Opinion: Can Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum Be an Effective Governor?

Mayor Andrew Gillum at his March 11 campaign event. (Photo by Ben Lima/FPR)

On a bright, sunny day in the shadow of the state capital, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum made his way through a crowd of supporters cheering for him and his candidacy for Governor of Florida.

Shaking hands, kissing babies, and greeting everyone he knew with a hug or a handshake, he made his way behind the stage where his wife and young children were waiting for him.

Speakers at the event spoke of Gillum’s long history of bold and youthful leadership. He was first elected to the Tallahassee City Council while he was still a student at Florida A&M University, and even before that that he brought high school leaders from around the state together at student government conferences while at Gainesville High School.

He grew up with a strong family, who worked diligently, for low wages as showcased in a recent campaign video which highlighted his mother, who endured permanent damage to her hands driving buses, so that he and his siblings could grow up to do great with their lives.

Stepping forward to officially launch his gubernatorial campaign, he put forward a message that Floridians have always reacted well to—jobs and wages.

He certainly has the message, leadership abilities, and charisma to win, but I am cautioned to say that he has the experience to do the job.

He is the mayor of the state capital, but he does not run the day-to-day operations of the city, which are left to the city manager.

If elected, he would be elevated to be the state’s highest office without having the experience of being elected to any other true position of state leadership. He has had one run in with the National Rifle Association (NRA) over not allowing the discharge of firearms in city parks, but has had no other real experience with state issues.

Without being the day-to-day manager at any level of government or having previously served in a major legislative body, he would be working in a whole new level.

If successful in the primary election he will face the presumptive Republican nominee, the young and charismatic Adam Putnam, who has statewide name recognition because of his two-term stint as the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture.

The mayor stated in a speech in Sarasota County last week that he is counting on minority communities such as Sarasota’s own to propel him to the governor’s mansion. This could prove to be a real possibility.

Reaching all the way back to Florida’s first military general, Andrew Jackson, and first Governor, William Pope Duval the state has never elected a woman or an African American to the Sunshine State’s highest office.

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham is another potential Democratic contender who will likely strive to reach the governor’s mansion with the help of women. Graham, the daughter of former Florida Governor Bob Graham, is set to become the establishment-type candidate who will attempt to draw support from those who voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This revelation came about because Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced will not be running for the Democratic nomination.

Mayor Gillum needs Orlando attorney and activist John Morgan to stay out of the race to have the most-clear path to victory. He also needs a new competitive contender to challenge Graham, so he can capitalize on their infighting.

Gillum has a far-left platform that could be compared to the presidential platform of Sen. Bernie Sanders; however, Morgan would likely have support from many social justice voters who supported the senator for president. This comes from his push in the last two election cycles to have medical marijuana legalized in Florida.

So far, Gillum is doing everything necessary to win.  He has little name recognition, so starting his campaign this early to build his network is crucial. He has done a couple speeches around the state. He has already started recruiting volunteers to knock on doors.

He is certainly a better fit to do the job than any Republican in the field including Florida Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran who wants to reduce funding to universities. The more likely nominee for the Republican Party is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who only cares about the environment when it favors him politically. I will be for the Democratic nominee, but I would rather have the best we can get, and I do not think Gillum is that.

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