Gillum capitalizes on ‘Manatee Momentum’ in Bradenton stop
It would’ve been easy for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to miss sight of 8-year-old Kenneth Smith in a crowd of nearly 300 people gathered to hear him give a campaign speech Saturday morning.
Kenneth’s grandmother, Jean Moreland lives in Palmetto. She said her grandson was “adamant” about being able to see Gillum, who he looks up to as a role model, speak at the event. Moreland picked Kenneth up from his parent’s house in Tampa so he could attend.
“He’s a Democrat and a black man and a good leader,” Kenneth said, adding that his No. 1 goal was to snag a picture with the gubernatorial candidate.
And that’s what happened. As soon as Gillum wrapped up his speech, he turned to his right and posed for a photo alongside Kenneth and Moreland. Saturday’s stop outside of the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office was part of the Gillum campaign’s final
Bring It Home Bus Tour, he said.
“It has been an amazing couple of days as we have now kicked off our final, final bus tour as we fight every single day to bring it home on Nov. 6,” Gillum announced on the podium. “I don’t know about y’all but I honestly feel like we’ve got winning blood flowing through our veins.”
Recent polls have shown Gillum with a notable lead over his Republican opponent, former Congressman Ron DeSantis, who also spent Saturday campaigning in the Tampa
Bay area, with an appear- ance in Pinellas County. Gillum, however, accused his opponent and other Republicans of running a dirty campaign.
“They’re here to motivate their voters and they’re using the dirtiest and the darkest part of politics that we see out there — fear tactics, lying, they have no relationship with the truth and they’re not interested in the relationship with the truth,” Gillum claimed. “They’re here to say that that guy is so scary, he’s so not like us, that your way of life is going to come to an end. They have not learned the lesson that that kind of rhetoric is dangerous.”
In a recent debates, the two candidates went back and forth over racial issues linked to DeSantis and Gillum’s acceptance of tickets to see “Hamilton” from an undercover FBI agent. While Gillum didn’t mention that scandal, the 39-year-old did expound on his progressive platform.
Gillum told voters he wants to expand Florida’s Medicaid program, increase wages for teachers and hold corporations that pollute Florida’s waterways accountable. It all comes down to getting to the polls on Nov. 6, he said.
“You’ve got a motivated group of people out there who want to vote, they want to help, they want to win, and I join them in that mission,” Gillum said in an interview following his speech.
As he was introduced to the podium, Sheryl Wilson, chairwoman of the Manatee Democratic Party, said Gillum was working with “Manatee Momentum.” Gillum attributed that momentum to a message that he believes resonates with voters.
“I think we’ve got to fight clean. We have to give our voters something to fight for, not against,” he said. “The reason why they’re fighting dirty is because they don’t have a vision for the future of the state. We do, and we believe that vision is what’s going to drive our voters out and I think that’s how we’re going to win this race.”
That belief was evident in Barbara Goff, a Braden- ton resident who spent all her life as a registered Republican. She said she worked overseas for nearly 40 years and came back to find politics in a state of disarray, prompting her to vote for the Democrat candidate.
“My husband always say that every politician should wake up in the morning and think about what they can do for people,” Goff said. “I just look around at the political discourse and I’m bothered by all the hateful talk coming from the president.”
Bradenton residents Bernice and Gary Giscombe said they supported Gillum’s bid for governor even before his upset primary win, citing gun control and healthcare as some of their top priorities.
“It’s very positive to see people thinking for themselves again,” Gary said.
Heather and Ken Weaver said they planned to vote for Gillum after they became unhappy with the way Republicans have managed the state over the past 20 years.
“We’re just so sick of Trump and disgusted with the GOP, and the overall direction of Florida, really,” Heather said.
Early voting in Manatee County began Wednesday and runs through Nov. 3. Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett said voter turnout in the county tends to surpass the national average.
Kenneth Smith, 8, stands with his grandmother, Jean Moreland. She said Kenneth was adamant about coming to see Andrew Gillum speak in Manatee on Saturday morning, so she picked him up from his house in Tampa so he could watch his role model speak.