When Andrew Gillum's father moved the family from bustling Miami to sleepy Gainesville, Florida, he thought it was the end of the world. But it was there that Gillum found his academic footing and became the first of his parents' seven children to graduate from high school and university.
On Tuesday, Gillum wrote history on a larger stage and won Florida's Democratic governorship nomination and, being the first African-American candidate for governor of the country's third largest state, to act as a new focal point for the liberal wing of the national party
Tallahassee Mayor annoyed the establishment's minion, Gwen Graham, by embracing some of the same views on health care and immigration that brought New York's congressional nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to a domestic competition in June. And he now becomes the second black governor of the nominees in the South, along with Georgia candidate Stacey Abrams, whose nomination in that neighboring state has inspired many Liberals.
The Florida race now stands as a national test for the base of every major party. Gillum, who won with the support of a number of liberal activists such as Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent from Vermont, and the billionaires Tom Steyer and George Soros, will face Republican Ron DeSantis. He secured the nomination of his party on the basis of an endorsement by President Trump and allies such as Fox News presenter Sean Hannity.
Gillum seems happy to pick up the contrast.
"When people see my face and hear our story, there is another level of passion and drive to go out and vote," he said in a recent interview. "And it's not just the color of my skin, it's my lived experience that comes from a working-class family, and voters have an appetite for a candidate who will reflect them."
Gillum was in a working-class neighborhood near Miami born as the fifth of seven children. His mother drove a school bus and his father was a construction worker, and on days when he could not handle a crew, he sold fruit and vegetables to street corners.
The younger Gillum recalled that he had received free dental care a mobile clinic that came through his neighborhood.
There, he said, some teachers took him under their wing and "got me on the track to be college-bound." He went to Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, stayed on graduation and in 2003, at the age of 23, was elected the youngest person to the city commission. In 2014 he was elected mayor.
Gillum, who is married to three children, said Trump's election urged him to run for governorship this year.
He said the Democratic Party, which has not won any governors' race Florida since 1994, had repeatedly failed to win because it set up "republican-lite" candidates who failed to reach the growing population of the minority state and young people to excite.
"We can not do worse than they did and the stakes are too high to get back on track," he said.
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He marched with the Parkland students, Fla., Who demanded stricter gun control following the mass shooting of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Support from Sanders helped, as did a barrage of negative announcements by billionaire Jeff Greene against Graham and another major candidate, Philip Levine, a former mayor of Miami Beach, who paved the way for Gillum. On Tuesday night, Gillum presented himself as an unusual Democrat with the ability to bring together different factions of his party because he had received Sanders support, although he had supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, "I'm running."
When asked about the possibility of being Florida's first black governor, Gillum said, "I'm trying to be the next Florida governor, and I'm just black by accident."
But Gillum also has parallels between his candidacy and who was drawn by Abrams and found that the two could make a statement in the south.
"The same part of this land that was built People who have color could soon be led by colored people," he said recently in an interview with the Washington Post. "That would be poetic justice in the shadow of Donald Trump in Washington."