Florida’s first Black nominee for governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, tapped a white running mate who brings a surprising asset to the ticket: the support of Black leaders in a key region of the state.
Gillum announced Thursday morning that he selected Orlando-area businessman Chris King to run as his lieutenant governor in the November general election.
“We leaned into choosing an individual who has the ability to be governor of the state of Florida,” Gillum said of his former rival for the Democratic nomination in a Facebook announcement.
Many Black leaders in Central Florida had no relationship with Gillum, some members of the African-American activist community in Orlando told the Orlando Sentinel during the primary season.
“There’s still a lot of people who don’t really know him. That’s one of my problems. He needs to be known in the community. They hear him, but really don’t hear about him. So we have to do something so people really know who he is and what he stands for,” said David Rucker, a former Orange County NAACP president.
On the other hand, many of those leaders in Central Florida know King quite well. He’s the founder of Elevation Financial Group, located in an Orlando suburb. King, who had never competed for political office before, made the rounds to Black churches for a year before the August primary.
“That has probably been something that allowed me to build such a healthy relationship across the state with African American churches,” 39-year-old King told the Sentinel.
That effort helped King, who studied religion at Harvard University, to win the endorsements of Eatonville Mayor Eddie Cole and Bishop Allen T.D. Wiggins of Hope Church of Orlando.
For the primary race, King chose African-American businessman Harold Mills as his state chair. Mills said he agreed to join the campaign because King has been out front on issues important to the Black community, such as affordable housing, criminal justice reform and raising the minimum wage.