Image Credit: Shutterstock / Andrew Gillum, Twitter

Midterms 2018

DeSantis Trumps Progressive Gillum in Close Florida Gubernatorial Race

GOP congressman to become next governor of the Sunshine State

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) is projected to narrowly defeat progressive Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) Tuesday and will become the next governor of Florida following a grueling campaign season.

Gillum conceded the race on Tuesday night around 11 p.m.

DeSantis (pictured above left) will replace Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who could not run again due to term limits. Gillum (above right) was fighting to become the state’s first African-American governor.

In the months leading up to Election Day, DeSantis struggled in the polls, according to the RealClearPolitics (RCP) polling average.

DeSantis trailed Gillum by 2.5 to 4.5 percentage points until mid-October, when just one percentage point separated the two candidates. The RCP’s final polling average ahead of Election Day showed Gillum leading DeSantis by 3.6 percent.

Gillum is widely viewed as a progressive because he supported impeaching President Donald Trump, abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, and backing taxpayer-funded  Medicare for All, including illegal immigrants.

Gillum was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and enjoyed support from socialist New York congressional nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the self-described Democratic socialist and first-time political candidate who defeated 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), the heavily funded chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Gillum himself pulled off a stunning upset primary victory against former Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Fla.).

Former President Barack Obama also threw his star power behind Gillum when he campaigned for him during a rally in Miami this past Friday.

Related: Progressive Agenda on Horizon if Florida Voters Choose Gillum

Trump, who carried Florida by a razor-thin margin of 1.2 percentage points during the 2016 presidential election, fervently backed DeSantis’ gubernatorial bid in the swing state — even endorsing DeSantis during the GOP primary. DeSantis has been one of the House’s most vocal Trump supporters and portrayed himself as being in lockstep with Trump’s “Make American Great Again” agenda.

Trump also harshly criticized Gillum on Twitter repeatedly.

Some of Trump’s critics even called him a racist for the criticism contained in a tweet from October 29, in which the president wrote, “In Florida there is a choice between a Harvard/Yale educated man named @RonDeSantisFL who has been a great Congressman and will be a great Governor — and a Dem who is a thief and who is Mayor of poorly run Tallahassee, said to be one of the most corrupt cities in the Country!”

Trump did not mention Gillum’s race in that message — and the tweet was based on reports that the FBI is investigating possible corruption in Tallahassee.

DeSantis said during a rally on October 31, “I’m the only guy who can credibly say I’m not under investigation for corruption.”

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PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].