- Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis defeated Florida’s first-ever black nominee for governor, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, on Tuesday in a contentious – at times nasty- and closely-watched race.
- The race – widely viewed as a proxy war between the progressive left and the hard right – was also a victory for President Donald Trump, who threw his support behind DeSantis.
- Florida saw a surge in voter turnout, with a nine-point jump over the 2014 midterm elections.
Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis defeated Florida’s first-ever black nominee for governor, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, on Tuesday in a tight, closely-watched race.
The congressman’s win is also a victory for President Donald Trump, who threw his support behind DeSantis, repeatedly rallying with and tweeting about the candidate. Gillum conceded the race with 49 per cent of the vote, to DeSantis’ 50 per cent, shortly before 11 p.m. on Tuesday.
The competitive race – widely viewed as a proxy war between the progressive left and the hard right – attracted intense national scrutiny, with Democrats hopeful for a win amid a surge in voter turnout.
The candidates – both 39-year-old dads of young children – ran on radically different agendas in the country’s third-most populous state. And the race exposed personal differences between the two.
Just days into the general election campaign, DeSantis called Gillum an “articulate spokesman” for the Democratic Party and warned that the state would “monkey up” its economy by putting a “socialist” in office – comments many interpreted as racist. And Gillum faced multiple race-based attacks in the form of white supremacist robocalls.
DeSantis, a member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus who saturated his campaign with mention of Trump, campaigned on his military background and deeply conservative positions on abortion, gun rights, and illegal immigration.
Gillum, the son of a bus driver and construction worker, highlighted his working-class roots, with promises to invest heavily in the state’s public schools and fight for stricter gun regulations and Medicare-for-all.
While gubernatorial candidates are often characterised by their centrism, Florida is yet more proof of the ascendance of the progressive left and Trumpian right this year. Both candidates defeated establishment favourites in their respective primaries – Gillum with the support of the left-wing of the Democratic Party, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, and DeSantis with Trump’s strong endorsement.
Gillum, who Republicans characterised as far left of Florida’s mainstream, ran on a deeply progressive platform, which included the elimination of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – a call that’s gained traction on the left – and Medicare for All. His primary win – along with several insurgent upsets from the left this cycle – represented an increased schism between progressivism and Clinton-style centrism in the Democratic Party.