In a gubernatorial town hall held three weeks ago, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum was asked if he considered himself a “democratic socialist.” He demurred. But Gillum, now the Democratic nominee for governor of Florida, is campaigning as a member of the Sanders–Ocasio-Cortez wing of the party: He wants to abolish ICE, raise the minimum wage to $15, pass single-payer health care, and increase taxes across the board. With its laissez-faire economic policies and its general respect for personal liberty, Florida has long been considered one of the freest states in the union. And the Democrats want to put a socialist in the governor’s mansion.
His record as mayor is far from sparkling. An ongoing FBI probe into corruption in Tallahassee politics has ensnared some of his formerly close associates and should be a legitimate issue in the gubernatorial race. In the wake of Hurricane Hermine, Gillum clashed with Governor Rick Scott and struggled to coordinate an effort to restore power to the city. One’s competency as an emergency manager is always a crucial issue in statewide elections. But it is Gillum’s politics that should put him beyond the pale: His agenda, taken straight from the Sanders playbook, displays little awareness of what distinguishes the Florida model from less free, less successful states.