Florida’s election for governor presents voters with a stark choice: Between one candidate with the right priorities and another with the wrong ones. Between one who inspires and another who peddles fear. Between one who would check the excesses of one-party rule and another who would fuel them.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum offers a fresh, promising direction for Florida. He came from behind to win the Democratic primary against better-financed opponents. He energizes young people and minority voters, and he connects by talking about real issues such as the need to invest in public schools, expand access to health care and preserve the environment.
Gillum sketches out a vision for Florida and an agenda for governing. He supports providing health care to hundreds of thousands of low-income Floridians by accepting federal money to expand Medicaid, as most states have done. He wants bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which most Florida voters support. He wants to invest more in public education, raise teacher salaries and de-emphasize high stakes testing, echoing the concerns of parents across the state.
Ron DeSantis offers none of that. The former member of Congress won the Republican primary over a more qualified candidate because of President Donald Trump's endorsement, not the strength of his record or his ideas. He voted regularly in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and he opposes Medicaid expansion. Like most Republican state legislators, he opposes sensible gun controls. He would continue to redirect more state money away from traditional public schools toward private schools and charters. And while DeSantis supports some sensible environmental policies, such as ending federal government supports for the sugar industry, he is vague or evasive on broader concerns, from an offshore drilling ban to environmental spending. He can’t be counted on to restore funding to water management districts, embrace growth management or enforce environmental regulations.
DeSantis has failed to speak to core issues facing this state and focused on bashing Gillum rather than offering his vision for the future. The long federal investigation of city government in Tallahassee is a concern, and Gillum could have better handled questions about his interactions with undercover FBI agents and a former longtime friend and lobbyist. But there is no indication he is the target of the criminal investigation.
State government needs a reset, and Gillum would act as a check on the Republican-controlled Legislature. He would be a moderating force in the swing state and curb the Legislature's increasing assault on local control. Gillum's compelling life story and personal appeal also could bring more Floridians of all backgrounds into the political process, and he would make history as the state’s first African American governor. He has shown a genuine ability throughout the campaign to inspire, to appeal to hopes rather than fears. That's what real leaders do.