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Andrew Gillum at general election kickoff rally in Orlando.

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Joe Henderson: If Andrew Gillum is radical, so are lots of people

The Republican game plan to defeat Andrew Gillum has been clear from the start: Paint him as the compromised puppet of billionaire Democratic donors who want to unleash a radical socialist agenda on Florida that would END LIFE AS WE KNOW IT!!

Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout.

We saw some evidence of that on this most excellent website just the other day in a commentary by conservative John Stemberger, head of the Florida Family Policy Council.

Stemberger noted that Gillum opposes “robust Second Amendment rights” and even bragged about leading protest marches.

Well, to a lot of people, that isn’t exactly a “radical” idea. In the wake of the Parkland massacre, there were massive protests and several polls showed between 65 and 70 percent of Floridians wanted tougher regulations on firearms. Maybe those who oppose that are the radical ones, huh?

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Stemberger also referred to Gillum as “impressive” — which obviously he is. He stormed from behind in the final days of the primary campaign to win the nomination. Somebody must like him. We know Bernie Sanders does.

That group won’t include Republicans, of course — but it likely does number a majority of Florida’s 3.5 million voters who have no party affiliation.

If I may offer just a tiny bit of advice to my GOP friends, it would be this: Be careful with all that “radical” talk.

It’s not “radical” to say health care isn’t a privilege reserved for those who can afford good insurance. It’s not “radical” to say the failure to expand Medicaid to the neediest citizens is a moral failing by a government that should try to represent all the people.

It’s not “radical” to say our public schools deserve better than they have gotten from a state government masking attacks on the teachers’ union as educational reform.

Nor is it “radical” to question why Tallahassee, under Republican control for 20 years, has taken to slashing and burning environmental protections in a state where the great outdoors is kind of important.

Here’s what has happened, though.

After controlling everything in Tallahassee for two decades, Republicans have become tone-deaf. They believe they’re responsible only to people who believe in the same things they do, and to hell with everybody else. That ignores the fact, by the way, that Rick Scott won two elections to be Governor by about 1 percentage point each time.

They haven’t had to care what opponents thought and wanted for so long that anything beyond their own agenda seems, well, radical.

That’s why in their deepest recesses, they are afraid of Andrew Gillum.

They should be.

I’m sure they noticed how he squashed his opponents in South Florida in the primary.

Andrew Gillum got nearly 40 percent of the vote in a 5-way field in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and the turnout was significant. Getting out the vote has always been a problem for Democrats, especially in nonpresidential years. That might be changing.

Gillum has tapped into the frustrations of people who feel left behind and ignored by the GOP, and they vote too — especially when the Republican candidate, Ron DeSantis, clings to Donald Trump like a shadow.

None of that is “radical” Republican friends.

It’s just reality.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Michael Moline, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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