Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum bills himself as the Democrat who is not afraid to be a Democrat and Thursday night he showed a gathering of University of Central Florida students he’s not afraid to call out President Donald Trump.
Challenged by a student who identified himself as not a Democrat who wanted to hear Gillum say something nice about Republicans, particularly Trump, the Tallahassee mayor praised the dignity of both Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush and even grudgingly complimented former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
But Gillum refused to compliment Trump, essentially saying there was nothing admirable about him, not even for a Republican, except to “unite us in opposition.”
“He has united reasonable-thinking people on the left and on the right to oppose his hatred, his vitriol, his division, his derision, and his inability to be adult,” Gillum said. “He’s already proven he’s uniquely unqualified for the position.”
Gillum insisted he himself is a political optimist, but added, “You can’t get there without also calling out where we are. It’s important to acknowledge where this state has slid to, and where it has slid away from.”
This was Gillum’s fourth stop in his “Back to School” tour of college campuses this week, the second on Thursday, after Stetson University in DeLand. He openly sought try to mobilize college students to join he called “The G Unit,” to try to engage early dialogue and outreach among a segment of voters notorious for not voting. His appearance before about 100 people at UCF, not all of whom were students, was organized by the UCF College Democrats.
Gillum ran through his biography and Democratic platform, strong support for public education and the environment, confronting issues associated with climate change, restoration of voting rights for felons, promotion of solar energy industry, appreciation of immigrants and refugees, and a retooling of the economy to get away from reliance on low-wage jobs..
He also pitched an idea for a four-year college plan: students who commit to work four years after graduation in a field the state needs help in, such as teachers, forestry firefighters, etc., the state would pay for their public university tuition.
Gillum also tossed unnamed comparisons to his Democratic rivals former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham [“I may not have the right last name,” an apparent reference to Graham’s father former Gov. Bob Graham] and Winter Park developer Chris King [“I surely can’t write my own check to become governor,” an apparent reference to King’s wealth.]
But the distinction that might stick with the young, disenchanted, disheartened voters that experts say populate college may be his “Democrat not afraid to be a Democrat” theme.
He praised Republicans who “have the fidelity in what they believe,” and who, even though he disagrees with their policies, “are in it for the right reasons, so far as their ideologies and belief systems go.” He used Jeb Bush as an example. Gillum said he disagreed “whole-heatedly” with the former governor’s education agenda, and had even led marches against it, but allowed, “I don’t doubt for a minute that Jeb Bush believes whole-heatedly in the mission that he’s trying to pursue.
“But that’s different from what we’re experiencing in the body politic today,” Gillum continued, “when we have a president who is willing to make immigrants feel unwanted, who is willing to give cover to racists, who is willing to malign some of the most helpless in our society.
“There is nothing admirable or respectable. And everything is disagreeable about that posture,” he concluded. “And I don’t make apologies about it.”