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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Side by side, Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe and Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine did the Gator Chomp on Sunday afternoon.

Kaine, who spoke to a crowd of about 1,200 on the Reitz Union North Lawn, admitted he just learned how to do the UF tradition backstage.

“I was doing it wrong because I was left-handed,” he said.

Kaine came to Gainesville on Sunday as a part of an early-voting rally campaign that’s taking place throughout Florida. He touched on college affordability and making in-state tuition free, equal pay for women in the workforce and raising the minimum wage, all while taking jabs at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Early voting in Gainesville begins today.

“You guys are absolutely rock-solid critical to this election,” he told the crowd, suggesting Florida’s status as a swing state could decide the winner of the election.

Friends Alex Gimbel, 22, and Corey Jones, 23, showed up a few minutes after attendees began filtering in. The pair, who consider themselves “big-time Democrats,” agreed that despite not knowing a lot about Kaine, the event was a way to hear the vice presidential candidate’s thoughts in person.

“Tim Kaine is a human hug,” Gimbel, a UF political science senior, said. “He just seems like a gentle person.”

“He is,” chimed Jones, a UF sustainable development practice graduate student. “He seems like a nice guy.”

Before Kaine, other speakers like Jake Best, president of Gators 4 Hillary; democratic U.S. Senate nominee Rod Smith and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson spoke about the importance of early voting and supporting Clinton in the upcoming election.

Rachel Disesa, 42, sat in the shade of the Reitz Union as she waited for Kaine to speak.

“I think this is an absolutely historic election,” the UF agricultural education doctoral student said.

As a working single mother and student, Disesa said she’s made sure that both of her sons are politically aware. Her younger son Luke McGriff, 8, chose his own Clinton shirts, she said.

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“We have to teach our children their vote does matter,” Disesa said.

On stage, Kaine made sure to address Trump’s statement on not accepting the election results if he loses.

“There’s a word for that, it’s called ‘sore loser,’” Kaine told the crowd, who responded with a cheer. “I don’t think he’s going to do any soul searching or reach any conclusions.”

Gainesville resident Michael Barbarette said he enjoyed listening to Kaine speak.

“It was inspiring to listen to the next vice president of the United States,” the 56-year-old said.

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