Andrew Gillum came from humble beginnings.
And, although Gillum was one of seven children, where his family often struggled to make ends meet, the Florida native, who is running for governor of Florida in 2018, credits his success to the public education system in Florida.
On Sunday, Gillum spoke to a crowd of about 300 people at the 19th annual Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee Lawton Chiles Gala about how he hopes to bring changes to the Democratic Party in Florida by supporting public schools, restoring health care coverage and more.
“In Gainesville at Westwood Middle School, there was a teacher named Mrs. Alexander, and I don’t know if any of you all know her, but I tell my team that I need to go find her,” he said. “When I was getting ready to go off to high school, Mrs. Alexander pulled me to the side and she said, ‘you know Andrew, you’re a really bright kid, I think you ought to plan to enroll in advancement course.’ It was those challenging courses that ended up putting me on a pathway to getting some money and being able to go to college.”
Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe also spoke at the gala to show his support for Gillum.
“He (Gillum) places an enormous priority on educating our children, and not just saying it, but putting all the resources necessary to make sure that our children start off with the best chance in life,” Poe said. “He recognizes that high-quality health care is not an option, but a basic human right.”
According to Gillum, one of the biggest problems he sees with how Gov. Rick Scott has run Florida in recent years is how he has been “relentlessly” trying to privatize the public education system in Florida.
“By the time they’ve been to Kindergarten, in this state, almost 40 percent of our kids are not ready to learn,” Gillum said. “Almost that same percentage are not reading at grade level by the time they get to the third grade, and you know what kind of predictions start getting made about our kids at the third grade.”
Stephen Bittel, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, also came to voice his support for Gillum, along with his opposition of Gov. Scott.
“When 12 of our senior members of our community in South Florida die in a nursing home that lost power and the governor got four cell phone calls and messages, which he conveniently deleted, and these people died of dehydration, that’s something you’d be concerned about,” Bittel said. “By the way, The New York Times was pretty concerned about it today as it was on the front page, so this case is not going away. He will be held accountable and it’s time that we as Democrats make sure that Rick Scott just got his last elected office.”
Along with Gillum stressing public education, he also believes that a major problem Florida currently faces is not having enough technical workers.
“Your life is not over if you don’t choose a college-bound track because those are also the kinds of sectors that are now rising and cannot find the talent that they need,” he said.
Aside from Gillum promising to help public school systems, he also focused on restoring health care coverage in Florida.
“Health care should be a fundamental right, not a privilege,” he said.