Andrew Gillum

Former Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Wednesday, March 20, launches Bring It Home Florida, a non-profit organization, whose goal is to register and engage 1 million new voters.

After campaigning across the state of Florida to be the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and candidate, Andrew Gillum made assessments about the political landscape: The state of the Democratic Party is disorganized.

“We are the Democratic Party, and I will say that it is time to organize,” Gillum said in a recent interview. “The strength of the party was organizing authentically … We need to get back to our roots, get back to the tradition.”

Gillum also learned that many people weren’t sure why they needed to get involved in the electoral process. He also met many advocates, people who loved the state and shared his vision.

By marrying these two spectrums, Gillum created Bring it Home Florida, a charitable organization, whose goal to register and engage 1 million new voters in Florida by the 2020 primary. He will reveal Bring It Home Florida to the nation late Wednesday afternoon at Florida Memorial University.

The organization, incorporated in January, will seek to re-engage about 2 million Florida voters who are eligible to vote but did not in the last presidential and gubernatorial elections.

“That's about six years by 2020 that they would have been out of the voting process,” Gillum noted. “We want to bring them back.”

The not-for-profit’s board is made of 10 influential women and one man, Phillip Jerez, Gillum’s former campaign director. Other board members include Boca Raton’s Dana Aberman, chairperson of Gift of Life’s Steps For Life 5K of South Florida; Robbin Bray, Party Leader and Elected Official (PLEO) at-large delegate for Bernie Sanders; breast cancer advocate and niece of former Jacksonville mayor Tommy Hazouri Donna Deegan; South Florida real estate agent Regina Ferdinand; and Apryl Freeman, an educator and alumni of Florida A&M University, Gillum’s alma mater.

The entire nation has been speculating on what Gillum is going to announce on Wednesday at FMU. News outlets have been intimating that Gillum is going to make a run for president or some other significant office in the 2020 General Election. 

By forming an organization focused on voter registration, Gillum is trying to improve his odds of winning if and when he runs for office again and improve the chances of flipping Florida to a blue state.

"Florida doesn't need to be the 1 percent state," said Gillum, referring to the tight margins by which candidates win or lose. Gillum lost his bid for the Florida governorship by 32,000 votes.

In the 2020 presidential race, winning Florida's 29 electoral votes will be crucial to whomever wants to occupy the White House.

Gillum will join forces with several voter registration not-for-profits that need financial support to do their work year-round, and not just during election season. Another paradigm shift that Gillum hopes will happen is that those people who are used to giving to political candidates will also give to the work of voter registration. 

Gillum’s announcement comes on the same day that the Florida Democratic Party announced that it plans to make a $2 million investment in voter registration ahead of the 2020 elections. The investment will go toward new technology, advanced data models and hiring more full-time organizers. The party is aiming to register 200,000 voters before the 2020 primary.

The program is a part of the joint effort by Democrats ... to create the electorate we need to win in Florida, Juan Peñalosa, the Florida Democratic Party's executive director, said via email.

"As one of the more exciting leaders of our Party in Florida, we're excited for Andrew Gillum to direct his energies toward registering voters and we are working closely with Mayor Gillum to ensure we meet aggressive goals to bring more Floridians into the democratic process," Peñalosa said.

Newly elect president of the South Dade Democratic Black Caucus, Ron Brown chapter Reverend Kevin Chamblis said the party had informed the caucuses that voter registration was a priority.

"We were aware that this was a priority for the party and that they would invest significant amounts of money toward implementing a Voter Registration Plan. In addition, we look forward to working with the Party to implement that plan, specifically in committees of color," Chamblis said.

The Black community has long complained that the party does not give it the tools it needs to run grass-roots campaigns such as voter registration drives. 

 Chamblis said voter registration will be a "Herculean task," because of the  passage of Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to felons who have served their terms and who were not convicted of a sex crime or murder.

"We applaud every effort that the Democratic Party will take to register voters, especially in communities of color," he said.

CORRECTION: Dana Aberman is the chairperson of Gift of Life’s Steps For Life 5K of South Florida. She is not a co-founder of the organization as previously stated in this article.

The Miami Times staff writer, Nyamekye Daniel, contributed to this story. 

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