene on Monday canceled a planned election-night watch party at his Tideline Ocean Resort & Spa in Palm Beach. In a statement issued by his campaign, the candidate said he instead was going to watch the election results at home with his wife and three young children.
Levine, who was shown in some polls as running neck-and-neck with Graham as the election neared, also maintained that he would be the strongest Democrat to take on the Republican contender in November.
Congratulating Gillum on his primary victory, Levine called the Tallahassee mayor “a fierce fighter who has what it takes to lead our state forward, and he can count on my help every step of the way.”
Throughout more than a year on the campaign trail, Levine consistently pointed to successes racked up during his tenure as mayor of the popular South Florida destination to support his pitch for governor. But naysayers contended many of his claims were unfounded, and his critics, including Greene, accused him of being a bully.
Levine took credit for addressing sea-level rise, by installing pumps and raising roads, as one of his major accomplishments as mayor. Miami Beach spent $500 million to install the pumps, but some scientists later blamed the pumps for dumping fecal matter into the shores off South Beach. The analysis prompted outrage from Levine, who called the report “sloppy science” and disparaged the Miami Herald for its reporting on the issue.
Levine also took credit for raising the minimum wage in Miami Beach — an effort that’s been tied up in court — and for reforming what he called a “broken” police department. He’s also been praised for advancing policies that earned the city perfect scores for LGBTQ inclusiveness.
But the former Miami Beach mayor quickly rallied behind Gillum on Tuesday night.
“This is a fight for the future of our state and the soul of our nation, and it’s a fight that we are going to win. We’re going to elect Andrew Gillum, the first black governor in the history of the state of Florida, re-elect Senator Bill Nelson, and win seats up and down the ballot — we will rise to the occasion and take back our state! Democrats, let’s get this done,” Levine said in a statement.
In the 2018 midterm elections many have deemed the “year of the woman,” Graham played up her role as a PTA mom who once worked for Leon County schools.
Graham, who was both mocked and revered for her predilection for hugging, delivered one of the most memorable lines of the Democrats’ campaign season during an April debate in Tampa.
“I seem to be the one,” she sighed, after being attacked by two of her opponents. “It’s Gwen and the men.”
At a July debate in Fort Myers, Graham used a bright pink blazer as a prop as she stood beside her four dark-suited rivals.
“You may notice I look a little different than my other friends up here on the stage,” she said, adding that she’s “a mom” and a “PTA president.”
Facing her supporters after her defeat Tuesday night, Graham explained that she had been living in Orlando for months while on the campaign trail. Her husband, Stephen Hurm, had remained behind in Tallahassee, she said.
Graham’s loss had a silver lining of sorts.
Turning to her husband, Graham said, “Sweetheart, I’m coming home.”
—Dara Kam and Christine Sexton, with News Service Assignment Manager Tom Urban.
Andrew Gillum’s statement after his victory:
DeSantis is a freak right wing confederate.
Let’s not forget …. Trump is the leader of the alt-right white racist nationalist party supported by the KKK and the Dixicrat evangelicals that support winning a war against liberal thinking.
Woohoo! Gillum! Maybe we will finally get something done in this state!!
Yes …… Bend over and grab your ankles!!!! SOCIALISM>>>>>>
Mr. Gillum, Way To Go, you have our support for November, keep up the awesome campaigning.
Don’t let Trumps childish ways bother you, his lies and behavior are uncalled for. If he doesn’t get his way as you probably have noticed, he starts rumors and lies.
We got your back in November.
At least Gillum was a actual leader of a city – Tampa. DeSantis is a major brownnoser – whatever the party tells him to do or say he does it, against all decency, ethics, morals and against the people he represents. Brainwashed to the core, we don’t need another alt-right wing trumpite scottite who continues to defund and deregulate the poisons, toxins, and pollution that Florida has been facing and dealing with since Scott was elected (which he made WORSE), and we especially do not need a denier of facts and truths in office. Stop electing these corrupt politicians!
@mausburn – those untrue comments are EXACTLY why you and the left will not win this election. Your party needs something to run on besides that. Look at the economy and labor participation rate, unemployment…. the list goes on. To quote Mr. Carville…. “It’s the Economy Stupid”. As long as it is growing and not broken, don’t try to fix it.
For the political, social system to survive, the system have to be balancend and continuously rebalanced. Without rebalance the system will collapse regardless of the greatness of America or the Constitution.
Finally, someone I can vote “for” and not just “against the other person.” I was thrilled when he emerged as the Dem winner late last night. While I do not agree with all his positions (it’s rare I find that perfect mix that checks all my boxes) but I agree with him on roughly 65% so that is more then enough to happily cast my vote in November for him.
Google “Desantis Trump Ad” and witness what being a beta is all about. Florida cannot seriously elect someone so weak and subservient to Trump. Death to the Republican party in November and into Infinity!
Yeah as mayor of tallahassee that city did so well didn’t it
I’ve never met Andrew Gillum, but I have met Ron DeSantis. I wouldn’t vote for DeSantis to be elected dogcatcher, even if he was the only candidate in the race………………..Go Gillum!!
