Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum announced on Thursday he selected his former opponent Chris King to be his running mate for the November election.
King, an Orlando-based businessman, lost the nomination for governor, getting only 2.5 percent of the vote in the state’s August primary. Now King will return to the campaign trail as a candidate for lieutenant governor. If the pair wins, Gillum will be the state’s first black governor.
Gillum and King announced their bid alongside their wives in a campaign video on Facebook.
“This is not a political marriage. This is not a marriage of convenience,” King says in the video. “I developed a friendship with Andrew Gillum over 18 months as we were competing, as I was trying to beat him and running for governor. But in trying to beat him — he beat me pretty badly — I came to care for him, and I came to admire him.”
Chris King is a Florida native who earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and studied law at the University of Florida. He married his high school sweetheart, now Kristen King, and they have three children together.
Chris King co-founded the Elevation Financial Group in 2006, a private equity firm working in the creation of affordable housing, based in a suburb outside Orlando.
Through his company, he took on a number of philanthropic roles. He served as chairman of the company’s charitable foundation and created the Elevation Scholars Program, a scholarship program for students from Title I high schools.
His father, David King, was the lawyer who represented the Florida League of Women Voters in 2015 after the group claimed lawmakers violated the Fair Districts law, a state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2010 that banned gerrymandered congressional districts.
King described himself as “a progressive entrepreneur.” He told The Tampa Bay Times in June 2017 that he aims to help jump-start small businesses in the state, expand access to health care and create job-training programs with community colleges.
“I want to change the way Florida looks and feels,” he told the Times last year. “I want four years to shoot for the stars. I want this to be a transformative period for Florida. I want to be someone people say has the DNA to do big things. To me, that’s the only way the sacrifice of this makes sense.”
Gillum, currently the mayor of Tallahassee, said in his announcement Thursday that he sought a lieutenant governor who could be a partner in “helping to run this state.”
The two men seemed to build mutual respect even as they went head to head on the campaign trail over the last year. King defended Gillum during a public debate in June after the debate moderator asked Gillum whether he had too much “baggage” to run in a general election because of an ongoing FBI investigation into Tallahassee’s government. Gillum is not the subject of the corruption probe and said he has cooperated fully with the investigators.
“I have gotten to know Andrew Gillum over the last year pretty well,” King said at the debate. “I’ve probably spent more time with Andrew than my wife. And I can tell you, Andrew is a good and noble public servant.”
And after being defeated in the primary, King supported Gillum at an Orlando rally on Friday. King told the crowd that the nominee was the “talent that our party has waited for for so long.”
“When you’re running for governor, they tell you you have to have a lot of money and a lot of TV ads,” King said. “Well, Andrew Gillum didn’t have as much money as some of the other candidates in this race, and he wasn’t on television very much. But he showed that you can, without those things, win the hearts and souls of Florida.”
Gillum and King will face off in November against Rep. Ron DeSantis (R), who chose state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez as his running mate. She is a two-term state legislator representing Miami and the first Cuban-American woman to be chosen as a candidate for lieutenant governor in the state.
DeSantis has already caught backlash in the race for making racist dog-whistle comments about Gillum on Fox News the day after the primary.
“The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state,” DeSantis said on the network on Aug. 29.