Andrew Gillum barely fell short on Tuesday night in his historic campaign to become the first Black governor of Florida’s next governor. CNN projected that the contentious election would go to Republican and former Congressman Ron DeSantis, who edged the mayor of Tallahassee by the slimmest of margins that, in classic Florida fashion, could result in a recount.
With 48.9 percent of the vote, Gillum, who earned more than 3.9 million votes, lost to DeSantis by a single percentage point, according to CNN’s count.
Gillum, 39, cast his own ballot for himself late Tuesday morning at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Tallahassee. He and his wife, R. Jai, and used a moment of levity for what was the biggest moment of his young but accomplished political career, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
“I voted for you,” R. Jai told her husband, who responded in front of a throng of supporters: “Okay, my wife voted for me.”
The election, however, was anything but a laughing matter. The post-primary Florida gubernatorial campaign has been marred by overt acts of racism from the DeSantis, whose distinguished record of racism has been well documented for years. On top of that negative distraction, Gillum was polling by as many as seven percentage points and as few as three over DeSantis, depending on which survey was being cited.
The distinction between the two became clearer when they faced off twice for gubernatorial debates, during which Gillum showed his mastery of Florida policy while reducing DeSantis to racist dog-whistling attacks instead of substantive talking points.
Aside from warning Florida voters not to “monkey this up” by electing Gillum, the Republican’s white supremacist supporters funded racist robocalls to Floridians that included monkey sounds.
There was even the apparent FBI probe into Gillum allegedly inappropriately receiving tickets to the hit Broadway show “Hamilton,” but that issue seemed to fade pretty quickly after DeSantis tried to make it into a bigger deal than it was during the debates.
Still, Gillum found the time to remain an effective mayor while waging a legitimate run for governor, even suspending his own campaign twice to deal with natural disaster striking Florida as well as a deadly shooting in Tallahassee.