United States Sen. Bernie Sanders visited University of Central Florida on Friday to headline one of two campaign rallies for Andrew Gillum, a Democratic primary candidate hoping to become Florida's first black governor.
The rallies, one held in Tampa and one in Orlando, brushed over Gillum's well-known support for gun control, a $15 minimum wage and universal healthcare, and zeroed-in on a dire effort to get young voters to the polls.
"We have to vote like our lives depend on it," Gillum said in the atrium of UCF's CFE Arena, garnering applause from a crowd of more than 1,000 supporters — many of whom college students. "And then we're going to do the job that will save the rest of the planet."
For years, the CFE Arena has been ground-zero for candidates looking to win over last-minute campaign support in tightly competitive races. And an appearance from Sanders, an unsuccessful presidential candidate who harbored much of his support from the country's college campuses and spawned a relentlessly progressive movement in the U.S., extended Gillum's push to galvanize the millennials who supported the senator in 2016.
"The other side has money. Andrew has the people," Sanders said. "You're going to have a governor who understands that the future of this state and the future of this country is with the young people."
Gillum is one of five contenders in Florida's packed democratic primary for governor: Miami Mayor Phillip Levine, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, and Winter Park businessman Chris King are all vying for the same throne. Graham and Levine hold the lead in recent polls, but Gillum hopes his endorsement from Sanders — the biggest endorsement in his primary — and a solid pitch to Florida's younger and poorer communities will help propel him to victory.
"Andrew understands that instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations, we are going to invest in education," Sanders said on stage. "And it is not acceptable to me, to Andrew or to you ... that we have more people in jail than any other major country on earth."
Jessica Thurber, a freshman at UCF, said she isn't 100 percent sold on Gillum. She attended Friday's rally to learn more about his campaign and to see Political Celebrity and Leftist Icon Bernie Sanders.
"A lot of the candidates don't have as much political experience as him," Thurber said of Gillum. "Also, he's not a millionaire."
Gillum, the son of a bus driver and mayor of Florida's capitol, peddles a campaign message of being the only candidate that isn't a millionaire—an asset young, progressive supporters like Thurber tend to gravitate to. At the rally, Sanders said "you should not have to be a millionaire to run for office."
For Sanders, however, swooping down on a race like this one will put his own political clout to the test. The senator from Vermont endorsed Rep. Tom Perriello, a primary candidate in Virginia's gubernatorial race who ended up losing despite Sanders' blessing.
Florida's primary elections will take place on Aug. 28.
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