By Roger Caldwell
NNPA Newswire Contributor
Many political experts and pundits will admit that their polls were wrong, when they discuss which Democratic candidate would win the Florida governor’s primary election. When a candidate like Jeff Greene comes into a campaign and spends $34 million, and Philip Levine spends $28 million, you must begin to ask the question, “Is politics a game only rich men play?”
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Black man saw the Florida primary election from a different lens and surprised everyone with a historic victory. Black men and women don’t like to talk about the special sauce, which is given to them from their ancestors, but the mayor’s gift was on display in the election. During the race, Gillum was invisible, his campaign started with very little money, and many pundits expected him to drop out of the primary.
Many will suggest that the mayor’s oratorical skills reminded Florida Democrats of President Obama’s speeches, but still many thought his campaign was not very significant. Historically, Democratic primaries were about only older voters and women, but in 2018 the younger voters stood up and showed out.
From the very beginning of this race, the Gillum camp knew that three middle of the road Democrats would split the base vote, and a progressive and diverse candidate could pull off an upset. When Jeff Greene entered the race late, he improved Gillum’s chances to win the primary, by splitting up the wealthy older Jewish Democratic vote even more. Gillum’s campaign stayed under the radar, but he kept his eye on the prize.
Many political experts are now saying that the young vote in Florida from age 18 to 30 increased after the Parkland High school shooting by over sixty percent this year, after registering new voters. Early in the election Gillum did college tours and continued to utilize progressive young organizations to get the vote out. The final 12 weeks is when Gillum made his move after millions were donated by organizations, celebrities, Senator Bernie Sanders campaigning with Gillum, and an infusion of cash from billionaires Tom Steyer, George Soros and a super PAC.
The fight for the soul of the Democratic Party starts with the unification, mobilization, and organization of the base. Gillum is a bold powerful voice for change, and the question is, “Will the Florida Democratic Party get behind this progressive candidate 150%?”
With Gillum being 39, it is very easy for the older Democrats to say they want fresh ideas, but the test is for them to support a young progressive Black man. Across the state diversity is winning and more women, African Americans, and Hispanics are winning their primary race. Now that these candidates are winning, “Is the Florida Democratic Party all in?”