Last Tuesday, Florida Democrats voted up what could be the most interesting slate of candidates it has fielded in the modern era.
For Attorney General, Sean Shaw, a state representative from the Tampa area whose dad was once on the Florida Supreme Court. If you’re looking for an alternative to Pam Bondi and her political progeny, Judge Ashley Moody, Shaw offers it.
For Agriculture Commissioner, Nikki Fried, a cannabis industry lobbyist who, as I wrote here the other week, has a future beyond this race.
I interviewed Fried a few weeks back, and her understanding of the cannabis industry and the Ag Commissioner’s potential role in destigmatizing adult-use product was obvious. She also represents a sharp break from the Adam Putnam era when it comes to the consumer services part of the job.
Jeremy Ring, a former South Florida state senator running for Chief Financial Officer, is blunt and understands that Florida needs to create jobs that pay a living wage. He represents a drastic difference with incumbent Rick Scott appointee Jimmy Patronis.
All strong candidates. All of them addressing the issues our readers face in a state where you can work 60 hours a week but still be behind, a state with a robust carceral industry apparatus, and where all the talk is freedom but, beyond gun rights, there isn’t all that much of it.
And then there’s Andrew Gillum.
The thing about the Gillum campaign was that for months and months it didn’t seem exactly viable. TV wasn’t covering him, the establishment pols weren’t endorsing, and he’d tend to give variants of the same aspirational speech.
I noticed a real change a week before the primary, when he spoke to a packed house at 1904 Music Hall. His bus pulled up late (he had been meeting with preachers at a previous stop).
Candidates love these bus tours. That stop was the only one I saw this cycle where the candidate couldn’t get off his bus before being greeted by people who weren’t just leaning toward voting for him, they loved him.
That love heated up an already August-hot 1904. Onstage, he looked like a headliner as much as a politician: a commanding presence, because he knew his crowd was feeling him in the homestretch.
“I walk it like I talk it,” Gillum said (quoting Migos). “Some of my opponents don’t.”
It felt like a winning campaign.
Gillum going over made Republicans smile (our own mayor tweeted out a smiley face). But his formula was a simple one. He knew that if he could solve the money problem (which left-wing billionaires Tom Steyer and George Soros did), he could reach “unlikely voters.”
The guy in the White House did that in 2016, but a much different subset thereof.
Democrats offer a choice, not an echo, this time out. And a big part of that is outside groups taking a Democratic Party ravaged by infighting and unifying it behind the best personal communicator I’ve ever seen in politics.
Locally, Gillum cleaned up—over 50 percent, despite Graham and Levine both playing hard here. Those “unlikely voters” are now likely. They want to see weed legalized. They want to protect women’s rights and restore civil rights to those divested of them by the leviathan carceral state. They want to have laws that are tailored more to their street than Adams Street.
Can Gillum win? There’s a lot of ball to play, including what could be an FBI October Surprise in the Tallahassee City Hall investigation (a flurry of alleged influence-peddling that thus far hasn’t seen Gillum named as a target). Trouble for GOP is that the president has clowned the FBI and Justice Department for years, and well, that impeaches their credibility just a bit.
But even if Gillum doesn’t win, his ideas will. If DeSantis goes over, do you imagine these newly-energized left-wing troops are going away? No, they will redouble efforts just in time for city elections. And they don’t care much what the donors have to say about it.
Our pols don’t know what to do with the energy. They shut down City Council public comment last week, a protest after a floor vote to allow speakers to question individual councilors went down, as those bills Garrett Dennis and Anna Brosche push always seem to do.
There is a yawning gap between the vision of the billionaires and the people who live here in the half of the city that looks like everything was built 50 years ago and left in ‘set it and forget it’ mode since.
“Let the people speak”: that was the Christian Right’s rallying cry when they wanted a referendum on HRO expansion.
That call is back. It won’t go away until it is heeded, and that means we’re going to hear it for the next few elections—at least.