The role of racism factored heavily in the Florida gubernatorial election, but not exactly how you might think it did, supporters of Andrew Gillum recently told the Tampa Bay Times.
Yes, the president’s white nationalism-based backing for Republican Ron DeSantis only energized the Florida voters who likely cast ballots with the lone objective of keeping a Black man from becoming the Sunshine State chief executive. But perhaps it was Gillum’s consistent references to the overt racism from DeSantis and his supporters that may have convinced them to vote against the Tallahassee mayor.
It all depended on which Democrat you asked.
“Andrew Gillum would have won if he were white,” Judy Beck, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, told the Tampa Bay Times.
Gillum was not conceding “after Florida’s machine recount showed Ron DeSantis with a lead that appeared insurmountable barring an extraordinary turn of events,” according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
Florida State Sen. Darryl Rouson, who is Black, didn’t mince his words.
“I’m not one to call racism unless I smell it, feel it, touch it, walk with it. But there are many who would argue, and make good points, that racism did have a role,” he said.
Friday’s report was published amid growing calls for Gillum to concede the race “after Florida’s machine recount showed Ron DeSantis with a lead that appeared insurmountable barring an extraordinary turn of events,” according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
The facts are clear, though: DeSantis cast the first racist stone the day after Gillum won his primary, warning voters not to “monkey this up” by electing the Democrat. That instance of racist dog-whistling was just the latest in a line of many from the Republican, whose supporters launched a series of racist robocalls that featured monkey sounds.
Still, at least one Florida-based Democratic consultant thought Gillum shouldn’t have focused on the racism aimed at him from DeSantis and Trump.
“People did not like him playing the race card,” Edwards told the Tampa Bay Times. “That had a demonstrable effect.”
Race clearly played a role when it came to the actual election, which saw gubernatorial ballots cast along racial lines with 86 percent of Black voters going for Gillum, according to exit polls. But polling ahead of the election showed Gillum with a consistent, if not narrow, lead, casting further doubt on any polling ahead of an election.
Still, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And this campaign was aflame with racially provocative language that kept Gillum on the defensive addressing DeSantis’ reckless claims. But was it enough to sway the election? The answer is yes and no, according to Shannon Love, a Democratic consultant in St. Petersburg.
“I don’t think many people would say they don’t think race was a factor at all, but the question is how much of a factor,” she said.