ORLANDO, FL (Gray DC) -- Florida Democrats setting aside intra-party competition this week and zeroing in on their real adversary this November. Alana Austin reports from Orlando with the message from today's rally.
It was a show of force from Florida Democrats - they are gearing up for big battleground races in this key battle-ground state.
The party held an event in the heart of the battleground, what's known as the I-4 corridor, of central Florida. Voters there are known to be swing votes and critical to winning state-wide elections.
Democrats sharing the ticket this November shared center stage this afternoon at a union office. They spoke about expanding health care access, pushing for higher wages and enhancing the quality of the environment and education in Florida.
Party nominee for Governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, along with Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, were the stars of the show. Gillum and Nelson are in highly-competitive races. Today the party predicted big wins this year, and beyond.
"And in 2020, we're going to flip this country blue and get you know who out of the White House," said Gillum.
"You know what we're going to be singing? We're going to be singing happy days are here again!" shouted Nelson.
While Gillum is seen as a progressive and Nelson is viewed as a centrist Democrat, the party set aside those differing views and put on a united front Friday afternoon. They're largely rallying around Gillum, a rising star of the Democratic Party.
Spirited competitors turned into allies, as gubernatorial candidates Gwen Graham, Philip Levine and Chris King all took the stage here and rallied the troops. All offered their strong support for Gillum, despite the sting of their losses from Tuesday night.
It's clear Democrats are emboldened to take on Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis and other Republicans this November. Another message from today: Gillum encouraging fellow Democrats to take their platform to communities that go blue and red.
On the other hand, Republicans point to excitement within the GOP in the Sunshine State.
“First off, there was no blue wave," said Governor Rick Scott, who is seeking to unseat Nelson this fall. He mentions how voter registration and turnout on the Republican side is strong. More Republican primary ballots were cast in the 2018 midterm primaries.
Scott and other Republicans running for office this year largely argue that Gillum and other Democrats have become too liberal and are not in step with most Florida voters. Scott says Gillum's policies would kill jobs and raise taxes for working families.
“What you’ve got is you’ve got a radical left agenda," said Scott.
University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett says Gillum will likely engage younger and more diverse voters this November. On the other hand, he says the GOP has gained a lot of power in Florida in recent years. He also says Scott has grown to be a popular governor, and he can likely take credit for recent economic successes in the state.
This past week, turnout was very high, so he says it's anyone's guess what happens in the general elections.
"Both Democrats and Republicans were really motivated to turn out," said Aubrey Jewett, UCF Professor.
Jewett adds it's no accident this event today was held in Orlando. Political pundits refer to voters here as being part of the I-4 corridor, the key swing region of the Sunshine State. Central Florida is also highly-concentrated with registered voters, so many campaign events and ad spending are expected in the region.
Voters head to the polls again November 6th, so the parties don't have much time to make their cases before early voting begins once again in the general election.