The year 2018 was a pivotal year for politics. Many unlikely races and candidates popped up all over the country looking to shake up Capitol Hill as well as statewide offices.
The midterm elections even saw the appointment of 19 women of color to the House and Senate. One of the most visible races in the country, however, was the contest for governors here in Florida. The race pitted Ron DeSantis, a seasoned U.S. congressman, against Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee who had come onto the scene with little name recognition. But that all changed.
Andrew Gillum started his political career as a city commissioner in Tallahassee and was the youngest one in the city’s history. Even at this point in his political career, Gillum was a rather visible figure. Growing up in Tallahassee, it wasn’t unusual to run into Gillum mingling with citizens during parades and festivals. I was always being told as a child, “Make sure you go up and talk to people like that because you never know where the conversation can lead and where they may end up.”
In regard to Gillum, this turned out to be especially important. The same approach he took to engaging the people of Tallahassee was clearly with him in his run for governor.
In 2014, Gillum was elected mayor of Tallahassee. Gillum’s term as mayor was far more contentious than his time as commissioner. Though Tallahassee runs on the system of a city manager at the helm with the mayor as a representative, Gillum received a large amount of criticism. Many blamed Gillum for the rise in the city’s crime rate as well as possible corruption being investigated by the FBI.
Despite all this, Gillum kept reaching higher on the political ladder.
During the August primaries, Gillum was running against Gwen Graham and three others to become the Democratic nominee. Many would argue that Gillum was at a major disadvantage from the start. Not only had Graham worked to make herself visible years before Gillum; her name recognition as the daughter of former Florida Gov. Bob Graham seemingly made her a shoe-in. Nevertheless, Gillum proved that his classic tactic of face-to-face outreach was a winning option, no matter the scale. This moment was pivotal for Gillum but it’s not what gave rise to his fame.
Gillum’s youth and celebrity supporters proved to be major assets in his campaign. Being backed by big names like Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama gave his bid immense amounts of steam. Of course, along with the praise, comes negativity.
Throughout the entirety of the governor’s race, Gillum had no shortage of sore subjects. There is speculation that the aforementioned FBI investigations turned many off to his message and though that cannot be proven, the strides Gillum made in such a short time cannot be ignored. In months, he went from the mayor of Tallahassee to a political dark horse that caused a recount in a swing state. Considering his energy and tenacity, it would be foolish to think that the past governors’ race was his last foray.
Andrew Gillum found a way to force people to pay attention to him and what he had to say. He garnered from the likes of the president as well as celebrities alike in ways that were rare before these particular midterms. If he continues on this path, its impossible to say how high he could go.