Gil­lum cap­i­tal­izes on ‘Manatee Mo­men­tum’ in Braden­ton stop

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - Local - BY RYAN CALLIHAN

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.

RYAN CALLIHAN rcal­li­han@braden­ton.com

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.

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