Andrew Gillum, a liberal activist and the mayor of Tallahassee, has won the Democratic party’s nominee for governor of Florida in a historic upset Tuesday evening. Gillum is the first black nominee for Florida governor from either major party, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Gillum ran a similar campaign to that of Bernie Sanders, emphasizing big, progressive policy programs with the goal of helping improve the lives of the working and middle classes. He won out over Gwen Graham, a former member of Congress, the daughter of a former governor and senator, and the presumed Democratic frontrunner, Vox reports.
Here’s what you need to know about Gillum:
1. Gillum Was The First of His Family to Graduate High School & College Before Becoming the Mayor of Tallahassee
According to his campaign bio, Gillum was born in Miami, the fifth of seven children. He told the New Yorker that he grew up poor; at campaign events, he often introduced himself by saying he was “the only non-millionaire in the race.”
His mother drove school buses and his father was a construction laborer. He was the first in his family to graduate high school and college, before becoming the youngest person in history elected to the Tallahassee City Commission.
He eventually went on to become mayor of Tallahassee when he was 35-years-old, and has a “proud record of 15 years in public service.” Gillum often uses his rise in life to emphasize that Florida used to be a much more progressive state, and that the recent conservative regime wasn’t always in place.
“We’ve got to reinfuse into our public education what used to exist there,” he said.
2. Gillum is Known as an Outspoken, Charismatic Progressive & Was Endorsed By Bernie Sanders Earlier This Month
Supporters of Gillum were hopeful that his “outspoken progressive views and charismatic speaking style” would excite the Democratic Party base, and they were right. Gillum, 39, won against Graham, a former congresswoman whose father, Bob Graham, represented Florida in the U.S. Senate for eighteen years.
The Florida primaries were considered one of the “most competitive races of the 2018 midterm cycle,” and Gillum’s big win was a major upset to a heated race. Gillum will face off against a staunch political ally of Donald Trump, Rep. Ron DeSantis.
According to Buzz Feed News, Gillum owes his win to a coalition of black voters, young voters, Hispanic voters and white progressives – specifically, the same groups of people that helped Obama get re-elected in 2012. Fans of Bernie Sanders also turned out to vote for Gillum, with Sanders endorsing him earlier this month.
“Today is a historic day not just for Democrats but for every Floridian,” the Florida Democrats said in a statement on Tuesday night. “We have an opportunity to elect a leader who truly represents the best of Florida. Someone who can go through incredible odds and come out victorious. I’m proud to join my fellow Democrats to rally around Andrew Gillum for governor of Florida. This November, we have a chance to finally move this state in the right direction. It’s going to take all of us — Democrats, Republicans, and independents. If tonight is any indication of what’s to come, it’s that we’re ready to transform Florida.”
3. He Emphasized His Progressive Plans for Florida While Campaigning, Including Standing up to The President to Protect Immigrants & Push For Gun Reform
As Governor, Gillum plans to rebuild Florida into a state that “works for all of us,” according to his campaign bio. He emphasizes the need for better-paying jobs to help the working class support their families, and wants to expand and protect Florida citizens access to affordable healthcare.
“As Governor, he will fight against the special interests that are standing in the way of taking real action on climate change, and he will always ensure Florida is a welcoming and safe place for everyone, no matter where they come from, who they love or how they identify,” his bio reads.
He plans to strengthen the public school system, end high-stakes testing, and help develop a “thriving, innovation economy.” He strongly emphasizes beating the gun lobby, pushing for gun reform, and protecting immigrants. His bio states that he plans to “stand up to President Trump and Governor Rick Scott” on immigration issues.
While Gillum was mayor of Tallahassee, he advanced workforce training programs, lowered the violent crime rate in the city by more than 8 percent, and increased investments in law enforcement and community policing. He also worked to expand social service funding.
4. Gillum Was Criticized For an Email Scandal Early in His Campaign & Again For Posting a Picture of His Ballot After Voting Tuesday Afternoon
Gillum was in hot water earlier in the day after he posted a picture of his ballot, which is strictly against Florida law. Posting a picture on Twitter and Facebook of his ballot next to a smiling picture of a young boy, he proudly announced that he voted for himself.
“I voted for the boy, who would one day become a man, a husband, father and mayor,” Gillum wrote in a Facebook post. “Today I voted for me. The next governor of the state of Florida.”
Florida Statute 012.031(5) says, “No photography is permitted in the polling place or early voting area.” The statute does not explicitly describe a penalty. Another statute, 104.20, makes it a first-degree misdemeanor for anyone who “allows his or her ballot to be seen by any person.”
Gillum was also scrutinized for an email scandal back in August of 2017, after he was caught using a city-purchased email system that sent out campaign-related emails, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Gillum was cleared of any wrongdoing related to the scandal, but it was brought up several times by his opponents.
5. Gillum’s Wife Describes Him as a Great Dad & an Excellent Dancer
Gillum is married to R. Jai Gillum, whom he met while participating in student government at Florida A&M in his college years.
According to Tallahassee Magazine, his wife is currently an executive director of United Way of the Big Bend’s The BEST Project, which “helps people achieve long-term financial stability and quality of life through services such as tax preparation help.”
R. Jai Gillum describes her husband as a “great dad and dancer.” When asked about her husband’s role as a father, R. Jai Gillum stated, “Andrew is a really great dad, he’s making sure that this campaign doesn’t affect our family time and our family life.”
The couple have three children together and live in Tallahassee.