BY CLYDE HUGHES, AC JosepH Media
Could Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s stunning win in Florida’s gubernatorial Democratic primary Tuesday be a lesson learned for African-American candidates in New Jersey and other parts of the country?
Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, beat out better known and better-funded candidates with a progressive message that leaned toward issues favored by Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
He now faces his political polar opposite, Republican and favorite of President Donald Trump Ron DeSantis, in Florida’s general election in November.
“Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are both scraping from the bottom of the barrel,” DeSantis said on CNN, per The Guardian newspaper. “I actually believe that Florida and its rich diversity are going to be looking for a governor who is going to bring us together, not divide us. Not misogynist, not racist, not bigots, they’re going to be looking for a governor who is going to appeal to our higher aspirations as a state.”
Gillum’s win is proving that black candidates this political season are not just running strong races but winning. CNN pointed out Wednesday that Gillum’s victory was the third major win for a black Democrat in a Democratic gubernatorial primary field in 2018. Former NAACP president Ben Jealous won in Maryland earlier this year while Georgia State Rep. Stacey Abrams won there.
Gillum and Jealous beat out contentious and large Democratic primary fields while Abrams easily beat state legislator Stacey Evans, a white woman, in a one-on-one primary race, the network noted.
All three candidates showed an ability to grab votes across racial lines in the Democratic Party. Even so, it showed the power of an inspired African-American electorate much like President Barack Obama’s elections did in 2008 and 2012.
CNN suggested that the trends could bode well for U.S. senators like California’s Kamala Harris, New Jersey’s Cory Booker and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick as they consider presidential runs in 2020.
DeSantis for his part wasted no time throwing in racially-charged rhetoric against Gillum during an appearance on Fox News Wednesday, according to The Hill newspaper.
“Let’s build off the success we’ve had on Gov. (Rick) Scott,” DeSantis said of the outgoing Republican Florida governor. “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases bankrupting the state. That is not going to work.”
That brought an avalanche of criticism on social media.
Photo from City of Tallahassee website