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‘This is a tough moment’: Andrew Gillum makes first public remarks since rehab

“I totally underestimated the impact that losing the race for governor had on my life,” Gillum said in an 11-minute Instagram video. “I didn’t want to talk emotionally or really deeply about what happened in the race for governor because it was a constant reminder of failure and my own personal failures."
Andrew Gillum.
Andrew Gillum. [ STEVE CANNON | AP ]
Published Jul. 20, 2020
Updated Jul. 20, 2020

WASHINGTON — Former Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum made his first public remarks on Monday since entering rehab in March, saying he battled depression and alcohol addiction after losing the 2018 race to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In an 11-minute Instagram video, Gillum apologized to supporters for his actions and said he suffered from depression for years.

“I totally underestimated the impact that losing the race for governor had on my life,” Gillum said. “I didn’t want to talk emotionally or really deeply about what happened in the race for governor because it was a constant reminder of failure and my own personal failures. It was a reminder that I let so many people down. All the things I wanted to suppress and numb and forget about, that depression around what I was experiencing there became far too much for me to keep down.”

Related: Andrew Gillum found in Miami Beach hotel room with suspected drugs, police say

Gillum’s video comes four months after police said they found him in a South Beach hotel room with a collapsed companion and baggies of crystal meth when they responded to an overdose call. Gillum was not charged with a crime. He was with two other men, one of whom maintained a profile on a website for male escorts, in the hotel room and police said he was too inebriated to talk when they arrived. Two days later, Gillum issued a statement saying he would “seek help, guidance and enter a rehabilitation facility” but that he had never used methamphetamine.

After the 2018 loss, Gillum, the former mayor of Tallahassee, had remained active in politics and was arguably the most well-known Florida Democrat. He had a national presence on cable news as a CNN analyst, helped build a political organization designed to help Democrats register voters for the 2020 election and was the subject of vice presidential rumors.

Related: As Ron DeSantis slips in Florida polls, Democratic challengers for governor are starting to emerge

That ended in March, and Gillum said Monday he sought therapy after completing rehab. He also said he’s still married to his wife, R. Jai., and photos of his wife and children were visible behind him during his video message. His wife also replied to his Instagram post with a heart emoji.

“I want to thank a person who is my life partner, my wife R. Jai, a woman who knows everything that I am and everything that I am not and she chooses to love me anyhow,” Gillum said. “I can’t thank her enough for not just standing by me but encouraging me through this...”

Gillum gave no hint of any future political plans in the video, focusing solely on his recovery from addiction and apologizing to supporters for letting them down.

“This is a tough moment not to be out in the world and contributing,” Gillum said. “I want you to know that although I can’t be what I love to be for you, for myself and for my community at this time, I hope you know I couldn’t be those things because I couldn’t be what I needed to be for me first and that’s what I’m working on at this point in time.”

Miami Herald reporter David Smiley contributed to this report.

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