Months after garnering national attention with his campaign for governor of Florida, former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum unveiled his next political campaign Wednesday—one focused on his state and the future of the Democratic Party as a whole.
With his "Bring It Home Florida" initiative, Gillum plans to register at least one million voters across his state before the 2020 election, increasing the chances that Democrats will be able to take the White House from President Donald Trump.
"Now, how many states can you say, by themselves, have the ability to deny this man a return to the White House?" —Andrew Gillum, former candidate for Florida governor
Gillum argued that Florida is "uniquely situated" to ensure a decisive victory against Trump, citing the state's 29 electoral votes, 1.4 million former felons who won back their voting rights in a referendum on Amendment 4 last November, and more than four million unregistered but eligible voters.
"Now, how many states can you say, by themselves, have the ability to deny this man a return to the White House?" Gillum asked a crowd in Miami Gardens on Wednesday. "We are uniquely situated to issue that eviction notice."
Recent registration data shows that Democrats may have a greater chance of capturing the state than in 2016. Among other demographic shifts and opportunities, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans now call the state home following the destruction Hurricane Maria wrought in the U.S. territory—and the president's widely-condemned response.
Florida has long been considered a swing state, with electoral votes that have narrowly gone to Republicans in three of the last five elections. Gillum lost his own election last year to Republican Ron DeSantis by 0.4 points.
Such razor-thin margins represent to Gillum a need for Democrats to spend the coming years engage with voters throughout the state on a new level rather than expressing concern for their political priorities only when vying for their votes during a campaign.
"To me, it's absolutely critical, not just to this election cycle but to the future of politics in the state of Florida, to get back into the business of engaging people where they live, talking to them outside the election and being in contact with them," Gillum told the Miami Herald. "So when we do reach out to them for their vote they're not saying, 'It's been a long time and I haven't talked to you. Why should we believe in you?'"
"Republicans have been disciplined in our state in that way now for 24 years," the former mayor told the New York Times. "And now it's time for Democrats to do the same."
By reaching out to voters across the state, Gillum told supporters Wednesday, "we can deny Donald Trump a second term right here in Florida...This is the hard work of democracy."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is running for president in 2020, praised Gillum's plan to change the political landscape in Florida.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) March 21, 2019
Gillum also denounced the Republican-led state House Subommittee on Criminal Justice, which this week passed a measure to undermine Amendment 4—forcing former felons who should now by law be permitted to register to vote to pay court fees before they are eligible.
"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. "So the only thing the Florida legislature needs to do is get out of the way and let Amendment 4 take shape and let us get to the process of registering voters. That is our job. That is our work."