JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee in Florida's race for governor, returned to the campaign trail Thursday after Hurricane Michael pounded the Panhandle.
With just three weeks left until the midterm election, Gillum stopped in Jacksonville, where he sat down with News4Jax before speaking at the NAACP's annual Freedom Fund dinner downtown.
He said he's counting on "DUUUVAL" County voters to send him to the governor's mansion in the state capital, which he said is on the mend following Hurricane Michael.
The Tallahassee mayor said his city has slowly started to return to normal, as schools are open and rebuilding is underway.
"We had over 90 percent of our area impacted by Michael. Falling trees were the biggest problem. Trees came down in my own home. We had four trees come down. We had 50 percent of our city covered by trees," Gillum said. "Today, over 99 ½ percent of the people in our city have power. In fact, now we are sending crews to our neighboring counties to the west, who were literally blown away by the impacts of the storm."
During the storm, there were television ads that ran, attacking Gillum for his hurricane response to Hermine. News4Jax asked Gillum if he felt he had something to prove with the response in Tallahassee to Hurricane Michael.
"What I would say to my opponent is that in times of natural disaster, Floridians come together. We do what we can to help each other get back on our feet," Gillum said in response. "There has never been a time in the political history of this state, where opponents did not take down negative ads during a storm that impacted zones and regions. While people were literally fleeing for their lives, they had to deal with negative commercials."
Gillum said the allegations made in one Republican Party of Florida advertisement about his response to Hurricane Hermine were rated mostly false by PolitiFact. As for Hurricane Michael, the storm damaged more than a thousand buildings in Tallahassee, where hotel rooms remained packed with Hurricane Michael evacuees, linemen and relief workers.
While hurricanes are one of the ultimate tests of political leadership in Florida, Gillum said he's now looking forward to Nov. 6.
"If you’re sick of blue-green algae flowing out of the east and west side of the state, if you can't go fishing because of some of the red tide and the fish kills, ... if you’re tired of teachers not getting paid a wage they can live on, then you want a governor who will improve salaries," Gillum said. "If you want to improve the public education and tired of seeing schools labeled as failure factories, then you want a governor to lean into that."
News4Jax asked a campaign manager with Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis' campaign about that campaign ad, but has not heard back.
DeSantis was in South Florida Thursday, but he later headed north to Jacksonville to speak at Duval County's Lincoln/Douglass "Victory through Unity" banquet at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.