Former Republican congressman Ron DeSantis eked out a victory Tuesday night in the race for Florida governor against his Democratic challenger, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum.
Final polls showed Gillum and DeSantis running neck-and-neck, most analyses showing the Democratic candidate holding a paper-thin lead over his opponent.
Gillum called to congratulate his opponent Tuesday night.
“I want you to know that in spite of our congratulating him on his victory this evening, nothing we believe in has be compromised,” Gillum told supporters.
DeSantis, 40, can often be found on television defending Trump and gambled heavily on their close association during his campaign.
Two of Trump’s eleven rallies in the past week leading up to Election Day were in Florida stumping for DeSantis and Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott, Florida’s sitting governor.
“In Ron’s case, he’s going against somebody that’s got a lot of energy but he runs one of the worst, one of the biggest problem cities anywhere in the country,” Trump said of Gillum’s record as Tallahassee mayor at Saturday’s rally in Pensacola, Fla. “He’s not doing the job. You don’t want to have him running Florida.”
The midterm elections are widely seen as a referendum on voters’ satisfaction with Trump’s performance as president.
Gillum, 39, ran on a platform of Medicaid expansion and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The progressive, who would have been the state’s first ever African-American governor, obtained a glowing endorsement from the country’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, who hit the campaign trail for him last week.
“I’m hopeful that we will cut through the lies, block out the noise and remember who we are called to be,” the former president told a Miami crowd, calling Gillum “one of the most inspiring, gifted candidates that are running this year.”
DeSantis resigned his south Jacksonville congressional seat in September to focus on the heated gubernatorial campaign that careened into racial territory, among other controversies.
The former three-term Congressman was criticized for saying Florida voters should not “monkey this up,” by voting for Gillum, a phrase his opponent claimed was racially charged.
Plaguing the Gillum campaign was an FBI investigation into questionable relationships between Tallahassee government officials and several businessmen. Another headache for the campaign was loose words by a staff member, who was caught on film saying the Gillum campaign was using “white guilt” to its advantage.
The candidates clashed over several hot-button issues in their acrimonious debate last month where Gillum accused his opponent of being “wholly owned by the NRA” in the wake of the deadly Parkland school shooting that killed 17.
DeSantis returned the fire, saying Tallahassee is “out of control in terms of crime” under Gillum.
Tallahassee’s crime rate went down in 2017, but the city still ranks first in the state and third in murder rate.
DeSantis will take office as governor in January.