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Powered by Trump Turnout and ‘Hamilton’ Tickets, DeSantis Defies Polls and Edges Out Gillum

| November 7, 2018

Ron DeSantis with his wife. (NSF)

In another razor-thin election, Florida voters on Tuesday continued a two-decade streak of Republican dominance by electing former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis as governor.

With more than 8 million votes counted, the state Division of Elections showed DeSantis leading Democrat Andrew Gillum by a margin of 49.73 percent to 49 percent, or 55,331 votes.

DeSantis and his wife, Casey, appeared before supporters at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando shortly after 11:15 p.m, after receiving a concession call from Gillum.

“I worked as hard as I could and left everything on the field,” DeSantis told the crowd. “I’m excited for the opportunities for Florida.”

Gillum conceded at 11 p.m. as he spoke to supporters gathered at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.

“We could not be prouder of the way that we ran this race. We could not be more thankful for the support that was shown by each and every one of you all the way along this path. We recognize that you know we didn’t win it tonight. We didn’t win this transaction,” Gillum said, adding that “what we believe in still holds true today.”

Gillum said he called DeSantis and congratulated him. “But I want you to know that, in spite of our congratulating him on his victory this evening, nothing that we believe in is compromised,” Gillum said.

The nationally watched race was widely viewed as a referendum on President Donald Trump, whose endorsement of DeSantis helped boost the former congressman to a primary victory in August. DeSantis had represented the 6th Congressional District, which includes all of Flagler County, since 2012. In Flagler, DeSantis won with 59 percent of the vote and a 10,000-vote margin out of 53,000 cast, winning every precinct. The  P and R Sections’s Precincts 11, 15 and 16  each came within a few votes of a Gillum majority, but elsewhere it wasn’t close, and three precincts (35 in South Flagler Beach, and 5 and 7  in southeast Flagler), gave DeSantis a better-than-70 percent majority. 

“The true story of this race is intense gratitude to President Trump. I think without his two visits we would not have done enough to inspire Republican voters to show up. And nobody brings it like the big guy. He came down here and fired up our voters, and it looks like we’re poised for victory,” U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday night.

During his victory speech, DeSantis also acknowledged Trump’s role in the campaign.

“I would like to thank the president for standing by me when it wasn’t necessarily the smart thing to do,” he said.

While DeSantis’ lead continued to hold as late results rolled in from across the state Tuesday evening, Gillum supporters at an election-watch party on the campus of Florida A&M University, where the Tallahassee mayor launched his political career as student body president, refused to concede to the Republican.

“Let’s keep hope alive. We can still pull this off,” radio personality Tom Joyner told a crowd of students and supporters, many of whom were clad in blue T-shirts emblazoned with Gillum’s name.

Joyner said he moved to Florida to vote in the race.

“I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anybody get in my way. Let’s bring this home,” he said, echoing Gillum’s campaign refrain.

DeSantis’ win was a crushing blow for Democrats, who had pinned their hopes on Gillum making history as the state’s first black chief-of-state and recapturing the governor’s mansion for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.

For pollsters, it was another catastrophic failure. The overwhelming majority of polls had showed Gillum ahead for much of the race, and by 4, 5 and 7 points in the final days of the race, according to Real Clear Politics. The RCP average by the end of the race gave Gillum what appeared to be an insurmountable 3.6 percent lead. DeSantis surmounted it, relying on a historic turnout for a mid-term election that reflected Republican enthusiasm Democrats had not banked on.

Many Democrats believed that the 39-year-old Gillum, the father of three young children, injected a degree of enthusiasm lacking for their party’s candidates over the past several elections.

But the Tallahassee mayor was forced to defend himself against accusations of wrongdoing related to an FBI investigation of city government, which became a cornerstone of DeSantis’ campaign.

DeSantis and his supporters accused Gillum of being dishonest and corrupt for accepting a ticket from an undercover FBI agent to the popular Broadway show “Hamilton,” and traveling to Costa Rica and other places with lobbyist Adam Corey. Gillum said he paid cash for his share of a rental house shared with Corey and others in the 2016 Costa Rica vacation.

The trips and the ticket are part of an ethics investigation into Gillum, and Corey is at the heart of a federal probe into Tallahassee city government. Gillum has repeatedly denied he is the subject of the FBI inquiry and has steadfastly maintained he hasn’t done anything wrong.

But Trump called Gillum a “stone-cold thief,” and DeSantis repeatedly said on the campaign trail that he’s “the only candidate that isn’t the subject of an FBI investigation.”

From the beginning of his campaign, DeSantis, a lawyer and former congressman, tied his electoral chances to Trump, using frequent appearances on the Fox News network to defend the president and his policies.

It was Trump’s support, including a July endorsement rally in Tampa, that helped propel DeSantis past a better-funded and more widely known opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. He beat Putnam by 20 percentage points.

Trump again played a major role in the general election, appearing at rallies with DeSantis in Lee County and Pensacola in the final week of the campaign. The president also used his Twitter account to attack Gillum, calling him “a thief” who is “mayor of poorly run Tallahassee.”

