Like many Floridians, my wife R. Jai and I owe a mortgage on our home -- and as I’ve been saying for months, my life experience is much more like everyday Floridians than any of my opponents.
Which makes the recent POLITICO story that I need to file some changes to my financial disclosure forms all the more telling. I accidentally put the wrong mortgage down on my forms in the yearly rush to get them filed -- and that’s exactly why a process exists for elected officials to amend their forms.
In 2018, it says a lot that I’m spending time talking about my mortgage, and that we’re not talking about big issues facing our state like our health crisis, our underpaid public school teachers and staff, and our gun violence epidemic.
My wife and I are lucky to be on our second home as a family -- because that’s not at all how I grew up.
As a kid, my family moved around to different homes, from Richmond Heights, a neighborhood in South Miami-Dade, to several homes and apartments in Gainesville. We would find ourselves staying with family members sometimes as well.
My parents are the two hardest-working people I know. My mother was a bus driver and during the summer she worked as a presser in a dry cleaners. She still has residual soreness and injuries from both of those jobs. My father was a construction worker, which meant he worked on a job site when there were jobs available, and when there weren't, he would sell fruits, vegetables or flowers around the community.
My story isn’t uncommon in Florida, or even this country. But it is for a Democratic candidate for governor. So my wife R. Jai and I are exceedingly proud of our journey to home ownership. It hasn’t been perfect, and like many people, we had to take a portion of the equity in our first home to finance the purchase of our second (and only) home.
But sadly for millions of Floridians, the path to home ownership is a treacherous one. The Great Recession crippled our state’s homeowners. According to the University of Florida, we went from a record high home-ownership rate of 72.4 percent in 2006, to a new low of 64.4 percent in 2016.
And today nearly half our households say they struggle to make ends meet. A national watchdog just said that Florida is the ninth-worst place for low-income people in America. Just last year, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran tried to cut food assistance for 229,000 of our friends and neighbors.
So when we say it is harder and harder for everyday, working-class people to get by in this state, we mean it. It’s part of how I grew up, and it’s the kind of cycle I’m trying to break as our next governor.
I don’t have a famous last name, and I can’t stroke my own check to help us win this race. But what I do have is a mother who gives my campaign a few dollars each month and a lifetime of lessons. I carry with me all the memories of the homes we lived in, and dreams for the next one, too.
The Governor’s Mansion.
Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, is a 2018 Democratic candidate for governor.
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