Former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said Wednesday he will not run for president and is instead launching a huge voter mobilization campaign to help Democrats secure his home state in the 2020 race.
The former mayor of Tallahassee said he plans to register at least a million Florida voters before the 2020 election. Gillum’s supporters registered the voter outreach organization Bring it Home Florida with the state last week, according to Politico. The nonprofit is named after the Democrat’s signature campaign phrase.
“It requires that we get out there, and that we organize, and that we activate and that we produce a voter who is going to show up not just on Election Day, but the day after, they’re gonna be there to hold you accountable,” Gillum said Wednesday night at historically black Florida Memorial University.
Democrats say they have identified millions of Florida residents who are not registered to vote despite being eligible. But Gillum is optimistic about voter engagement, citing Florida’s historic move in November’s election to get rid of a Jim Crow-era policy and restore voting rights to people with felony records.
“Because we turned out and we voted like our lives depended on it, 1.4 million people now have the ability to register to vote here in the state of Florida,” Gillum said. “That is a big deal.”
The voting rights measure went into effect in January, but Florida lawmakers said they need to clarify some ambiguities and want to block people with court debts from voting.
The Florida Democratic Party is also pledging to spend $2 million in the next year to register 200,000 voters ahead of the 2020 primary. Gillum also has nearly $4 million available with his political committee Forward Florida, which is also involved in his voter registration campaign.
“This isn’t the sexy work. I’m sure it’s probably more fun for some of those out there running for president,” Gillum said Wednesday night. “This is the hard work of democracy.”
Gillum was seen as a possible 2020 contender after he lost the bid for Florida governor by less than half a percentage point to Ron DeSantis in November. He spoke to The New Times earlier Wednesday about his decision to organize rather than run for president, unlike 2020 candidate Beto O’Rourke, the Texas Democrat who lost his Senate race in November.
“There’s no doubt that O’Rourke enjoys a set of privileges in his decision-making that other candidates don’t. Can you imagine it for any of the women that are in the race for president or considering a run?” Gillum told the Times. “I think over the course of this race, we will … discover what Beto O’Rourke’s views are. And I think he’ll be measured on that.”
Gillum joins Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the November gubernatorial election in Georgia, in fighting for voting rights. Abrams, whose loss to former Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp coincided with accusations of voter suppression, said she has since started Fair Fight Georgia to promote fair elections and voter participation. Abrams previously founded the New Georgia Project, which has registered over 300,000 black people to vote in the state. She has not announced whether she will run for president.
President Donald Trump narrowly won Florida in 2016, the biggest swing state in the country with 29 Electoral College votes. Trump’s 2020 campaign will have a large presence in Florida, but Gillum said that whoever becomes the Democratic nominee will have a huge chance at winning the presidency if they can turn Florida blue.
“The road to the White House runs through Florida,” he said Wednesday. “We can deny Donald Trump a second term right here in the state of Florida.”
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