DeSantis, meanwhile, was plagued by accusations of racism following remarks he made the day after his primary victory in August. Attacking Gillum during an appearance on Fox News, DeSantis, referring to successes in Florida achieved by Scott, said “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.”

DeSantis’ comments drew widespread criticism and became a theme in the general-election contest.

But the Republican defended himself and his supporters against the racist label, while slamming his Democratic opponent for backing a major tax-hike proposal and wanting to expand government programs, including health care.

The stark differences between the two candidates and the negative nature of the race were crystallized in two vitriolic debates. DeSantis hammered Gillum’s ethics and honesty, questioning whether he has been telling the truth about his role in the ongoing FBI investigation.

In one of the most memorable lines in the debates, Gillum stopped short of calling DeSantis a racist but said “racists believe he is a racist.”

–News Service of Florida and FlaglerLive

16 Responses for “Powered by Trump Turnout and ‘Hamilton’ Tickets, DeSantis Defies Polls and Edges Out Gillum”

  1. Brian says:

    Congratulations Governor DeSantis!!

  2. Traveling Rep says:

    So much for pollsters, eh?! Almost as believable as weathermen.

    Your narrative is a little jacked though…The headline should read:

    “Exposed for corruption and criminal activity (under investigation by the FBI) and his socialist/communist ideology, proposal of taxing the snot out of his constituents; intelligent Florida voters soundly rejected Gillum”

  3. patricia aborn says:

    too bad mini me won, he’s gross

  4. BMW says:

    We live in very difficult times where the media fuels division, doubting the credibility of a woman’s allegation means you are anti-woman and questioning the qualifications of a candidate labels one as racist. Personally, I take the casting of my vote very seriously and make every attempt to keep emotions from cluttering my thought process. Mr. Gillum has an undergraduate degree in Political Science, has been an elected politician since the age of 23, has limited free market work experience and in my opinion not qualified to take the helm of a $1 Trillion dollar economy. For me, the choice was just that simple. Instead of continuing to drown in the cesspool of bi-partisian rhetoric, can we take the time to congratulate Ms. Nunez for becoming Florida’s first Latina Lieutenant Governor? That’s an achievement we should all be able to stand behind.

  5. David S. says:

    Another racist . Were in trouble in Florida…..

  6. Me says:

    Thank God DeSantis won, now Florida won’t be a Socialist State and I won’t have to move! Buh bye Gillum

  7. Steadfast and loyal says:

    How bout the headline reads “fl voters reject far left Gillum Agenda” ? Or better yet “gillum defeated, there is a God”

  8. Richard says:

    Great smack-down of Gillum by DeSantis saving our great state from disaster. Lesson learned here is if you want to run for a higher political office then don’t have a corrupt and shady background history. The people of this country are Draining the Swamp through elections and voting.

  9. Bc. says:


  10. Disgusted says:

    The aging white rednecks have won again. Maybe when they all die off we can get a more progressive government. In the meantime, I’m thinking about moving.

  11. beach cat says:

    Racist Florida elected a racist Governor. The new governor never gave a reason why he wanted to be the governor. He aligned himself with white nationalists and spoke at one of their conferences. Folks, his $145,000 tax payer travel without showing any receipts is far more than a Hamilton ticket. As he bows down to the carnival barker in the WH, he kisses the shoes and asks for blessings. Scott tried his best to ruin Florida’s environment. He may have succeeded. This newbie Gov doesn’t know beans about environmental problems or much else of our woes in Florida. OMG! Yes, we are in deep trouble. Sour grapes? You bet. There will be a rotting apple in the governor’s mansion.

  12. Dave says:

    Voting rights for felons in Florida! The rich taxed to help the homeless in San Francisco! Massachusetts transgender protections! And marijuana recreational and medical in several states! Democrats take back the house! Woman and LGBT taking wins all over the place! First ever Muslim woman in congress!! Looks like we made a huge difference across the country!!

  13. mausborn says:

    Just so we’re clear: Florida elected a governor who moderated a white nationalist Facebook page, repeatedly dog whistled at his opponent and praised the new elected demogogue of Brazil.
    Desantis was a ridiculously weak candidate. Can’t understand what would make someone vote for him. America the greatest deception of a democratic country. How is it possible, someone who cannot defend himself on the debate stage, ends up winning the race.

    The American people’s vote really don’t matter. America is destroying itself. While Russia & other countries are working hard. America is playing dirty politics game.

    This is America! Now we know which states are 100% deplorable!

  14. gmath55 says:

    So, much for the blue wave. I don’t think the Democrats will ever get it. A higher tax, open borders, socialism, abolish ICE, illegal immigrants, and sanctuary cities, is a special kind of stupid and will not fly with the American people! Trumpism wins in Florida.

    I know mausborn, Sherry, and Pogo are happy because the Republicans voted as if their life depended upon it.

  15. Stanley P Gruchawka says:

    The headline is correct. DiSantis did defy the polls. Polls designed to suppress Republican turn out by trying to discourage voters. Sorry to say that we are on to the left wing pollsters methods now.

  16. Really says:

    You are in now go out and get something done

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