Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum brought his campaign to Pensacola on Wednesday, making two stops to enthusiastic crowds. After a morning rally at St. John the Divine Church downtown, he appeared at midday at Arlene Williams BBQ on Mobile Highway. That’s where WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody caught up with him.
The air at a vacant lot beside the restaurant was filled with music and smoke from the barbecue pits. While awaiting the Mayor of Tallahassee, the crowd that filled the lot heard from local Democratic candidates whose messages were pretty much the same: get out the vote for both Gillum, and for themselves.
Gillum’s campaign bus pulled into the parking lot about 45 minutes late, but that didn’t matter to the cheering throng. During his ten minute address, Gillum said he came to staunchly-Republican Pensacola, because there are voters here which he believes he can win over. But he told the supporters that there’s still work to be done, with the election six days away.
“But in order for us to do that, ya’ll, we’ve got to get out there and vote like our lives depend in it,” said Gillum. “We’ve got to get out there and organize our neighbors; our friends, our co-workers. Everybody who we can touch, we’ve got to move to the polls.”
The candidate also trotted out some of the bedrock issues of the 2018 governor’s race in Florida – expanding healthcare and beefing up the economy. Gillum said those are part of what’s at stake on November 6th.
“That we’re fighting against the politics that says, that the only way you can prevail, the only way you can win is by stepping on your neighbor’s shoulders and on their success,” Gillum told the gathering. “Pulling you down in order for you to get up. Well, guess what, ya’ll, I reject that brand of politics.”
“It’s nice to see this many people come out and support Andrew, because I’m a graduate of Florida A&M University, and so is he. We both are Rattlers,” said retired educator Winfred Lewis, who says the Gillum campaign is reminiscent of ten years ago when Barack Obama started his first campaign for President.
“It’s people pulling together for one common cause to make a difference in what’s happening,” Lewis said. “There’s going to be a Gillum victory to make the state sane again; that’s like the slogan says.”
After the rally and before boarding his bus, Andrew Gillum told reporters he had gotten suggestions that maybe he shouldn’t come to the Panhandle this close to Election Day.
“I want the people of this community to know that I want to be their governor, too; I want to compete for their votes – they’re Floridians,” Gillum said. “I think if they’re concerned about health care and education, access, criminal justice reform and the like, then I think we have a message for them. And if they give me a shot, I believe I’ll be a good governor for them.”
Another topic is getting the Panhandle locations decimated by Hurricane Michael – which also brought damage to Gillum’s Tallahassee -- back on its feet. He cautions recovery will take some time.
“We encountered the third-most powerful storm in the history of the country on record,” said Gillum. “As the next governor I look forward to helping with the educational, economic, and obviously structural recovery of this region. We’re going to come back; and we’ll come back stronger than ever.”
It stacks up to be a hectic last few days for the men who would be governor. Andrew Gillum rallies with former President Obama in Miami on Friday; while President Trump will campaign on behalf of Republican nominee Ron DeSantis Saturday at Pensacola International Airport.