Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic nominee for governor Andrew Gillum announced former primary rival Chris King of Orlando will be his running mate Thursday morning, in a choice that is likely to continue to appeal strongly to progressives who lifted Gillum to victory a week and a half ago.
In a Facebook Live broadcast announcing his choice with their wives R. Jai and Kristen, Gillum called King a “partner” who he said would help him govern the state.
“This is not a political marriage — this is not a marriage of convenience,” King added. “This is a family.”
King’s presence on the ballot is likely to appeal to progressive voters. He ran hard to the left, like Gillum, on several progressive planks such as a $15 minimum wage, restoring voting rights for most felons (now a ballot question in the general election) and legalizing recreational marijuana. He also campaigned on expanding affordable housing, the focus of his investment firm Elevation Financial Group, which he founded in 2006.
King is also a 39-year-old father of three — in fact, just nine months older than Gillum.
But in a rarity for Democrats, King, who studied religion at Harvard, also showcased his evangelical faith on the trail and counted it as one of the driving factors in his long-shot bid for governor. The entrepreneur’s Orlando base also gives Gillum a geographic toehold in the middle of the crucial I-4 corridor that is dear to the Democratic party.
Gillum’s choice for lieutenant governor was closely held until Thursday morning, though King’s name was floated along with those of several elected officials, including Rep. Amy Mercado, state Sen. Lauren Book and former gubernatorial rival and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.
Graham and King were among three of Gillum’s primary rivals who joined him in Orlando last week for a unity rally, and King lauded Gillum’s persistence on the trail.
“Andrew never, ever gives up,” he told attendees.
King, who placed fifth in the primary with under 3 percent of the vote, had demurred as late as July that he was not interested in being No. 2: “You know, that’s not really something that I feel led to do.”
But the two candidates were close on the trail despite the crowded primary, and Politico Florida, which first reported that King would be Gillum’s pick, also reported the two men discussed a potential joint ticket during the primary when both seemed behind in the race.
A website at GillumKing.com went live more than half an hour before the announcement, with a picture of the two men embracing at a Democratic debate. The page included a button directing to Gillum’s campaign website and a message casting the ticket as “a movement for Florida’s future.”
In a Facebook video Gillum posted to his campaign page Tuesday, he said he was looking for “a partner who shares my philosophical beliefs, who brings their own set of experiences to the table as we try to reshape this state into one again that works for all of us, and frankly somebody who I believe could be governor of the state of Florida.”
“I will work hard not to disappoint you, but at the end of the day I hope you will trust my judgment,” he added. “Our judgment has gotten us this far. I think it will take us a great deal further.”
Tampa Bay Times staff writer Kirby Wilson contributed to this report. This is a breaking news story and will be updated.