MIAMI, FLORIDA — Andrew Gillum’s campaign slogan, “Bring It Home,” took on a special meaning this weekend.
“Your son has come home,” his wife, R. Jai Gillum, told a crowd of supporters outside The Bethel Church in the Richmond Heights neighborhood of Miami, Florida Sunday evening, before Gillum, the current mayor of Tallahassee and a Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, took the stage.
She meant it, too. As Gillam spoke that night, days ahead of the statewide primary elections, he addressed a lively crowd of supporters, many of whom live in the very community in which he grew up. The church where Gillum spoke is where he was baptized. As a child, he lived just around the corner.
Standing on the steps of the Richmond Heights church where I was baptized, with R. Jai, our family & dear friends like @angela_rye alongside us — we are proving that you can start from the bottom & be anything you want in Florida.
— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) August 27, 2018
Gillum, the most progressive of the five Democratic candidates running for governor, has been endorsed by numerous grassroots organizations like Our Revolution, Indivisible, and NextGen America. But despite the ground-level support, he lags behind other candidates in the polls, all of whom have deeper pockets and broader name recognition. Gillum is the only non-millionaire in the race.
“I might even be the only candidate with a mortgage,” Gillum joked to the crowd.
Recent polls have Gillum currently sitting in third place, behind establishment favorite Gwen Graham, a former congresswoman whose father represented Florida in the Senate for over 18 years, and Philip Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach and a millionaire entrepreneur. But the race is still extremely close.
Dozens of supporters line up in the Florida sun to take a photo with Richmond Heights native son, Andrew Gillum (Credit: Rebekah Entralgo/ThinkProgress)
With the Florida primary just two days away, Gillum’s campaign is banking on one last surge in momentum to push themselves over the finish line and past his Democratic opponents. Over the past week, Gillum has traversed the state in his campaign bus, meeting with supporters and inviting progressive all-stars like former Mayor of San Antonio and Obama-era Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and political analyst Angela Rye along for the ride.
At each stop, Gillum and his team of endorsers have stumped his progressive platform to anyone who will listen: Medicare For All. Abolish ICE. A $15 minimum wage. An assault weapons ban.
At The Bethel Church Sunday evening, Gillum also stole a moment to underscore the historic nature of his campaign: If elected, he would become the state’s first Black governor.
“We can create more…opportunity for all people. But we can’t do it, y’all, unless we vote. We can’t do it unless we get out there and let our voices be heard,” Gillam had said during a sermon at a historically Black church in Miami, earlier in the day. “…When we win, all of us are going to Tallahassee.”
At The Bethel Church, Gillum reiterated that message, explaining the impact Tuesday’s election would have on Florida’s Black communities. Stand Your Ground, he said, should be repealed. The vague self-defense law has resulted in the deaths of multiple Black men and boys in the state in recent years, and after 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton was shot and killed in Clearwater, Florida on July 19, Gillum called for the current governor to issue a state of emergency over the law until it could be revisited and reevaluated.
Gillum also supports the restoration of voting rights to former felons, an issue on the state ballot this November.
“For our returning brothers and sisters from jail once they pay their debt to society, I believe they ought to be able to reenter society, be able to vote, have their right to earn, have their right to have dignity again,” Gillum said. “I understand that even though I don’t have a criminal background record, that my community does well when those who who do have one are be able to earn an honest living so they don’t have to return to a life of crime.”
August 28, the day of the Florida gubernatorial primary, holds particular historic significance for those in the Black community, Gillum reminded the crowd at The Bethel Church Sunday evening. On August 28, 1955, Emmett Till was brutally murdered by white men in Mississippi. On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have A Dream Speech” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. On August 28, 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.
“Y’all can guess where we’re going with this, right?” Gillum said.