Bringing It Home For Florida Gubernatorial Candidate Andrew Gillum
We had just returned to Miami from our Hurricane Irma evacuation. Hurricane Harvey had devastated my hometown of Houston, and Hurricane Maria was pelting Puerto Rico when my friend Carrie texted me about who I was supporting in the Florida gubernatorial elections.
I was putting buckets and pails out for leaks and calling insurance adjusters and contractors while she’s thinking about who to vote for in elections 14 months away. Let me get right on that.
She said she was supporting Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum after seeing the Change.org petition that was started by 19 college students at eight different universities to encourage Gillum to put his hat in the ring. She had already gone to a fundraiser and now wanted to support his campaign. That was great but I had way too much going on.
I clicked through the myriad of notifications on my phone about the carnage in Puerto Rico, Trump’s NFL tweet war, and the aftermath of the torch-wielding white nationalist march at UVA in Charlottesville to squeeze in a few minutes to look up Gillum and the other Democratic party hopefuls.
He had an impressive track record as mayor, had been considered by the Hillary Clinton campaign for vice president, and had spoken at the Democratic National Convention. His top two contenders were not all that.
Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham voted to weaken Obamacare, repeal Dodd-Frank consumer protections, support the Keystone Pipeline, and ban Syrian refugees. Phil Levine, my mayor in Miami Beach, failed to convince his constituents to support any recent initiatives including continuing to raise streets to beat sea level rise, host a Cuban Consulate, a convention center hotel, and his light rail train to nowhere. Neither candidate has records deserving of being my party’s nominee.
Gillum is the only non-millionaire in the race for governor. He is for healthcare and education investment, equal pay for equal work, common sense gun reform, and criminal justice reform. Gillum seemed earnest and visionary.
Carrie decided to host a house party fundraiser for Gillum and invited me to join. The last time I was enthusiastic enough to want to host a gubernatorial house party was in 2005 when Deval Patrick was a dark horse candidate for governor in Massachusetts. It wasn’t a good time. Our fixer-upper wasn’t decorated, my husband and I had both just started businesses, money was tight, and we were juggling a lot. Now, 13 years later, I found myself feeling in many ways the same. But I no longer live in the uber-liberal bastion of Boston, Massachusetts. I live in Miami Beach, where there is always so much at stake.
I told myself I could first attend an information session. I could volunteer later after things settled. Or I could take on a bigger, full-time volunteer commitment with the Gillum campaign for a couple of weeks later in the election cycle. I had done this in John Kerry’s 2004 run, when I flew here to Florida to volunteer in his Pinellas County ground game…which we lost. Or I could always write a check.
But it was something about feeling as though I was being headbutted by the headlines–the serial school shootings, outrageous racist and misogynistic statements, the dizzying flurry of events. My mind darted between my to-do list, my text messages, my Gillum research deep dive, the jarring sound bytes, the presidential assault on patriotism, and the rollback of our civil and human rights.
No! This was not an either/or time. Nor is Florida an either/or place. I had to do this and I had to do it now. What we are dealing with requires volunteering and giving and voting and engaging others. I realized I need to be all in. If not now, when?
I moved beyond agreeing to attend an information session, to volunteering to help my friend with the guest list, and I ultimately co-hosted a house party with her for Andrew Gillum for Governor to get more money to his campaign.
I officially signed on and we heard from the finance team that our goal needed to be in the $3,000-to-$5,000 range. After that it was crickets for the rest of October and November until out of the blue we got an invitation to attend a Gillum event at a local Miami bookstore.
This was my turn to look Andrew Gillum in the eye. We talked about my kids, why I moved them from public to private school, the optimism I felt when I moved to Florida, the promise for business and entrepreneurial ventures, and the racism I have felt here more than any other place I’ve lived.
I felt I shared insights that he found useful, that I offered perspectives that resonated and reaffirmed and others that enlightened. I felt heard, like it was a mutually beneficial exchange, that we both were participating in the political process. It was clear his mind was open and willing to expand and include and evolve and reflect and… dare I say…represent…me. It was an enlivening experience and I was happy that I would be part of bringing that to my friends and family.
I was surprised to find how good it felt to do my own independent research and my own independent thinking about candidates before all the noise starts and the clouds of other people’s analysis roll in. And it’s a heck of a lot more fun to start early to work on getting a person that I am really excited about selected in the primary versus waiting until later in the process and trying to motivate support for the lesser of two evils.
Though we had been in the queue since September, it took quite a while to get our house party date pinned down given the mayor’s busy schedule. Tuesday May 29, the day after Memorial Day, was our day. Definitely not our first or second choice, but we made do and exceeded our goal. It wasn’t easy herding cats…I mean friends, figuring out how to change my privacy settings and post on all the different social media, plus email, texts and calls since everyone has different preferences. Yet, we were blessed with good Miami Beach weather for our poolside gathering. The kids and adults were just as wowed as we were by Mayor Gillum’s spirit and remarks and there were many photo ops by Carrie’s Bring it Home surfboard.
“Bring it Home” is Gillum’s official slogan for the Democratic primary for governor.
A distinguished guest played “Happy Days are Here Again” on the kids’ keyboard. It felt right.
When the days are long and the work is slow, it feels like we have plenty of time. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Make sure to register your party affiliation by the July 30 deadline so that you can vote in the primary on Aug. 28. The Nov. 6 election is 16 weeks away. Give and volunteer and vote and engage. If not now, when?