The small, hot room at the SAVE headquarters in Wynwood could barely contain the hundreds of supporters and reporters and dozens of TV cameras Monday afternoon. A sweaty throng waved blue Andrew Gillum signs — including one giant cutout of the Tallahassee mayor's face — as they waited for the Democratic candidate for governor who emerged from last month's surprising primary.
The buzzing rally was a stark contrast to Gillum's last visit to Wynwood less than two months ago, when a Miami artist unveiled a mural of the candidate on NW 24th Street and attracted only a few onlookers. Gillum sat on a curb and chatted with the artist about growing up in Miami as a handful of reporters looked on.
Today's event was a reminder of just how far Gillum has come so fast — from an outsider Democratic hopeful to a nationally heralded progressive.
With only 43 days to go until Florida's general election this November, the Tallahassee mayor has taken an early lead in most recent polls over Republican Ron DeSantis. At SAVE's headquarters, Gillum promised he would deliver the governor's mansion the same way he shocked the field in the primary.
"In 43 days, we are going to send a message all across this country that I believe will reverberate across the 50 states, across the world even, that — you know what? — all hope is not lost," Gillum said as the room broke into applause. "In 43 days, we will send a message to Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump and all the other haters out there that the power of the people is greater than the people in power."
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At the rally, Gillum's message focused on choosing love and unity over division and hate and referenced his track record of supporting LGBTQ rights as the mayor of Tallahassee. He talked about his brother, who came out to his family while growing up and later moved across the country to California to find somewhere he felt accepted.
"We're going to create a state where you can be in your own skin and love who you want to and still feel protected and safe under the law," Gillum said before promising to pass the Competitive Workforce Act, which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment and housing.
Just a few hours before the rally, Gillum tweeted that DeSantis was "unstable and untrustworthy" after the Republican candidate was called out for repeatedly associating with racists and extremists. Following a rally in Sarasota this past Saturday that drew members of the alt-right Proud Boys, DeSantis told reporters Monday: "If I have a crowd of 500 people, how the hell am I supposed to know who's in the crowd?"
Asked about that "unstable" remark by Miami Herald reporter David Smiley after the rally, Gillum said, "I saw Mr. DeSantis come apart. Apparently the heat of this campaign seems to be getting to him, as he's being asked to quite frankly explain why so many people with such hateful sentiments are coming to his support."