Gillum's Twitter followers spike after primary victory, clash with Trump
Tallahassee mayor quintuples social media followers in 36 hours
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Andrew Gillum might not be popular with his opponent in the Florida governor's race -- or the leader of the free world -- but he's got his share of fans.
The Tallahassee mayor's Twitter followers have more than quintupled in the 36 hours since he won the Democratic nomination Tuesday night.
Before his upset victory over favorite Gwen Graham in Florida's primary, Gillum had about 40,000 followers on Twitter. By 11 a.m. Thursday, that number had spiked to 226,000.
It's likely that along with his primary victory, a Twitter spat with President Donald Trump contributed to the growth in Gillum's social media presence.
Trump, who backed Republican nominee U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the primary, called Gillum a “failed Socialist Mayor,” claiming he's allowed crime to “flourish in his city.”
"This is not what Florida wants or needs!" Trump tweeted.
Gillum responded almost immediately with a tweet at Trump, saying “what our state and country needs is decency, hope, and leadership.”
He also suggested to the president: “@ me next time.”
Gillum's online clash with Trump with quickly overshadowed Wednesday by remarks from his gubernatorial opponent that sparked cries of racism.
On Fox News, DeSantis called Gillum an "articulate" candidate, but said "the last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting this state. That is not going to work. It's not going to be good for Florida."
Despite immediately being denounced by many for what was deemed a racist remark, DeSantis's campaign clarified that his comments were directed at Gillum's policies, not the candidate himself, and said “to characterize it as anything else is absurd."
In response, Gillum told CNN on Wednesday that Florida voters “are going to be looking for a governor who's going to bring us together, not divide us. Not misogynist, not racist, not bigots, they're going to be looking for a governor who is going to appeal to our higher aspirations as a state.”
The two candidates, who are seeking to succeed Republican Gov. Rick Scott, couldn't be more opposed politically.
DeSantis came from behind with the help of Trump to beat Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who campaigned longer, raised more money and built party establishment support.
Gillum upset a field of five that included Graham, a former congresswoman who was hoping to become the state's first female governor and win the office once held by her father, Bob Graham. Gillum spent the least of the major candidates, but won the hearts of those who consider themselves progressives and got a late boost from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Gillum didn't make race an issue in the primary. But he acknowledged in a recent interview that it would be "big" to be Florida's first black governor.
"I have been really slow to try to think on it because it's too big," he said. "There will absolutely be a part of this that I can't even put words to around what it might mean for my children and other people's kids. Especially growing up for them in the age of Donald Trump."
Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.