Andrew Gillum will be a governor for all Floridians

Andrew Gillum
Andrew Gillum

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Andrew Gillum is the best candidate to pull Florida back to the center, back to making sure the middle class and working class don’t continue to bear the brunt of Tallahassee’s misguided spending; back to acting on behalf of the Floridians denied health insurance by the current administration; back to putting public schools, which serve the majority of the state’s children, in the spotlight; back to being a leader in the fight against sea-level rise and the degradation of the environment.

The tenacity, political smarts and commitment to public service that propelled this Tallahassee mayor to victory from the bottom of the pack of better-known candidates in August’s Democratic primary speak volumes. We think that each quality will serve him well as he likely confronts and negotiates with a Republican-dominated Legislature. These lawmakers were used to falling into line behind a governor whose often skewed sense of public service too often matched their own.

Floridians can only expect more of the same should Gillum’s Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, move into the Governor’s Mansion. That wouldn’t be good for Florida or the people who call it home.

It’s unseemly that, in a race in which the issues should be front and center, DeSantis and his surrogates have tried to paint Gillum as a socialist, an extremist and an anti-Semite. Gillum is none of these things. Though he has received support from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist,” Gillum has resolutely and rightly rejected the label. Indeed, his is nothing close to a platform of government ownership of private business.

DeSantis is using worn-out fear tactics to win votes. However, voters should really be alarmed at DeSantis’ close proximity to supporters and contributors who have made racist comments, especially at the candidate’s campaign appearances. His tepid repudiation does not persuade us that he would be the governor for all Floridians. That’s something voters themselves should reject. Gillum has conducted an all-embracing, optimistic and engaging campaign throughout the state, another quality that speaks well of the state leader he would be.

When it comes to the issues Floridians most care about, Gillum and DeSantis offer Floridians a distinct choice.

Gillum would work with the Legislature to expand Medicaid. There are at least 400,000 Floridians who do not have health insurance. Even so, local taxpayers still subsidize the uninsured by paying for the most expensive care — delivered in emergency rooms, where such patients go at their sickest. In providing coverage, Florida would take the burden off local taxpayers by ensuring they get less costly, preventive care first.

DeSantis opposes Medicaid expansion, and while in Congress voted — again and again — to repeal the Affordable Care Act, including coverage for pre-existing conditions. This would have hit Florida residents hard. Now DeSantis wants to lead a state that leads all others in ACA enrollees. The Commonwealth Fund ranked Florida 48th in access to quality healthcare. This is such a hot-button issue that many Republicans are backpedaling, unconvincingly, on their staunch opposition to maintaining coverage for pre-existing conditions and other popular elements of the ACA.

Gillum would push for more funding for traditional public schools. They have gotten short shrift from the Scott administration, with charter schools getting an ever-increasing chunk of the education budget.

Traditional public schools and their students would not prosper under a DeSantis administration. Like Republicans in the Legislature, he would continue to funnel funding to charter schools. We think charters add to the mix of academic choices as parents search for the best way to educate their children. However, these for-profit entities have gotten favorable treatment from the Legislature at the expense of students attending many traditional public schools. Gillum could change that.

Gillum understands the urgency of addressing sea-level rise and other environmental challenges. And it’s heartening to see DeSantis oppose fracking and support building a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. This, and his decision to reject sugar-industry donations, helped win him the Everglades Trust’s endorsement. But he is less resolute about banning offshore drilling and his votes in Congress belie his status as a “green” candidate. He co-sponsored a bill that would block federal oversight of waterways and supported slashing both funding and projects that were under the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority.

While DeSantis has not done much to put distance between himself and racist supporters, Gillum has an FBI investigation of Tallahassee City Hall casting a shadow on his campaign. DeSantis has overreached in calling Gillum corrupt, willfully ignoring that Gillum himself is not a target of the investigation.

After eight years of misplaced priorities, it’s time to swing the pendulum back, back to a Florida that works for more of us, that builds on its prosperity and that doesn’t squander its more precious resources, be they fiscal, environmental or human.

The Miami Herald recommends ANDREW GILLUM for Florida governor.