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Andrew Gillum tells Orange Democrats its time for leaders to take on difficult conversations

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum told Orange County Democrats Monday night that the party needs a Democrat with courage to espouse Democratic values if it wants a chance to win the governor’s office next year.

Gillum, speaking before perhaps 200 people gathered at the Orange County Democratic executive committee meeting, charged that Democrats have not been able to win the governor’s office because they have run candidates who show fear, who were not unapologetic advocates for the party’s values.

It is time, he said for leaders to have difficult conversations.

Gillum faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park developer Chris King for the Democratic nomination. The leading Republican at this stage is Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“We need to go out there and tell people, tell people who it is we are, what believe in. that we believe in a strong public education system, that we believe in second changes, that if people make a mistake in their lives they should be able to come back, get a job and make a living for themselves and their families. We shouldn’t be afraid to tell people that we believe in science.

That drew applause.

“And that shouldn’t even be an applause line,” Gillum continued. He went on to describe the need for Democrats to lead the way in Florida on confronting global climate change, and encouraging solar energy, and to build 21st-century transportation infrastructure, and support for the LGBTQ community.

He also spoke of his battle, as Tallahassee mayor, to defend a city ordinance forbidding people from shooting guns in a city park. So far, Tallahassee has won court battles in the district and appeals level, against what he said was the gun lobby “that has run roughshod over public policy.”

“I said, we’ll see you in the Supreme Court, if that’s where you want to take us,” Gillum said. “You all, we have to stop rolling over and being afraid. The Second Amendment, the Second Amendment, the Second Amendment can sit side by side with common sense gun law reform.

“It will require us to stop being silent. What are we afraid of? Are our lives not important enough for us to stand up and say I deserve to be recognized to advocate laws to protect me and my children?” he said.

“We should be able to look into our children’s eyes to speak words of affirmation and hope and encouragement to them. And then to be able to rest at night that we’ve done the difficult work to make the hopes and aspirations of those children come true,” he added.

A governor, he said, should be measured by the answer to the question, “How are the children doing?”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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