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Gillum Brings Gubernatorial Bid To Pensacola

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Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum brought his gubernatorial campaign to Pensacola recently. 

Gillum, 38, is seeking the Democratic nomination to succeed Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is termed out in 2018. He says serving three years as mayor and 12 on the Tallahassee City Commission has given him a front-row seat at what’s been happening at the Capitol.

“I can’t disagree more with what I’ve seen by way of the privatizing of our public education system,” said Gillum. “[And] our lack of leadership, in my opinion, in creating the kind of higher-paying jobs I think we need to be recruiting to the state of Florida.”

After watching Scott in the governor’s chair for what will be eight years, Gillum says there are some areas in which he would have offered different approaches.

“I would have expanded Medicaid in this state to provide one and a half million of the most medically-needy people in this state access to health care,” Gillum says. “I would have been a governor who would have appointed a statewide commission to deal with climate change; I’m a big fan of solar energy, which are jobs that you don’t ship overseas.”

Narrowing down the scope, Gillum was asked about the issues facing northwest Florida, in which he includes Tallahassee.

“You all are well-known for the role that the military plays in creating economic development,” said Gillum. “I think we’re going to have to think about: what are the new industries that we’re going to be able to lean into?”

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Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Andrew Gillum, Tallahassee Mayor/Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Part of that strategy, he says, is helping equip people with the needed skills to take advantage of existing and future technology jobs.

“And I’m not talking about jobs were you’re sitting in a corner creating code,” Gillum says. “I’m talking about some of these jobs where you’re working in a factory where you’re producing the component pieces of an important new piece of technology.”

Gillum announced his candidacy in March, the first Democrat to do so. Two months later, he got some company, former congresswoman Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Florida governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham.

One of the obstacles on the campaign trail for Gillum could be an FBI investigation into Tallahassee city government, in which the feds say he’s not involved. But there’s also criticism of Gillum’s recent trip to New York – including a boat ride with an undercover FBI agent.

“I look forward through this process that I’ve done nothing inappropriate, nothing illegal, nothing untoward,” said Gillum. “I have not been an elected official in [Tallahassee] by doing wrong; by making bad decisions, by acting contrary to the public trust.”

Regardless of Gillum’s involvement, or non-involvement, in those issues it’s almost positive he’ll be reminded of them on the campaign trail, according to Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida.

“Anything anybody does is going to be used for or against them in a campaign; that’s the nature of technology being able to retrieve anything in a heartbeat,” says MacManus. “And secondly, being able to put anything to an ad in a heartbeat.”

The issues in the upcoming governor’s race are complex – health care, education, the economy, crime, drugs, homeland security – the list goes on and on. Those seeking the office face a massive amount of legwork to accomplish their main goal: getting enough votes in November, 2018 to be sworn into that office in 2019.