Andrew Gillum is gearing up for what could be a photo finish in the five-way Democratic gubernatorial race.
Some recent polls show Gillum in or tied at third. Some show him trailing worse. A poll released Monday had him second behind Gwen Graham. And an internal poll released by the Gillum camp last week suggested he was ahead big.
Statistical projections aside, Gillum on Monday evening reminded a crowd of students and supporters at Florida A&M, a historically black university in Tallahassee, that time is on their side on Tuesday — whatever the outcome may be.
Noted Gillum (accurately): On August 28, 1955, two white men in Mississippi killed Emmett Till. On the same day in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 2008, it was the last day of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president.
“You can imagine where I’m going with this,” he said to cheers.
It’s coincidental. But superstition fits the bill for Gillum’s candidacy.
A mayor at the helm of a city beset by an ongoing FBI investigation and facing opponents with name recognition and deep pockets, Gillum had been considered a long shot.
But good news came in the eleventh hour for the Tallahassee mayor. Billionaire Tom Steyer’s progressive NextGen announced it would be dumping cash into and providing ground support for Gillum’s bid.
Then came Bernie Sanders, the U.S. Senator from Vermont, with an endorsement and two rallies meant to help Gillum win over progressive hearts in the Sunshine State.
Meanwhile, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene was rising in the polls. He unloaded on Philip Levine and Gwen Graham with television attack ads, forcing both to strike back on cable as well.
Greene’s campaign has since waned and he announced Monday that he’d watch the election results privately with his family. The attacks, meant to boost Greene, thwarted him and likely left wounds on Graham and Levine.
Gillum had come under criticism earlier this year for ties to dark money donations and negative ads targeting Graham from a PAC supporting his candidacy, but the Greene-Levine-Graham spats are fresher.
At his alma mater, Gillum avoided criticism of his closest opponents. But a surrogate — national Democratic strategist Angela Rye — addressed Graham directly.
While both candidates represent opportunities for history — the first black man or the first woman to be elected Governor of Florida — Rye suggested the former congresswoman’s legacy ties to the state shouldn’t “supersede” Gillum’s minority status, and by extension the interests of people of color everywhere. Graham’s father Bob Graham is a former U.S. Senator and Governor.
“It might be her turn,” Rye said in reference to Gwen Graham. “But understand that it is Andrew Gillum’s time, because it’s our time.”
She added: “We’ve suffered enough, we’ve bled enough, we’ve died enough, we’ve been hurt enough, we’ve been wounded enough — it is our time.”
Gillum was accompanied by his wife, R. Jai, with whom he attended FAMU. Also in attendance were black state Reps. Kamia Brown and Ramon Alexander, along with prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump and researcher and author Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.
Parked nearby was Gillum’s bus, boasting the “Bring It Home” campaign slogan.
During the weekend, Gillum was corralling votes in South Florida, including at his birthplace Richmond Heights. Earlier Monday, he was in Alachua County, where he grew up.
He’ll participate in a march to the polls in the capital city on Tuesday morning and will later watch the election results unfold at Hotel Duval in downtown Tallahassee.
“It’s a homecoming,” Gillum said. “It’s bring it home. That’s what the bus says: ‘Bring It Home.'”