Trying to flip from Red to Blue: Andrew Gillum endorses 21 Democratic candidates

Florida Capitol
The 22-story Florida Capitol towers over the old Historic Capitol. Credit: Diane Rado

A day after Andrew Gillum announced efforts to reengage voters and upend a GOP-controlled Legislature, the former Tallahassee mayor and 2018 gubernatorial candidate endorsed 21 state legislative candidates across Florida.

The candidates, all Democrats, either plan to run for election after a loss; try to move from a state House member to a Senate position; or maintain their current seat in the 2020 elections in Florida.

Gillum and Forward Florida, an organization focused on increasing voter registration, endorsed Democratic candidates in both chambers and in key battleground districts.

The goal, Gillum says, is to flip the Florida Legislature blue in the November 2020 elections.

“I am proud to endorse the values and visions of these remarkable public servants who are all working to move Florida forward,” Gillum said in a statement on Friday. Gillum was the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 2018 and lost to Republican Ron DeSantis.

One candidate supported by Gillum lost a tight race for a Florida House seat in 2018.

Jim Bonfiglio is running again for House District 89, which covers part of Palm Beach county. He fell short by just 32 votes after a mandatory recount was issued, according to his website.

Another candidate, physician Kayser Enneking, ran for Florida Senate in 2018 and lost. Now she’s pursuing a Florida House seat.

This is the first round of endorsements, according to Gillum, who will be announcing more in coming months. That first group will be able to get a campaign contribution and other support, the press release said.

Gillum said in a statement: “This first round of endorsements represents our commitment to building a lasting progressive movement in Florida — and turning that movement into real victories up and down the ballot. So much of what affects everyday Floridians’ lives happens at the state level, so it is vital that we are working to flip Florida Blue on every level of the ticket.”

The Florida Phoenix contacted the Republican Party of Florida, but was unable to reach an official who could comment.

Gillum has launched the initiative with the Florida Democratic Party to increase voter registration among minority and young voters.

He held a press call this week, saying “vote by mail” is a major factor in enrolling voters, and he will be working on a variety of events and town hall meetings across the state.

Here is a list of Gillum and Florida Forward’s endorsements thus far:

  • State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez (Senate District 37)
  • State Rep. Javier Fernández (running for Senate District 39)
  • State Rep. Geraldine Thompson (House District 44)
  • State Rep. Anna Eskamani (House District 47)
  • State Rep. Fentrice Driskell (House District 63)
  • State Rep. Delores Hogan Johnson (House District 84)
  • State Rep. Cindy Polo (House District 103)
  • Kayser Enneking (running for House District 21)
  • Patrick Henry (running for House District 26)
  • Jim Bonfiglio (running for House District 89)
  • Linda Thompson Gonzalez (running for House District 93)
  • Franccesca Cesti-Browne (running for House District 115)
  • State Rep. Loranne Ausley (running for Senate District 3)
  • State Rep. Shevrin Jones (running for Senate District 35)
  • State Rep. Kamia Brown (House District 45)
  • State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (House District 49)
  • State Rep. Dianne Hart (House District 61)
  • State Rep. Wengay Newton (House District 70)
  • State Rep. Dotie Joseph (House District 108)
  • State Sen. Randolph Bracy (Senate District 11)
  • State Sen. Perry Thurston (Senate District 33)