Gillum: Democrats shouldn't 'camp out' in South Florida

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Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, says he won't emulate the campaign strategy he ascribes to his party's past two candidates for governor.

Gillum told about 150 people Wednesday at the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee that Democrats need to spend time outside South Florida if they want to win a gubernatorial election for the first time since 1994.

“It's not in my strategy to camp out in the bottom three counties and think we're going to win,” Gillum said. “This is not the Electoral College. You don't win Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach and lose everything else and win the state.”

Democrats Alex Sink and Charlie Crist lost the last two gubernatorial elections to Republican Rick Scott, and the Democratic Party has not won a gubernatorial race since the late Lawton Chiles was re-elected more than two decades ago.

Along with Gillum, the 2018 Democratic field includes former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park businessman Chris King, with Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine considering the race.

But in addressing the cordial hometown crowd Wednesday, Gillum spoke often of his differences with Scott, President Donald Trump, Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam and state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, another potential GOP candidate for governor in 2018. Gillum pointed to differences on issues such as health care, education, business development and climate change.

“Make no mistake, climate change is happening, and it is threatening our state's future,” Gillum said regarding reports Wednesday that Trump is likely to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

Gillum has already come into the crosshairs of the Republican Governors Association for having used city email for campaign activity. Gillum said Wednesday he's reimbursed the city but acknowledged that “won't stop people from making an issue of it.”

As for Democrats, Gillum alluded to Graham —- the daughter of former governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham —- and Morgan by saying, “I don't have a famous last name and I cannot stroke my own check to become the next governor of the state of Florida.”

After the appearance, Gillum said he will focus on Graham's voting record in Congress, particularly after she received endorsements Wednesday from noted environmentalists Nat Reed, a founder of 1000 Friends of Florida; Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation; and former House Speaker Jon Mills, a member of the Everglades Foundation board of directors.

“Gwen Graham is going to be held accountable to her record,” Gillum told reporters. “As we deepen our movements around the state, we will reflect as to how her votes have existed. I disagree with Keystone Pipeline. She voted for it.”

Asked about going from a community of nearly 200,000 residents to running a state with 20 million and if he would be first willing to accept the role of the party's lieutenant-governor candidate in 2018, Gillum said his eye is on the top of the ticket. He also stressed having more than a decade in elected office at age 37.

“Being the candidate that has the longest resume in public policy-making, across a range of issues, I've demonstrated I have the ability to raise resources," said Gillum, who was first elected to the Tallahassee City Commission in 2003, when he noted he was “a skinny kid with hair.”

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