De Santis will give him an old fashioned ass whooping!
Born and Raised Here says
GO NOLES !!
@ Anon – You do live in a different world. “At least Gillum was a actual leader of a city – Tampa”. How did you come up with Tampa? Andrew D. Gillum (born July 26, 1979) is an American politician serving his first term as Mayor of Tallahassee since 2014. At the age of 23, Gillum became the youngest person ever elected to the Tallahassee City Commission in February 2003. BTW it is an actual leader NOT a actual leader. SMH!
David S. says
We do not need another Trump. Gov. Scott has done nothing for this state and Desantis will do nothing . Go Gillum we need you…..
Dawn Salange says
We need you. I am with you all the way…finally a smart kind person. Thank you
Dawn Salange says
We need you. I am with you all the way…finally a smart &kind person. Thank you
Gillum takes money from George Soros. Any candidate who takes money from George Soros is not good for America and I will not ever vote from them!!!!!
Traveling Rep says
Wow, libbies are crazy desperate to do anything. Look atvthis, another democrat socialist/communist who wants to spread Venezuelan love rigt here in Florida. He apparently has been hand picked off the Democratic plantation by Soros himself. Just another goon that’s fallen forvthe Democratic trap, willingvro be used and manipulated likecthe political whore Soros wants him to be. I feel sorry for him, and uninformed dems in general. #walkaway
Stranger in a strange land says
Above all, be thankful we live in “interesting times”. While I am skeptical Gillum can overcome the labels, racism, and mud that will be thrown at him, it will be interesting to see what struggling people of all races will do. Hopefully,those that voted for Trump as the “great WHITE hope” that cares about their struggles and says the things that they are thinking, now realize he is another ultra wealthy, powerful person that will serve to benefit his family and others like his family (huge tax cuts for the ultra wealthy, less health insurance and safety nets for the middle/working class). Trump isn’t working out so well unless have substantial investments. If you are a working stiff, little has changed. Why not try a black mayor who comes from a working class family who has experienced what you are experiencing. To quote Trump speaking to black voters “what have you got to lose”? It will be a very telling and interesting election.
I don’t see how the Democrats can win on their agenda of abolish ICE, open borders, illegal immigrants allowed into USA, MS-13 gangs allowed, Medicare for all, raise taxes, socialism. Most Americans are against this.
I don’t see how republicans can win on their agenda of hate,division,racism, making the rich richer ,Russian collusion and lack of any moral whatsoever president.
It’s time to drain this very swampy dirty corrupt swamp!
Sickening to read all the Bi Partisan BS We will never get anything done unless the Stupid Two Party system works together across the aisles. Start by voting out all old timer career do nothing elected incumbents from both sides at a State and Federal level. Weare spinning our wheels at best
Stranger in a strange land says
Health coverage for all does not mean a socialist or communist society. Here is an article from “Forbes” (hardy a liberal publication) based on a study done by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, Which shows that ten countries deemed to have freer economies than the US by the Heritage Foundation, have Universal Health care. These countries also spend far less per person on health care than the US does. Properly structured Universal health care means a healthier, more financially secure population, as well as lower overall health costs. The fact that we have a mail delivery system run and funded by the federal goverment or a fire department run and funded by local government does not mean the US is a socialist society. Certain needs of a civilized society are better fulfilled by government. Health care is one of them. Gillum wants to expand medicare, look at specifically what candidates propose.
Here is the article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2015/01/27/conservative-think-tank-10-countries-with-universal-health-care-are-economically-freer-than-the-u-s/#58b60ddf137e
I guess some of you aren’t going to be happy, but Ron DeSantis is going to be our next Governor.
Stranger in a strange land says
@Will, was your money on Gwen Graham in the primary? As I said above, we live in interesting times. The masses are feeling “monkeyed up” (for you Desantis deciples) “screwed” for all others. They tried Obama, dinn’t change their circumstances. Tried Trump, didn’t change their circumstances. They are willing to take chances. As with Dem. primary, hard to predict what will happen. Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice,shame on me. Fool me over and over???????????? We’ll see.
For those who still mistakenly think trump’s administration and agenda is supported most Americans. . . take a look at the latest polls. . . where his approval rating is at 36% and the majority of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction:
Next we’ll hear the polls are wrong. LOL! LOL! LOL!
OK. . . all you trump and desantis supporters. . . let me politely ask you to do something. Take a good look at the video of Megan McCain’s eulogy for her father. If you think there is a one in a million chance that trump’s kids or the desantis children could ever “truthfully” say such things about their fathers, you are truly lost.
Here is a link to the video. . . watch it and actually feel it and “think”:
And some of the same people calling him a hero now, and making him their “idol”, called him an idiot, and Worse, when he was running against Barry the Huckster. Make no mistake McCain was a great man and a Patriot, but I remember the names Many democrats called him when he ran and it sure wasn’t what they are saying now. Funny how fast someone’s true character shows.
There is something fishy about this come from behind, longshot win Andrew Gillum pulled off here. A whole lot of money went in to his campaign from very rich and very politically influential sources. I think maybe Trump and the Russians are not the only ones who might try and fix elections if they could-just saying.