Gov: GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis is elected governor of Florida

Republican Ron De Santis and Democrat Andrew Gillum fist-bump at their debate last month

POOL New Reuters Republican Ron De Santis and Democrat Andrew Gillum fist-bump at their debate last month

Republican Ron DeSantis, a former U.S. Representative backed by President Donald Trump, will be Florida's next governor, earning 49 percent of the vote on election night.

Gillum, who was trying to become the state's first black governor, told a crowd gathered on the campus of Florida A&M University, "I sincerely regret I couldn't bring it home for you".

DeSantis, 40, an Iraq War veteran, decorated military lawyer and former Florida congressman, defeated the Tallahassee mayor by a razor thin margin Tuesday night, with the two candidates neck and neck in the heated contest for the majority of the evening. He also reminded voters that the next governor will appoint three justices. Bill Nelson, who also appears to have fallen short to his Republican challenger, Gov. Rick Scott. Widespread belief in Florida that he would win easily and Trump threw his support behind DeSantis, DeSantis won the primary.

DeSantis addressed his supporters at a watch party in Orlando on Tuesday after winning the election.

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.

Gillum conceded to DeSantis at about 11 p.m. on Tuesday and delivered an emotional speech to his supporters vowing to continue to fight for his beliefs.

Polling has shown Gillum holding a consistent lead over DeSantis.

It was Trump's support, including a July endorsement rally in Tampa, that helped propel DeSantis past a better-funded and more widely known opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, in the August 28 Republican primary. That people are going out and they're voting for something and not against'.

More than 5.2 million voters cast ballots ahead of Election Day in the battleground state, and records show that Democrats have a slight edge.

The president injected himself into the race in December when, while taxiing on Air Force One on the runway at Palm Beach International Airport, he tweeted that DeSantis "would make a GREAT Governor of Florida". All told, Democrats had flipped at least seven Republican-held governorships without suffering any losses as of early Wednesday morning. DeSantis also secured the endorsement of the Florida Realtors following the August 28 primary. With 99% reporting, Nelson earned 4,039,498 votes - over 42,000 more votes than Gillum.

More people in Broward voted for the state's commissioner of agriculture, chief financial officer and attorney general positions than they did for the Senate, according to the preliminary county results.

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