A crowd of hundreds gathered to see Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum speak in St. Petersburg at St. Petersburg College’s Gibbs Campus Friday morning. The line for admission snaked around buildings and doubled over through the lawn.
The crowd was so large that it far exceeded the capacity of the tiny theater allotted for an intimate town hall, and hundreds, even those who arrived an hour prior to the event’s start, were turned away.
The event was a veritable who’s who of Democratic politics.
Local democratic candidates mingled throughout the theater prior to the event’s start. Lindsay Cross, challenger to Senator Jeff Brandes in Senate District 24; Jennifer Webb, running for state representative in House District 69; and Nicole Carr, running for Pinellas County School Board against incumbent Peggy O’Shea all greeted voters and Gillum supporters as they waited for the event to begin.
Countless other elected officials were also present, including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, U.S. Representative Charlie Crist, State Representative Wengay Newton and St. Petersburg City Council Chairman Lisa Wheeler Bowman.
Mayor Kriseman kicked things off: “I’m excited to know that we can elect a mayor as governor,” he said to a receptive crowd. “That excites me because mayors get things done.”
On Gillum’s first day back on the campaign trail following Hurricane Michael’s devastation of the panhandle, he broke from town hall protocol, remarking on the hurricane and his time in Tallahassee. Gillum took the opportunity to bear down on his opponent’s views on climate change and environmental protection, while emphasizing his commitment to alternative energy.
“It’s time to put the word ‘protection’ back into the the Department of Environmental Protection,” he said.
Referring to Hurricane Michael, Gillum said, “this thing went from a tropical system to a near Category 5 hurricane through its travel through the Gulf Coast – in October.”
He continued, “If anyone wants to disassociate a storm as powerful as Hurricane Michael was from the warming of our seas, our oceans, we’ve got to stand up and say ‘These things are connected.’
“Part of building a more resilient state means you’ve at least got to have a governor who believes in science. That’s one point. None of this weird stuff about ‘We cant say whether or not global warming is real because we’re not scientists.’ Well guess what, I’m not a doctor but if I’m sick, I’m going to go see one.
“We’ve got to turn to science and we’re going to do that by leaning into the science and building a more resilient state in the face of this.”
“Not only are we going to save our environment, we’re going to build a green economy in the process. We’re going to build an economy where Florida becomes the envy of the rest of the nation, the rest of the world. We’re going to be a leading producer of solar energy here in the state of Florida.”
Gillum outlined the need for higher wages, better jobs and opportunity for all Floridians.
Gillum then returned to the town hall format, fielding questions from the audience. He spoke on topics ranging from gun violence to climate change and pollution, to the steps he’ll take to increase wages throughout the state of Florida and support Florida’s community college system.
Check out our photo gallery to see more from Friday’s town hall.