Throughout his bid for Florida governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has tried to appeal to the progressive voters who rallied behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ insurgent presidential campaign in 2016.
Sanders apparently liked what he saw.
With the Democratic gubernatorial primary less than four weeks away, Sanders on Wednesday endorsed Gillum, pointing to Gillum’s stances on issues near and dear to left-leaning voters.
“As governor, Andrew Gillum will work to provide health care for all through a Medicare-for-All program, raise the minimum wage to a living wage, invest in sustainable energy, improve education, make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share of taxes, and be welcoming to immigrants,” Sanders said in a statement released by the Gillum campaign. “Andrew has never backed down from a fight, including beating the NRA and standing up against xenophobic politicians. Andrew Gillum will set a new course for Florida --- a governor who represents all the people and not just powerful special interests.”
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The endorsement could give a late boost to Gillum, who has trailed his primary opponents in fundraising and in recent polls. A Florida Atlantic University poll released last week, for example, showed Gillum with support from 7 percent of Democratic voters, while a Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy poll showed him at 10 percent. Both polls, however, also showed large numbers of undecided Democratic voters.
The Gillum campaign quickly tried to seize on the Sanders endorsement, which came a day before the Democratic candidates will hold their final televised debate before the Aug. 28 primary.
“It’s an honor to have Senator Bernie Sanders’ endorsement in this campaign,” Gillum said in a statement. “He has been an unapologetic fighter for everyday working people standing up to the special interests. From Medicare-for-All, to a $15 minimum wage, his ideas and platform have become the Democratic Party’s north star on economic justice for those who need it most.”
While it is too early to gauge the effect of the endorsement, the Republican primary for governor has been remade after President Donald Trump endorsed Northeast Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis. State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was the front-runner for months in the GOP race, but DeSantis has surged into the lead after the Trump endorsement --- which was highlighted during a raucous Trump rally Tuesday night in Tampa.
Despite their vastly different political views, Sanders and Trump shared the ability during the 2016 campaign of energizing voters --- including many voters who felt shut out of the political system. Sanders also fueled his campaign through money from small-dollar donors, a group that Gillum has tried to tap.
Gillum also has received support from other high-profile progressives, including billionaire Tom Steyer, the founder of the NextGen political organization. Gillum is running in the primary against former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and businessmen Jeff Greene and Chris King.