By Jim Bleyer
An already energized throng of more than 500 Hillsborough County Democrats, anticipating that the much hyped Blue Wave will wash over Florida in November, saved most of its enthusiasm and cheering Saturday night for gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.
All four primary candidates spoke for only a few minutes each but it was the mayor of Tallahassee that touched all the bases and fired up the party faithful. Using passion and decibel levels as yardsticks, Gillum won the evening.
He noted his successful court fights against the National Rifle Association in advocating for stricter gun laws, reiterated his commitment to bolstering public education by a $1 billion annually, championed a high speed rail system that would link major cities, and vowed to protect the environment.
Those policies would make Florida a more desirable location for entrepreneurs and major companies looking to relocate or expand.
Gillum reminded the audience that a coalition of Latinos, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and mainstream Democrats would be vital to winning the governor’s mansion in 2018. There hasn’t been a Democratic governor in Florida for 20 years.
Former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine, who once contemplated running as a Republican or Independent, said the next governor must meet the challenge of rising sea levels.
Entrepreneur Chris King observed that his progressive views have been consistent and unwavering. King, of Orlando, has never held public office.
Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who voted with the Republicans 38 percent of the time during a two-year stint in the U.S. House, told the audience that electing a female governor is long overdue in Florida.
The annual affair, known as the “Spring Fling,” smashed attendance records. The room was filled with candidates for school board, county commission, mayor of Tampa, Tampa City Council, the state legislature, and Congress.