By John Celock
Tallahassee’s 37-year-old mayor is considering a bid to become Florida’s next governor.
Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) announced Friday, via Facebook Live, that he was strongly considering entering the 2018 race for governor. The social media announcement came after Gillum made a similar announcement in a speech to an audience in central Florida.
“For the last 20 years we have all watched our state shrink from the challenges that confront it,” Gillum said.
Gillum is seeking to become the first Democrat to win the Florida governorship since former Gov. Lawton Chiles (D) won his second term in 1994. He would enter a wide open Democratic field, with Democrats not holding a state constitutional office since former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink left office following a failed run for governor in 2010. Gov. Rick Scott (R) is term-limited.
Gillum, who has been mayor since 2014, would enter a field likely to contain Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and marijuana legalization activist John Morgan. Graham is the daughter of Bob Graham, a former U.S. senator and Florida governor.
On the Republican side, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is viewed as the frontrunner, having been positioning himself for a gubernatorial run since he left Congress to run for agriculture commissioner in 2010. State Sen. Jack Latvala, and beauty pageant owner Jackie Siegel are also potential GOP candidates.
Florida Democrats have been trying to regain a foothold in state government over the last several elections, with Republicans dominating elections for state posts. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D), had won the governorship as a Republican in 2006 before becoming an independent for his unsuccessful 20 U.S. Senate run and then a Democrat for his unsuccessful run for the governorship in 2014. The last Democrat to serve as Florida’s chief executive was former Gov. Buddy MacKay, who served a 23-day term after Chiles’ death in December 1998. MacKay had lost the 1998 gubernatorial race to Republican Jeb Bush.
Gillum was first elected to the Tallahassee City Council in 2003 before wining the mayor’s office in 2014. He has been active in national groups for progressive young elected officials. In his announcement video, he said that he wants to work for people across the state.
“I’m hoping that we can begin to put this state on a path to representing people, everyday people of this state who need an opportunity and a shot,” Gillum said.