The Democratic nominee for Florida, Governor Andrew Gillum, worked feverishly to energize Black voters to turn out for the state’s primary on Tuesday. And it worked. Indeed, ending Black voter apathy will be a key to victory in the upcoming November general election.
“My hope is that we really wake up to the reality that politics and democracy are not spectator sports. I think people are a lot more awake after the 2016 election,” Gillum told NewsOne on Monday. “If people put respect on their own vote, that will help us to get the numbers we need to win.”
Gillum rode a wave of voter enthusiasm to come from behind in the polls and beat four rivals, making history as Florida’s first Black candidate for governor. Tallahassee’s mayor won 34.3 percent of the vote, edging out former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham by just 3 percent.
Next, he will face the GOP nominee Ron DeSantis, who has the full support of President Donald Trump.
By all accounts, voter turnout easily surpassed the 2.1 million total in the 2014 primary, according to CBS News Miami. Black Twitter showed how well Gillum connected with African Americans.
“I’d have to say that Black voter enthusiasm was off the charts,” Gillum said in a phone conversation at the end of his eight-day campaign bus tour that ended Monday night at his alma mater Florida A&M University.
His Democrat rivals did not seem to care about the Black vote, judging by their failure to appear at an NAACP debate one week before the primary election.
Of course, Gillum has been campaigning hard in other communities throughout Florida. He credited Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders’ endorsement for raising awareness about his candidacy among groups that were not paying attention to his campaign.
At the same time, an army of progressive organizations helped introduce Gillum to a wider field of potential voters.
“Latinos have become very receptive to Andrew Gillum, as they’ve come to know him,” Diallo Brooks, senior director of outreach and public engagement with People For the American Way, told NewsOne.
Looking ahead, Gillum, 39, faces a ferocious battle against his GOP rival for governor. Trump has already launched attacks on Twitter against him.