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After tailing his opponents for months, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has risen to the top of the polls and crossed the finish line ahead of his rivals on Tuesday night in Florida.

The victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for governor puts Gillum in the November election for a chance to become the state’s first Black governor.

“For me, it’s been 18 months on the campaign trail. The story on Wednesday will be that the Seabiscuit of Florida politics came from behind to win,” Gillum told NewsOne on Monday, making a reference to the champion thoroughbred racehorse.

See Also: Bernie Sanders Endorses The Only Black Candidate Running For Governor In Florida

Gillum, 39, was once buried near the bottom of the five-candidate field of Democrats who were competing for the party’s nomination and hoping to end two decades of Republicans controlling the governor’s office. A recent surge in the polls placed him neck-and-neck with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

“Voters are finally paying attention to the fact that we have a gubernatorial race coming up,” Gillum said, explaining one reason for his climb in the polls. “They are also finally paying attention to what the candidates are saying.”

Gillum, who was elected the first Black mayor of Tallahassee in 2014, pointed to the important endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who inspired progressives in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary and nearly snatched victory from Hillary Clinton.

“Quite frankly, the endorsement brought attention from a whole different group of people who were not paying attention to my candidacy,” he stated.

Democratic rivals outspent the mayor roughly $90 million to his $4 million.

“I’m the only non-millionaire running on the Democratic side,” Gillum noted. “In fact, I may be the only Democrat running who has a mortgage.”

A group of progressive organizations contributed $3.5 million in resources to help Gillum’s campaign. People For the American Way (PFAW) was one of the organizations that sent ground troops to Florida to knock on doors, make phone calls and publish ads to “help level the playing field,” Diallo Brooks, senior director of outreach and public engagement for PFAW, told NewsOne.

There has been a growing enthusiasm for Gillum across all demographics, Brooks stated. That’s particularly true for African-American voters.

“Black voters are getting to know Andrew Gillum. They’re seeing that he’s from the community, and his background speaks to the community, as well as the issues that they care about,” Brooks added.

Gillum, a Florida A&M University alum, was born in Miami where his mother was a school bus driver and his father a construction worker. He’s the first college graduate in his family.

“I know my lived experience probably better reflects the voters of this state than anybody else running,” Gillum said. “I think voters are also coming to that conclusion, which I think really helped us.”

Despite his surge in the polls, Gillum isn’t taking anything for granted. He plans to stand on street corners with his uncle and wave campaign signs as voters head to the polls—an Election Day tradition his uncle began in 2003 when Gillum was running for the Tallahassee City Commission.

It’s been a grueling primary campaign that he prayerfully hoped would end with him making political history. At this point in the journey, it’s up to the voters to push him over the final hurdle.

“Once you’ve done all you can, just stand,” he said, quoting the scriptures.

SEE ALSO:

Black Leaders Pay Tribute To Sen. John McCain Who Leaves A Mixed Legacy With African Americans

Andrew Gillum, ‘The Seabiscuit Of Florida Politics’, Wins Primary For Florida Governor was originally published on newsone.com

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