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DeSantis defeats Gillum in racially charged Florida campaign that followed Trump’s playbook

·Senior Editor
·2 min read
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Republican Ron DeSantis defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum in Florida’s hotly contested race for Governor.

In a close contest that mirrored the Senate contest between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, DeSantis built up a razor-thin lead of just under 1 percent of more than 8 million votes cast.

Gillum conceded ahead of the call for DeSantis made by the Associated Press.

From the start of the campaign, race was a constant subtext. In an interview with DeSantis following his win in the primary, the former Florida Representative warned voters not to “monkey this up” by voting for Gillum in his bid to become the state’s first African-American governor.

Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters as his wife Casey DeSantis, back right, listens during at a rally, Nov. 5, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (Photo: John Raoux/AP)
Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters as his wife Casey DeSantis, back right, listens during at a rally, Nov. 5, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (Photo: John Raoux/AP)

During the candidates’ second debate in October, Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, decried DeSantis’ support from far-right activists.

“Now, I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist,” Gillum said.

DeSantis, who billed himself as a carbon copy of President Trump and enjoyed multiple visits to the state from the president, portrayed Gillum as out of the mainstream of American politics on issues ranging from health care to immigration, and accused him of being the subject of a corruption investigation by the FBI.

“I’m relieved to say that of the two of us, I’m the only one who can credibly say I’m not under investigation by the FBI,” DeSantis said of Gillum at an October rally in Coral Springs.

Trump went so far as to call Gillum a “thief” who was “not equipped” to be Florida’s governor.

But Gillum, a stanch progressive, drew support from high-profile liberals like former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and California Sen. Kamala Harris, all of whom campaigned in the state at Gillum’s side.

DeSantis, who stepped down from his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to campaign against Gillum, now heads to Tallahassee.

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