With the first primary for the Florida governorship still a year away, Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee and a governor candidate, encouraged UF students Tuesday to become active in the election.

More than 50 people, including students and Gainesville citizens, came to Little Hall, Room 101 at 5 p.m. to hear Gillum and City Commissioner David Arreola speak and answer questions relating to Gillum’s candidacy. The event was co-hosted by Gators for Gillum and UF College Democrats.

Ben Lima, a UF political science sophomore, started Gators for Gillum as soon as he heard Gillum, 38, speak at his gubernatorial campaign announcement in Tallahassee on March 1. Gators for Gillum held a text-a-thon and fundraiser in support of the current Tallahassee mayor April 1.

“It’s truly a campaign run by people. We call it a people-powered campaign because he doesn’t get the big checks from the special interests. It’s truly run in a grassroots fashion through excitement and the common people,” the 19-year-old said.

Tuesday’s event marked Gators for Gillum’s Fall Kick-Off event, which was delayed due to Hurricane Irma.

Gillum said he won his first political appointment to the Tallahassee City Commission at age 23, becoming the youngest person to do so because of the youth support in Tallahassee.

“Should young people on this campus choose to get engaged in this election they can make all the world a difference,” Gillum said. “Young voters are fewer than 5 percent of the primary electorate and I think we can go much higher than that and students can help us get there.”

Gillum addressed student issues during his speech. He said he supports special college scholarships for those pursuing careers in fields that are in need of more personnel, including teachers and nurses.  

Gillum answered questions from the audience about topics like felons’ voting rights to campaign finance reform. Gillum urged students to be active in the issues that matter to them and have difficult conversations with those that might have different perspectives.

“This state is not going to change if we stay on the back bench,” Gillum said. “This state will only change when we get in the arena.”