Jacksonville A Key Factor In Gillum's Democratic Gubernatorial Nomination

Aug 29, 2018

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum won the Democratic nomination for Florida Governor by well over 40,000 votes, and about half of those votes were cast in Jacksonville.

Related: Duval County Primary Election Returns

According to the Florida Division of Elections, Andrew Gillum won the nomination on Tuesday night with 34.3 percent of the vote.

“When you look at the margin for victory that Gillum had across the state it’s about 42,600 votes in total,” said Nathan McKay, Vice Chair of Field Operations and Data for the Duval County Democratic Party and President of the Jacksonville Young Democrats. “And Duval was over 50 percent of his margin of victory, with 21,458 people voting for Gillum over his next competition in Jacksonville. So we definitely had a large share in the cause for victory here in Jacksonville.”

Those figures are based on unofficial tallies from the Florida Division of Elections and the Duval County Supervisor of Elections, but it’s clear at this point that Gillum got well over 40,000 more votes than his closest competitor, Gwen Graham, and around half of those votes can be credited to Jacksonville and Duval County.

“I think he found success [in Duval County] for two reasons,” said Dr. Michael Binder, pollster and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Florida. “One, demographics. There are a lot of African-American Democrats here in Duval and they disproportionately were supportive of Gillum. But the other part of that is that he is an energetic and dynamic speaker. Some of the other candidates, like Greene and Levine, they’re from down south in Miami. Gillum, granted it’s Tallahassee, but he’s a North Florida guy. So he was able to relate to those folks here. And I think he speaks to the issues that the Democrats here in Duval like to hear about. He’s supportive of the issues that these Democrats are believers in.”

Another big factor was turnout.

“For the first time since 2004 we actually beat Republicans in Primary turnout,” said McKay. “We had 3,500 more voters turn out than Republicans did in the Primary [in Duval County]. And our turnout numbers were actually higher than they were in the Presidential primary. In 2016 there was 29 percent turnout, in 2014, which would have been the last same type of election or midterm, it was 15.5. And last night we turned out 32.8 percent of Democrats.”

And according to McKay, those turnout numbers, especially among young people and minorities, were higher because of all the efforts made in the community.

“Over the last couple weeks the team and I, NextGen Florida in Duval, we have called thousands of people, we’ve knocked on thousands of doors,” said Jake Capistran, an organizer for NextGen Florida in Jacksonville. “Just last week at UNF’s ‘Week of Welcome’ we registered nearly 500 new young voters to go out to the polls. So in the last couple weeks we’ve made a massive, massive push connecting with the community, connecting with different universities within the city, trying to really mobilize the voters, and more specifically mobilize the young voters because that’s the future generation moving forward.”

NextGen is an organization dedicated to preventing global warming by transitioning to a clean energy economy based on “equality, inclusion, and a shared and sustainable prosperity.” In 2018 they committed to registering and turning out young voters.

Capistran was one of six NextGen team members working in Jacksonville up until 7 p.m. on election night.

“At 6:20 my friend and my coworker Matthew Killen and I were out running from door to door dropping off Andrew Gillum literature to inform voters that they had 40 minutes left to go to the polls,” Capistran said. “And I can tell you personally, we saw 50 people and their family members get in their cars and go to the polls at 6:30 at night to go cast their vote for Andrew Gillum. There was a group of high schoolers who just got out of basketball practice, a group of five kids, and they got in their cars with their Andrew Gillum literature and they drove to the polls at 6:30 at night to cast their vote for Andrew Gillum.”

“He [Gillum] had a great base of volunteers there who literally worked every moment of every day to get him elected,” said Donna Deegan, a friend and supporter of Gillum and a former journalist and news anchor at First Coast News.

“I’m so very grateful to Duval for coming through,” Deegan said. “I think people really had no idea the strength that he had in Duval County. And it was just great to see the turnout that we received. The love for him in Duval County was real. And I have to say, as a native of Jacksonville, that was so gratifying to me.”

“I think seeing the big distance that he racked up between himself and Gwen Graham, I think that says a lot,” said Binder. “Not only about the demographics, but the role that Duval is playing in Democratic primaries.”

And Binder thinks Duval County will play an equally important role come November, when Gillum goes up against the Republican nominee: Congressman Ron DeSantis.

“Look, we’re a big county. We’re a big city,” said Binder. “We’re not Miami, but we’re certainly a next level city, particularly when it comes to getting votes. And we are a swing city, so I’d expect both Gillum and DeSantis to spend a lot of time here prior to November. It’s going to be important to win in Duval.”

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.