Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, a staunch ally of President Trump, won the race for Florida governor on Tuesday. The GOP lawmaker defeated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in one of the most high-profile governor’s races of the 2018 cycle.
DeSantis’ win represents an extension of a decade of trifecta Republican control of the swing state and a resounding win for Trump, who aggressively inserted himself into the race.
His victory will have a huge impact for the next round of redistricting post-2020, giving a Republican veto control over maps drawn by the GOP-controlled state legislature.
Gillum was favored by polls to win the state, thanks to his strong support from the African American community and young people. His candidacy was seen as a boost for the more vulnerable Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in his Senate race against Gov. Rick Scott.
But DeSantis won the governor’s mansion by turning out the base and the state’s growing share of conservative retirees from the Midwest, many of whom strongly back Trump.
The gubernatorial race was a study in contrasts: a straight-talking, unapologetically progressive, black nominee running against a Tea Party figure who released a campaign ad in which his young children built Trump’s fabled border wall out of toy bricks.
Gillum drew support from everyone from local editorial boards to Rihanna, while DeSantis bet his campaign on Trump’s popularity, stumping with the President repeatedly and focusing on red-meat issues like immigration.
Backed by the Florida GOP, DeSantis went after Gillum for overseeing Tallahassee while the FBI conducts an ongoing public investigation into the city government there. The FBI is probing whether developers were able to influence projects in the city by funneling gifts to elected officials. Gillum has never been named as a subject of the investigation.
Race also loomed large over the contest. The day after Gillum won the Democratic primary, DeSantis warned Florida voters not to “monkey this up” by electing him, while Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) called the race “so cotton-pickin’ important” during a rally over the weekend. A white nationalist also released robocalls that featured monkey noises and a racist minstrel impression of Gillum.