Andrew Gillum emerges to challenge Rod Smith for Florida Democratic chair
Andrew Gillum, at 31 already a veteran of Democratic politics, has entered the race for head of the Florida Democratic Party, challenging establishment and front-runner candidate Rod Smith.
Gillum began the campaign yesterday and has been calling Democratic committee members, party fundraisers and union leaders, pitching himself as a fresh alternative but also one with experience with state and national politics. "Our party has to pivot toward the future," he told the Buzz.
He was careful to praise Smith, who was Alex Sink's running mate in her unsuccessful bid for governor. But in selling himself as an energetic, new face, the implication is Smith represents the past. "This last beating really hurt us and at the end of the day, I have to believe Florida Democrats want to win elections," Gillum said. "We have to put in the infrastructure to make that happen."
A member of the Tallahassee City Commission (elected at age 23) Gillum helped raise money for Barack Obama and serves as national executive director of the Young Elected Officials Network.
He said Democrats failed to engage voters early enough and allowed the GOP to paint them as the reason for the poor economy, despite Republican control in Tallahassee. "There's probably plenty of blame to go around about what happened," he said. "My focus is how to make sure we start early, we're engaged ... ."
Aside from the late start, there are some logistical hurdles. Gillum would need to become a state committeeman or a county party chairman to be eligible for the job. Gillum is neither. There is some behind the scenes wrangling among Leon County Democrats to change that.