Republican Ron DeSantis clinched the Florida governor race against Democrat Andrew Gillum, ending a long and contentious race.
“Personally, I was kind of expecting it. Florida is extremely separated and divided, and Gillum wasn’t viable enough to beat a right-wing Republican like DeSantis,” Weinberg freshman Leah Schulman, who lives in Florida, said. “Florida just doesn’t have the climate to support Gillum at the moment. He’s too left wing, and there’s a big racial divide as well.”
The Florida race epitomizes this midterm election’s referendum on Trump. Gillum is a progressive Democrat and would have been the first black governor of Florida. As the Democratic party redefines itself going into the presidential election, Gillum represents the shifting tone of the party. He ran a progressive platform advocating for Medicare-for-all and a $15 minimum wage, and he was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist.”
On the other hand, DeSantis is a typical Trump Republican, receiving an endorsement from him early on. He has used strong rhetoric against illegal immigration and supports strong law enforcement and tax cuts. His advertisement even shows him building a wall with his son and proclaiming Trump’s motto “Make America Great Again.”
Immediately following the primary, DeSantis was criticized for his “monkey this up” comment at his opponent. “Monkey” has a racist past as a slur that likens African Americans to chimps and apes. This rhetoric mirrored Trump’s polarizing nature, further echoing the referendum on the President.
Going into election day, the polls had the race as a toss-up, and there was only a one percentage point difference in votes between the two candidates.
“I grew up in one of the liberal bubbles of Florida. Every time there’s a result that comes out of Florida, there’s a toss-up. It wasn’t the news I was hoping for, but with Florida, you never really know,” said Medill alumna Jordan Friedman. “But you just take every election as you can, and it’s really sad, but as we move forward, we can only hope that more people vote and change the outcome.”
In Gillum’s concession speech, he told his supporters to keep working for change and referenced the major win with “Amendment 4,” which gave 1.5 million ex-felons the right to vote, as what happens when people show up.
“I still plan to be on the front lines alongside every single one of you,” Gillum said. “We still have to be willing to show up every single day and demand our seat at the table.”