State Politics

Andrew Gillum couldn’t campaign due to Hurricane Michael. So Bill de Blasio stepped in

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum blasts attack ads

Tallahassee mayor and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum talks about his opponent not taking down political ads for Hurricane Michael.
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Tallahassee mayor and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum talks about his opponent not taking down political ads for Hurricane Michael.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio walked into the Miami Gardens campaign office of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum on Saturday, pumping his fist into the air and hailing Gillum’s rallying cry — “bring it home.”

Gillum couldn’t visit South Florida this weekend. The candidate, who’s also the mayor of Tallahassee, was dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in North Florida. So a prominent Democrat whose name constantly pops up in discussions about 2020 presidential contenders would have to do instead.

“It’s nothing like having Andrew here, obviously, but if other people can step in, it helps,” De Blasio said. “I think anytime a candidate has other responsibilities, it’s important for surrogates to step up.”

With Tallahassee government still working to clear fallen trees and restore power to homes on the municipal utility grid, Gillum has had to cancel campaign appearances. In a Facebook Live stream Saturday, Gillum said he’s sorry to disappoint people who’d expected him recently around the state, adding that the city hopes to have power restored to 90 percent of its customers by the end of the weekend.

“Right now I’ve gotta win the restoration game and get our community recovered,” said Gillum, who expects to remain in Tallahassee through Wednesday, when there will be a meeting of the city commission.

In the meantime, Republican nominee Ron DeSantis has been touring the state, and appeared in South Florida Friday, with plans to return Sunday.

So, in Gillum’s stead, De Blasio appeared in West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Pompano Beach Saturday. In Miami Gardens, De Blasio spoke to more than 50 Democratic supporters, most dressed in blue and carrying Gillum for Governor signs. Rallying volunteers preparing to launch their full-on canvassing efforts, De Blasio told them if people argue that elections don’t matter, ask them if they’ve been alive for the past two years.

Tallahassee mayor and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum talks about his opponent not taking down political ads for Hurricane Michael.

The mayor argued that ever since President Donald Trump took over the White House, there’s more division, racism and hatred in the U.S. He told volunteers to contrast Gillum and DeSantis, saying the Republican nominee is “epoxy glued” to Trump and wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He also said DeSantis is a climate change denier, which is inaccurate.

On the other side, De Blasio — whose campaign trail appearance was trolled by the Republican Governors Association as a “crusade to make Florida pay [a] higher tax rate than New York” — said Gillum will advocate for a $15 living wage, better education and health care for all, regardless of pre-existing conditions.

“Give it your heart. Give it passion,” De Blasio said, encouraging Gillum campaign volunteers to knock on doors and convince people to vote. “Act like your life depends on it, because, brothers and sisters, your life does depend on it.”

De Blasio is the most recent surrogate to stump for Gillum. His New York predecessor, Michael Bloomberg — a far more likely 2020 presidential candidate — campaigned in South Florida last weekend with Gillum, and Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, will campaign in South Florida for Gillum on Oct. 23. Gillum’s wife, R. Jai Gillum, was also in Miami Saturday morning at the Susan G. Komen More Than Pink Walk downtown.

De Blasio said he told his team to get in touch with Gillum’s campaign when he won the Aug. 28 primary, so his visit was planned before Hurricane Michael altered the campaign trail. De Blasio said he anticipates more surrogates will visit Florida soon before the Nov. 6 election because they want to support Gillum’s grassroots campaigning.

“This is one of the most important elections in the whole country,” De Blasio said, repeating a common refrain among out-of-state Democrats. “Everyone realizes it could be foundational because it could change the politics of Florida and therefore change the politics of America.”