Andrew Gillum, the Democrat who narrowly lost his bid for Florida governor last year, said Wednesday he’s getting back in the political arena for 2020.
His mission: Lead an effort to register and engage 1 million new Florida voters. His objective: Help the eventual Democratic nominee evict President Donald Trump from the White House.
“It is so consequential that we get this thing right,” Gillum said at a kickoff rally for the effort at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. “It is consequential not only for the state of Florida, but for the United States of America that Florida deliver like we never have delivered before.”
Gillum acknowledged that the effort might not be as fun as running for president — which he isn’t doing — or getting involved as a campaign volunteer. He sought to motivate interest in the effort by repeatedly invoking Trump.
“What is happening in Washington, D.C., is not normal. There is nothing normal about what we see happening in the White House. He ain’t normal. There’s a lot about him that ain’t normal,” he said.
If Democrats can complete their mission, Gillum said “we can deny Donald Trump a second term right here in the state of Florida.” Florida awards 29 electoral votes, more than 10 percent of the total needed to win the presidency. The message Gillum wants Florida to send is, “Sir, your eviction notice is served and you are out of the White House.”
Gillum’s effort involves a new organization, Bring It Forward, which was his 2018 slogan. It will also involve Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida, which has about $3.9 million.
Also on Wednesday, the Florida Democratic Party announced its own $2 million effort to register 200,000 voters before the 2020 presidential. There is some overlap between the two efforts, said Terrie Rizzo, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party.
“This investment is monumental for the party and is about creating the electorate we want, not the one we have been told we have,” Rizzo said in a written statement. “The Florida Democratic Party has not dedicated enough resources to voter registration in recent years, and we are making it a top priority ahead of 2020.”
The party said the effort would involve technology and data, hiring “dozens” of full-time field organizers across the state, and investing in county Democratic Party organizations.
Gillum said some of the new registrations would come from felons who have finished serving their sentences, who now can register to vote because of an amendment voters added to the state Constitution last year.
He criticized Republican efforts to scale back the impact of the amendment. “I want us to be able to send an unapologetic message to the Legislature to get their hands off Amendment 4,” he said. “It is the law of the land. It is enshrined in the Florida Constitution.”
The kickoff for Gillum’s event, heavily promoted by his 2018 campaign team, attracted a few hundred people to Florida Memorial University. Many came to see Gillum.
He said the 2018 loss was painful. “I gotta be honest. It hurt,” he said.
To many Democrats, Gillum, 39, emerged from the 2018 loss as a superstar. He’s no longer mayor of Tallahassee, but has a gig as a CNN political analyst, helping him stay in the public eye.
His advance publicity on social media for Wednesday’s event ignited a flurry of hope among fans — and scorn among some critics — that the former Tallahassee mayor might announce his own presidential candidacy, something that didn’t happen.
Several Broward activists who attended the event said they’d like to see Gillum run for president — someday.
“He’ll make it one day,” said Myrna Nemzoff of Tamarac. “He’s the greatest.”
Gloria Pierce of Pembroke Pines is a big fan. “I love — love — Andrew Gillum,” she said, adding she’s glad he’s waiting because she doesn’t think the time is right in 2020.
And Mitchell Stollberg of Margate, who leads the Broward chapter of Progressive Democrats of America and is legislative chairman of the state Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus, said he’d like to see Gillum run for governor in 2022, win that job, “then he can run for president.”
Losing a high-profile election isn’t necessarily career ending. Beto O’Rourke, who lost the U.S. Senate race in Texas last year, is running and Stacey Abrams, who lost a race for governor of Georgia, is contemplating a candidacy.
Appearing Friday on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Gillum noted a precedent set by the nation’s 16th president. Abraham Lincoln “lost, went on to become president.”
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