The National – and New Jersey – Impact of an Andrew Gillum Victory in November

The latest Monmouth University Poll shows New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer tied at 2 percent support among South Carolina Democrats.

The Florida gubernatorial race had been pretty much under the national political radar screen until last night.  With the shocking upset victory of Andrew Gillum in the Florida gubernatorial Democratic primary, the race between him and the GOP nominee, Trump acolyte Ron DeSantis becomes in many ways, from a long-range political perspective, the most significant political contest in the nation. 

What is at stake here is the very soul of the future of the Democratic Party.  At present, Florida has 29 electoral votes, placing it in a tie with New York for the third highest electoral vote total of any state, behind California (55) and Texas (38).  A Gillum victory in November would be the most significant triumph to date of the Progressive Democrat movement.  Andrew Gillum would become arguably the nation’s most significant Progressive Democrat – even more so than Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. 

While it would be too soon for Andrew Gillum to run for the presidency in 2020, his endorsement for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination would be by far the most significant and most coveted.  The effect of an Andrew Gillum endorsement would not be limited to Florida.  He would become the leading political rock star of the national African-American community, and his endorsement would have a major impact on the African-American vote in all the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries. 

In terms of New Jersey, the most significantly affected player is Cory Booker.  There is no doubt that he will be seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and thus obtaining the Gillum endorsement will be his very top priority.  Expect Booker to spend significant time in Florida campaigning for Andrew Gillum.   

Booker will not be needed by the Bob Menendez campaign in New Jersey.  The incumbent senior senator has the good fortune to be running against Bob Hugin, the most politically inept statewide New Jersey candidate of my lifetime.  In sports terms, Hugin is reminiscent of Marv Throneberry, the horrendous fielding first baseman of the original New York Mets team of 1962.  One of his teammates once said, “Marv, we were going to give you a birthday cake, but we were afraid you would drop it!” 

Booker has been ideologically straddling the fence between mainstream center-left Democrats and the Progressives.  We can now anticipate that he will make an ideologically sharp left turn, as will all the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls seeking the Gillum endorsement.  This will impact the 2020 Democratic National Convention platform.  A Gillum Florida victory in November means that “Medicare for All” will become an essential Democratic platform plank, as will other Progressive Democrat Articles of Faith, such as open immigration borders and a major increase in the minimum wage. 

The most certain prediction of the forthcoming Florida gubernatorial contest is that the DeSantis campaign will sink to new depths of racist and xenophobic ugliness.  Donald Trump will make it so.  He will campaign often and most vigorously for DeSantis, and the national media will broadcast his bigoted invective.  This will make it even more imperative that Tom MacArthur and Leonard Lance, two outstanding incumbent New Jersey GOP Congressmen, neither of whom is the least bit racist or xenophobic put the absolute maximum distance between themselves and Trump. 

It is too soon to predict the outcome of the Florida November gubernatorial campaign.  At this point, the election of a Democratic House of Representatives is a virtual certainty, and the Republicans are likely to maintain control of the Senate, unless Trump fires Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.  This would result in the Democrats winning all the toss-up Senate races, giving them control of the Senate as well. 

The only thing I can say with certainty about Florida is that if you have parents who live there, they will be inundated with robo-calls in the month of October, especially in Palm Beach County!  My late parents lived in Palm Beach County, and my son reminded me last night that in October, they would be getting political robo-calls every five minutes!  Cory Booker does robo-calls very well, and he will definitely be one of the callers. 

Last night, I reflected on how much Florida had changed since my childhood in the 1950s.  During that decade, Florida had racially segregated bathrooms, and African-Americans were relegated to the back of the bus.  So while I am not a progressive Democrat, I could not help but regard the Gillum victory as a triumph for racial tolerance. 

And my thoughts also turned to Jackie Roosevelt Robinson.  Outside of Dwight David Eisenhower, Jackie Roosevelt Robinson is the 20th century American I most admire.  I am sure that Jackie is in heaven now, grinning from ear to ear about the Andrew Gillum victory!

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman. 

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