Florida Democrats desperately need a Marco Rubio of their own, and 31-year-old Andrew Gillum, a commissioner for the City of Tallahassee may be the answer. He's not running for statewide elected office (yet, anyway), but has entered the race to replace Karen Thurman as the chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Can he bring the change that party so desperately needs?
The Florida Democratic Party faced disastrous election results earlier this month with Republicans gaining veto-proof majorities in both state houses and winning every competitive House seat and every state-wide race. Thurman resigned, and now the party finds itself without anything resembling a leader.
Rod Smith is currently the odds-on favorite to be elected as the new chair. Though he recently came up short in his bid to run for Lt. Gov. with Alex Sink and lost his own gubernatorial bid in 2006 against Charlie Crist. He already believes his appointment is a done deal.
Enter Gillum. Reports The Buzz:
Gillum began the campaign yesterday and has been calling Democratic committee members, party fundraisers and union leaders, pitching himself as a fresh alternative but also one with experience with state and national politics. "Our party has to pivot toward the future," he told the Buzz.
He was careful to praise Smith, who was Alex Sink's running mate in her unsuccessful bid for governor. But in selling himself as an energetic, new face, the implication is Smith represents the past. "This last beating really hurt us and at the end of the day, I have to believe Florida Democrats want to win elections," Gillum said. "We have to put in the infrastructure to make that happen."
Gillum was the youngest person to be elected to Tallahassee's city commission in history at the age of 23. He was previously the student body president of Florida A&M University and twice came into direct conflict with then-Governor Jeb Bush. Gillum has already been highlighted as a rising star in the national party, and is National Director of the Young Elected Officials Network with People For the American Way Foundation.
At a time when Florida Democrats desperately need a face to represent them in the media, Gillum is a naturally gifted speaker with strong ideals. Check out his address to the People For the American Way's 25th anniversary gala back in 2006.
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Gillum might come up short in his bid, but Smith, if successful, should make it a top priority to identifying and support young leaders like Gillum. Keep an eye on this guy. He's going somewhere.