Governor-elect Ron DeSantis will ascend to governorship after just four years in politics
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
Gillum — who had conceded on election night but took it back after late-reporting results showed the race tightening — took to Facebook Saturday to offer his congratulations to DeSantis and thank his supporters.
“More than 4 million of you decided that you wanted a different direction for the state of Florida,” he said. “We want you to know that we see you, we hear you, and that you voices will continue to power us.”
DeSantis responded to Gillum’s reconcession on Twitter: “This was a hard-fought campaign. Now it’s time to bring Florida together.”
After a statewide machine recount, Gillum still trailed DeSantis by 32,500 votes, which was more than the margin that would have triggered a hand recount of over-votes and under-votes that is underway in races for U.S. Senate and state agriculture commissioner.
When DeSantis takes the governor’s chair in January, it will mark the latest step in his swift political rise, becoming the chief executive of the nation’s third-largest state at the age of 40, after just four years in politics.
DeSantis, who has degrees from Harvard and Yale, spent six years as an attorney in the U.S. Navy. In 2012, he was elected to a U.S. House seat representing part of metro Jacksonville.
In 2016, he entered the race for U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s seat, which he had given up to run for president. But when Rubio reversed course after losing the Republican presidential nomination to President Donald Trump, DeSantis withdrew and ran for re-election to his House seat.
After Trump became president, DeSantis became one of his strongest defenders on television — a relationship that paid huge dividends when he decided to enter the governor’s race in January,
DeSantis was considered a long shot to defeat the establishment favorite, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Then Trump tweeted an endorsement that catapulted DeSantis to a lead in the polls over Putnam that he never relinquished.
In the primary, the DeSantis campaign aired a TV ad in which he is seen reading Trump’s autobiography to his infant son and showing his daughter how to build a wall out of blocks, an echo of Trump’s call for a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump tweeted out congratulations after Gillum’s concession: “Against all odds, he fought & fought & fought, the result being a historic victory. He never gave up and never will. He will be a great Governor!’
However, Trump — who during the campaign had accused Gillum of being a “thief” — also tweeted out kind words about the Tallahassee mayor: “He will be a strong Democrat warrior long into the future – a force to reckon with!”
Gillum, 39, became mayor of Tallahassee in 2014. Like DeSantis, he also won his party’s primary over the establishment favorite, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, a victory which instantly made him a national political celebrity.
In his concession, Gillum indicated that he planned to remain in the political arena, although he gave no specifics. He will step down as mayor in January.