As the 2018 midterm elections draw nearer, many have wondered how the Democratic party will address the rise of pro-Trump Republicans. And so far, primary races seem to suggest that the time has come for progressive candidates to shine. With the nominations of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and now Andrew Gillum in Florida, change could be in store for the Democratic party.
The New York Times reports that last night, August 28th, Gillum became the Democratic nominee for Florida governor in a surprise victory, defeating former congresswoman and expected winner, Gwen Graham. Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, won the primary with 34% of the vote, edging out Graham, who finished with 31%. In total, he defeated six opponents, three of whom outspent him on the campaign trail.
The Orlando Sentinel notes that the 39-year-old is the first black, major-party candidate for governor in Florida history. He will go on to face Republican Ron DeSantis, who has been endorsed by President Donald Trump, in the November general election. After his primary win, Gillum issued the following statement on Twitter:
Gillum ran on a progressive platform, pledging his support for Medicare for all, legal marijuana, debt-free college, and bail reform. According to the Miami Herald, he was endorsed by former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, along with actors and activists Norman Lear and Jane Fonda.
Gillum’s nomination marks a big change for Florida, a heavily red state where Democrats have often relied on more moderate candidates. But the Herald notes that in the past five gubernatorial elections, these centrist candidates have lost. By defeating the more moderate Graham, Gillum has demonstrated that perhaps Florida is ready for an outspoken progressive candidate.
Florida isn’t the only state experiencing this kind of reckoning. In Georgia, Sanders-endorsed Democrat Stacey Abrams—who could become America’s first black female governor—is also running against a Trump-backed Republican.
One thing’s for sure: There’s a lot on the line in the upcoming November midterms, so make your voice heard.