In his first major, nationally-televised interview after his stunning victory Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum vowed to avoid chasing President Donald Trump bait in this fall’s campaign against Trump-backed Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis.
Instead, in a Wednesday morning appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the Tallahassee mayor pressed the campaign theme that led him to upset the far-better-known and far-better-financed Democrats: appealing to disenchanted Floridians about issues in their lives.
“We believe we’ve got to talk to Floridians, and largely to Floridians who have chosen not to participate in the political process because they don’t believe in it anymore,” Gillum said. “Talking about Donald Trump, and reminding folks of how bad he is and how unqualified he is for the job that he holds, doesn’t do anything to assure that they’re able to make ends meet, it doesn’t do anything to assure they get access to health care, a good education system, and 21st-century transportation, and a clean and good environment.
“What we’re going to do, however, is to stay very, very super-concentrated on what are the experiences, the everyday experiences of people in this state, and what we as the next governor can do to make their lives better,” Gillum said.
Gillum’s appearance follows his surprise victory built on the same messages, after he barnstormed the state’s churches, union halls and other small gatherings seeking to inspire voters who don’t normally turn out, who don’t show up in polls of “likely primary voters,” to turn out this time. They did, turning almost all the polls on their ears: Gillum 34 percent; Gwen Graham, 31 percent; Philip Levine, 20 percent; Jeff Greene, 10 percent.
“We focus on the people. first. who have been let down so many times by our political system,” Gillum said. “And in order for a candidate like me to win, I’ve got to be able to turn out those voters who are highly skeptical of the political process, don’t feel like it works for them anymore, and are looking for a champion, a voice. They want to be seen. They want to be heard. They want to see themselves reflected.
“And I think that’s what we did in this primary race, and I think that’s going to be critical to winning in the general. And that applies to rural Florida, suburban Florida, urban Florida,” he continued. “If your kids are being high-stakes tested, if you’ve gotta work multiple jobs, if your number-one concern is going bankrupt over an illness that could impact you any day of the week, then you want a governor like me that’s going to focus on that.”
Gillum did briefly take Trump bait, talking about how he believes Florida Puerto Ricans who fled Hurricane Maria feel disrespected by him, and how Haitian refugees feel disrespected.
“Without a doubt, we know that Donald Trump looms in the shadows here,” Gillum said. But then he said he did not want to focus on him.
He also briefly mentioned DeSantis, and also insisted he would not be taking the bait from him either.
“Ron DeSantis can talk about race, and liberalism and whatever he wants to. I’m going to be clearly focused on the issues that confront everyday Floridians.