Andrew Gillum brought healthy doses of his charisma, bankroll, and grit to Tampa on Thursday in an effort to rally Democrats for the 2020 election and beyond.
The main photo op for the local press was his presenting a large facsimile of a $100,000 check to Florida Democratic Party chairperson Terrie Rizzo. The dough, according to Rizzo, will be used to register and energize Democratic voters to “turn Florida blue.”
Gillum’s presence on a steamy day brought Hillsborough County progressives, party operatives, state Sen. Darryl Rouson, state Rep. Fentrice Driskell, and county Democratic chairperson Ione Townsend to the Marshall Amphitheatre at the University of South Florida.
Most importantly for Gillum and his cause, the press showed up in droves -- cameras, notepads and all.
Gillum, who stormed through a crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2018 only to lose to Ron DeSantis by a tad more than 30,000 votes in the general election, took the opportunity to chastise the Florida Legislature.
“The voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 4 (65 percent), giving felons the right to register and vote. The amendment got more votes than myself or Gov. DeSantis,” Gillum noted. “Republicans, Democrats, and NPAs supported it.”
The Republican-dominated Legislature during the 2019 session passed a bill requiring people with felony records to pay all court costs and fees before they can vote. Approximately 1.4 million felons in Florida are now eligible to vote, but many would be blocked from doing so by what Democrats characterize as a ”poll tax.”
DeSantis has given every indication he will sign the bill.
Gillum, considered a rising star by Democrats nationally as well as statewide, shrewdly remains in the public eye while solidifying relations with the state party. No one doubts there is a high profile political race in his future.
Asked by Tampa Bay Beat about a “next time,” Gillum demurred, asserting he is laser-focused on recruiting, registering, and motivating Democratic voters for next year and beyond.
The former Tallahassee mayor is saying all the right words and acting like a candidate. Andrew Gillum is the running man.
Jim Bleyer, a former reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, writes the Tampa Bay Beat blog.