Florida Governor’s Race: DeSantis Defeats Gillum
After one of the most expensive gubernatorial campaigns ever, Republican Ron DeSantis will become the 46th governor of Florida.
By Paul Scicchitano, Patch Staff | | Updated
TALLAHASSEE, FL — After a bitter campaign marked by name-calling and sharp political attacks, former Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis overcame a close challenge from Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to become Florida’s next governor as President Trump’s policies figured prominently in the political discourse.
“My most significant and valued supporter, in spite of what the media may say, is standing right next to me — my wife Casey,” DeSantis said in claiming victory.
Unofficial returns as of 3 a.m. showed Gillum trailing with 3,986,301 votes compared to 4,045,617 for DeSantis.
“I sincerely regret that I couldn’t bring it home for you,” Gillum said as his voiced filled with emotion. “I can guarantee you this. I’m not going anywhere.”
DeSantis praised his Democrat opponent and said the opportunity to serve as Florida’s 46th governor was the greatest professional honor of his life.
“On Election Day it’s the voice of the people that rules,” DeSantis declared around 11:15 p.m., promising to keep taxes low in the third most populous state.
Gillum compared the election to an unsuccessful transaction.
“What we believe in still holds true today,” he assured supporters.
Gillum was vying not only to become the first Democrat to hold the office in two decades, but also to become Florida’s first black governor. DeSantis enjoyed the support of President Donald Trump, who made multiple trips to Florida on his behalf.
Gillum and his wife R. Jai voted in Tallahassee at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church on Thomasville Road. DeSantis cast his ballot on Tuesday morning in Ponte Vedra Beach near Jacksonville.
DeSantis took to Twitter earlier in the day to thank his supporters during the campaign on Tuesday. “This has been an incredible journey,” he said. “Thank you to everyone who is voting today. Vote for economic prosperity. Vote for a veteran.”
Election Day began with Gillum up by 4.4 points but the race still too close to call, according to political website RealClearPolitics. Gilllum got a boost in recent days by a visit from former President Barack Obama as well as a number of celebrities. DeSantis got a push from President Donald Trump, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
RealClearPolitics numbers are based on a statistical average of multiple polls. DeSantis will succeed Gov. Rick Scott who was unable to seek a third term under Florida term restrictions. Scott instead opted to run for the Senate seat held by three-term Democrat Bill Nelson.
DeSantis appeared to stumble at the start of the campaign when he told Fox News on the day following his primary win: “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state,” referring to Gillum’s liberal politics.
Those comments touched off a storm of controversy that dogged DeSantis throughout the campaign. DeSantis attempted to paint Gillum as a socialist who perhaps should be impeached as Tallahassee mayor over ethics questions.
Gillum insisted that he paid his way on trips to Costa Rica and New York City, but newly released documents appear to contradict the Tallahassee mayor. Last week DeSantis supporters began chanting, “Lock him up. Lock him up” at a rally with President Trump.
Gillum has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in the ethics probe, which is separate but related to an ongoing FBI investigation into city government.
The two candidates were also miles apart on issues like healthcare, gun reform, immigration, taxes, abortion and the environment.
DeSantis pledged to stop illegal immigration into Florida by preventing employers from hiring undocumented workers and preventing communities in the state from becoming so-called sanctuary jurisdictions.
Gillum advocated what his campaign described as a compassionate immigration policy. He promised to fight mass-deportation policies “that threaten to split families and hurt Florida’s economy.”
Gillum also supported the legalization of marijuana to pay for teacher and instructional staff pay increases and to reduce the mass incarceration of people with low-level drug offenses. In addition, Gillum wanted to impose corporate tax levels of 7.75 percent, which would have generated at least $1 billion by his estimate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Republican Governor-elect of Florida Ron DeSantis attends a rally at Freedom Pharmacy on the final day of campaigning in the midterm elections in Orlando. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)