Florida Democrats Kick Off Election Race in Orlando

What to Know

  • Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson are headlining Friday's rally at a union hall in Orlando.
  • Gillum's matchup against the Republican nominee, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, and Nelson's against Gov. Rick Scott are two of the most watched.

Led by a young progressive and an establishment moderate running in two of the nation's marquee races, Florida Democrats on Friday promised to offer a message of unity, inclusiveness, hope and diversity during the next two months of campaigning toward November's general election.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, the 39-year-old mayor of Tallahassee who is aiming to be Florida's first African-American governor, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who has spent four decades in public office, headlined the Democratic kick-off rally for the general election with promises to turn the nation's biggest swing state blue during the midterm elections.

"Not one of us can sleep on this election," Gillum told several hundred supporters crammed into a steamy union hall in Orlando. "We are going to organize like we've never organized before ... because there may be some areas of this state that we may not win but we can lose them less."

Also attending the rally in their first joint appearance since Gillum's surprise victory on Tuesday were three of Gillum's opponents for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination — former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine and businessman Chris King — as well as the Democratic nominees for attorney general, agricultural commissioner and chief financial officer.

"This race is going to be about inclusion as opposed to exclusion," Levine said.

Traveling the state during the primary race, Gillum said Floridians of all political stripes wanted the same things: a living wage, and access to affordable health care. He promised to expand Medicaid, improve Florida's environmental protection and increase public school teachers' salaries.

Gillum's matchup against the Republican nominee, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, and Nelson's race against Republican Gov. Rick Scott are two of the most-watched races in the midterm elections.

"On Nov. 6, you know what we are going to be singing? 'Happy Days Are Here Again!'" Nelson said.

DeSantis won the Republican gubernatorial nomination with help from President Trump's endorsement. DeSantis was criticized on Wednesday for saying in a television interview about Gillum, "the last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting this state." Democrats decried DeSantis' comment as racist.

In a statement, Florida GOP chairman Blaise Ingoglia continued the Republican strategy of labelling Gillum a socialist.

"Andrew Gillum is the darling of the liberal media right now having not been exposed during his primary." Ingoglia said. "He is the flavor of the day and that flavor is going to sour very soon."

Gillum promised Democrats would turn out one of the most diverse and inclusive group of voters that Florida has ever seen.

"Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis want to run us in the other direction," Gillum said. "They have made very clear their politics of division and derision and separation ... Florida is going to show not only the rest of this state but the rest of this world that there are more of us than there are of them."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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