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State governor races show Democrats are sliding toward progressivism

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Gillum
Andrew
Gillum’s victory in Florida is yet another sign of the Democratic
party’s slide toward progressivism.

Mike Segar/Reuters

  • In states across the US, Democratic voters are
    embracing progressive candidates in gubernatorial races,
    marking a major shift in the party’s politics. 
  • On Tuesday night, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum won
    the Democratic primary election for governor of Florida,
    becoming the first black gubernatorial nominee in the state’s
    history. 
  • With Gillum’s victory, Democrats have three black,
    progressive candidates for governor in November’s
    midterms.

In states across the US, Democratic voters are embracing
progressive candidates in gubernatorial races, marking a major
shift in the party’s politics. 

Beyond indicating a slide toward progressivism for Democrats, a
number of these candidates also have the chance to make history
from a demographic standpoint. 

On Tuesday night, Talahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum won the
Democratic primary election for governor of Florida, becoming the
first black gubernatorial nominee in the state’s history. 

Gillum, who supports policies such as legalizing marijuana,
abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and
Medicare-for-all, was endorsed by progressive darling Sen. Bernie
Sanders. He defeated former US Rep. Gwen Graham,

who’s decidedly more centrist.
 He will now
face Republican nominee US Rep. Ron DeSantis.

The race between Gillum and DeSantis, who was endorsed by
Trump, epitomizes the deeply polarized nature of US politics at
the moment. 

Within less than a day of the primary result, DeSantis drew
ire after he made a
racially-charged remark about Gillum.
 DeSantis also
slammed Gillum for his “far-left views” as he contended the
Democratic nominee would make a mess of things in Florida if
elected. 

President Donald Trump also went after Gillum on Twitter,
describing him as a “failed
Socialist Mayor.”
 This comes amid reports Trump recently
warned Christian leaders there will be
“violence”
if the GOP doesn’t perform well on Election
Day. 

Indeed, it seems that diverse, strongly left-leaning candidates
have Trump and his supporters quite concerned about what could
happen in November. 

History could be made in November in multiple races

With Gillum’s victory, Democrats have three black, progressive
candidates for governor in November’s midterms.

The Talahassee mayor joins Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Ben
Jealous of Maryland in that regard. Abrams and Jealous were also
endorsed by Sanders. 

Meanwhile, David Garcia, a progressive Latino,
won the Democratic primary election for governor in Arizona

on Tuesday. Garcia, like Gillum, supports policies such as
abolishing ICE and Medicare-for-all. 

All four states had centrist candidates four years ago, but in
the Trump era progressives are seemingly taking the Democratic
Party by storm.

Moreover, Gillum could now become the first black governor of
Florida, Jealous the
first black governor of Maryland
, and Garcia the first Latino
governor of Arizona in decades. And if Abrams wins, she would be

the first black female governor in US history

Notably, there are no
black governors
in any of the 50 states at present. 

Correspondingly, the Democratic nominee for governor of
Idaho, Paulette Jordan, is also a progressive and has
the chance to make history in November. Jordan could be
the first Native American governor in the US

Democratic voters are embracing unconventional candidates

In states like Florida, Georgia, and Arizona, which have large
cohorts of conservative voters, it can be risky for candidates to
embrace left-wing politics.

Gillum and Garcia have been decried as dangerous socialists by
their opponents. Abrams, who is an unapologetic progressive but
isn’t quite as far to the left as Gillum and Garcia on issues
like healthcare and immigration, has even
faced similar attacks

But the stark contrast such candidates offer to Trump’s
hyper-nationalistic brand of politics seems to have attracted
Democratic voters. “Socialist” is no longer such a dirty word in
America’s political discourse. 

In short, 2018 has opened the door for unconventional Democratic
candidates to win in an array of races.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning upset over US Rep. Joe
Crowley
in New York’s 14th Congressional District is
emblematic of that fact.

‘The progressive movement is transforming the
country’

As it happens, Ocasio-Cortez was among the first to celebrate
Gillum’s big win on Tuesday night. After the news of Gillum’s
victory broke, she tweeted, “The progressive movement is
transforming the country – and he proved that again
tonight.”

As in any election, none of these candidates are guaranteed
to win this fall, but they aren’t necessarily long-shots
either.

Ultimately, the results of their respective races could
have significant implications for not only Trump’s agenda, but
also the Democratic party’s platform and presidential nominee in
2020. 

Simply put, the era of centrist Democratic candidates could
be nearing an end as the party desperately searches for an
antidote to Trumpism. 

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