Bernie Sanders draws a crowd for Andrew Gillum in Tampa

Doors open at 10 a.m. for a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Special guest star: Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Andrew Gillum gather outside before Friday's rally for the Tallahassee mayor. [Twitter]
Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Andrew Gillum gather outside before Friday's rally for the Tallahassee mayor. [Twitter]
Published Aug. 17, 2018|Updated Aug. 17, 2018

Lou Murray did not drive from Sarasota to Tampa's Andrew Gillum-Bernie Sanders rally to talk about Donald Trump.

Like many Democratic voters at the Friday rally at the Armature Works event space, Murray opposes the president. But when asked why he showed up to a political event starring two darlings of the progressive movement, Murray's reasons involved policy, not personality.

"If you work a full time job, you should be able to make a living wage," Murray, a retired community activist from Manatee County, said.

Gillum and Sanders largely delivered for supporters like Murray, who seemed to be looking for something to vote for — and not against in the 2018 elections. Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor who's seeking the Democratic nominee for governor, and Sanders, the senator from Vermont whose 2016 run for president inspired a new progressive movement, each spoke for about 15 minutes before a capacity crowd of about 1,000 cheering supporters.

RELATED COVERAGE: Bernie Sanders to campaign for Andrew Gillum in Tampa. 

They rattled off their support for a laundry list of progressive causes: a $15 minimum wage, fighting climate change, guaranteeing health care to every American. Gillum predicted that supporters of those liberal policies would carry the day come the Aug. 28 gubernatorial primary.

"The progressive movement in this state is going to show up like we've never shown up before," Gillum said.

It wasn't until the end of Gillum's remarks that he mentioned the president — to loud boos. Sanders invoked Trump's name to underscore the differences between Trump's conservative movement and the "political revolution" championed by Sanders' supporters.

"We are not going to let the Trump administration divide us up," Sanders orated in his typically hoarse timbre. "When we stand together protecting the rights of working people, nothing can stop us."

Nothing except the fire code.

As the last bit of the line filtered into the Armature building, organizers shut the doors, citing an order from the fire marshall. Volunteers opened a set of doors to let the sounds of the rally filter through, but echoey acoustics prevented many from hearing Gillum clearly.

When a chant broke out to open other sets of doors so they could see and hear, the one set that was open was closed to loud groans. They were reopened shortly after.

Eventually, organizers let in the overflow crowd of about 100 through a side door in time to catch the bulk of Sanders' speech. But the group largely missed out on Gillum.

Inside the hall, Danielle Quina, 29, sported a blue Gillum shirt and sign just a few rows back from the stage. The self-described "huge progressive" and college student has supported Gillum since she first researched the candidates. "He's the only one speaking about detailed reforms and social justice for people," Quina said.

For her, Sanders' endorsement was the "icing on the cake." Quina was a Sanders supporter in the 2016 Democratic party, and when he lost out she took her vote to third-party candidate Jill Stein. It's a move she'll consider repeating in this year's governor's race if Gillum does not win the nomination, though she feels confident about his chances.

"I don't want to be complicit in policies that I don't agree with," she said.

But the vast majority of attendees said although they prefer Gillum, they would support the eventual Democratic nominee whether it's Gillum or not.

David White, 35, and Patricia White, 32, donned Gillum t-shirts as they waited in line. They intend to vote for whichever candidate wins the primary because the issues are too important, Patricia White said.

The Tampa residents were proud Hillary Clinton supporters in the 2016 election, though they appreciate what Sanders has done to move the Democratic party to the left. But they were at Friday's event for the gubernatorial candidate.

Gaylord Jackson, a retired accountant who attended the rally with his granddaughter, Kadejia, said although he too supported Clinton in 2016, he — like Gillum, who also supported Clinton then — he had come around on Sanders' far-left message.

"I jumped on that progressive bandwagon," Jackson said.

RELATED COVERAGE: Can Bernie Sanders swing the Florida governor's race?