Wildly outspent by a billionaire challenger and the daughter of a former Florida governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, 39, shocked the political establishment to win the gubernatorial primary in Florida on August 28.
Gillum defeated former Congresswoman Gwen Graham 34%-31% to win the Democratic nomination. He will now face pro-Trump Congressman Ron DeSantis in the general election on November 6. Gillum’s victory caught many political observers by surprise. The 39-year old mayor was polling in fourth place less than a month ago. But recent polls showed an upward movement to second place. Gillum and his supporters completed that upward movement by coming in first on election night.
Gillum’s victory sets up a historic opportunity for there to be three sitting African American governors in the U.S. for the first time in history. Former Georgia lawmaker Stacey Abrams is the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia after a decisive July 24 primary victory. Abrams would be the first African American woman to be a governor from any state should she win. Former NAACP President Ben Jealous is running for governor in Maryland against moderate incumbent Republican Larry Hogan.
There are also four Black candidates for lt. governor running this year for the first time in history.
Gillum’s progressive victory was cemented in part by a late visit by Sen. Bernie Sanders in support of his candidacy. Though he did not win, the independent Vermont U.S. senator who ran for president in 2016, focused on bread and butter issues many Americans identified with as he ran against Hillary Clinton. Sanders’ issue focus included income inequality, money in politics, corporate greed and raising the minimum wage. Despite the Democratic Party’s support of the moderate blue dog style of former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, voters had other ideas and a progressive shift has likely been spurred by Donald Trump’s policies.
Gillum, a graduate of Florida A&M University, is viewed as the continuation of a progressive surge and a shift away from the establishment also seen in the shocking victory of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez over longtime Congressman Joe Crowley in a primary for his New York House seat.
Though her victory is not necessarily a symptom of a widespread trend, it is a signal that a political wave in the opposite direction of Donald Trump is on the horizon in less than 70 days on November 6.