Republican Ron DeSantis will win the race to become Florida’s 46th governor, CNN projects, defeating Democrat Andrew Gillum to become the state’s fourth consecutive GOP chief executive.
By outlasting Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor vying to become Florida’s first African-American governor, DeSantis also gave a boost to President Donald Trump, who campaigned for the former congressman at two events in the final days before the election – and whose endorsement DeSantis traded on to win the nomination over the establishment favorite, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
DeSantis quit his job in Congress to focus on the gubernatorial race, a heated affair that largely reflected the broader national tensions over race and class in the Trump era. Those issues, which were already bubbling up throughout the primary, were escalated by DeSantis when he went on Fox News a day after becoming the nominee to warn Florida voters not to “monkey this up” by electing Gillum. DeSantis denied there was any racial innuendo in his remark, but race – and allegations that DeSantis was using it against his opponent – were never far off during the 10-week general election sprint.
Tensions hit a boiling point during the pair’s second and final debate. DeSantis loudly objected to suggestions he was in cahoots with far-right figures or that his ties, unwitting he said, to white supremacists should be held against him.
“Now, I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist,” Gillum said in response. “I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”
If that line earned Gillum viral praise and national recognition, his indirect connections to an FBI investigation into public corruption in Tallahassee was a drag on his campaign, which at times struggled to explain Gillum’s relationship with a former lobbyist and friend and his run-ins with an undercover federal agent. Gillum maintained throughout the campaign that the FBI told him he was not a target of the probe, which could continue to dog him in the coming months or years.
In one final twist, DeSantis, who throughout the campaign portrayed Tallahassee as crime-ridden and dangerous, will now be moving there to do his new job – right alongside the city’s mayor, (still) Andrew Gillum.