Andrew Gillum, Burned by the Florida Democratic Party, Moves to Strengthen It

Andrew Gillum and artist Disem.
Andrew Gillum and artist Disem. Photo by Meg O'Connor
Florida's Democratic Party is in deep trouble.

The party that makes up the largest group of Sunshine State voters (37 percent versus 35 percent Republican) didn't get its people to the polls in 2018 and lost a U.S. Senate seat, the governor's chair, and both houses of the state Legislature. Oh, yeah, the Dems' failure also helped Donald Trump win the White House in 2016.

And yesterday Florida legislators moved forward a bill that would limit the number of former felons (mostly Democrats) who can vote, in part by requiring them to repay court fees and fines before registering. Both the ACLU and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hammered the GOP.
Today, though, Andrew Gillum, who lost in the governor's race to an apparently weaker candidate, Ron DeSantis, will announce a new voter effort at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens to solve this problem, Politico's Grey Fineout reports. And Gillum has the muscle to do it: His Forward Florida PAC has $3.9 million in the bank.

Moreover, according to a report this week by political consultant Steve Schale, Democrats had a huge advantage in voters just a few years ago — but that number has fallen by 400,000 in the past decade. He wrote, "And to put that into context: In 2014, Crist lost by about 60,000 votes. In 2016, Clinton lost by just over 100,000 votes. In 2018, Gillum lost by just over 30,000 votes. And Bill Nelson lost by about 10,000 votes. You get the idea. Register. Freaking. Voters."

Gillum is expected to work with Bring It Home Florida, which his supporters recently signed up with the state election division overseeing third-party voter registration organizations.

So the former Tallahassee mayor's campaign might be the most important thing to happen in state politics this year — or maybe second to approving smokable medical marijuana, which DeSantis accomplished Monday in a move that could win him and his Republican Party more independent support.

Update: Gillum pledged to do whatever it takes to win in his speech at Florida Memorial.  "We are going to commit ourselves to registering and engaging one million voters between now and 2020's presidential election," Gillum told a crowd in Miami. "The road to the White House runs through Florida. We can deny Donald Trump a second term right here in the state of Florida."
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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse