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Bernie-backed progressive Andrew Gillum will face a Trump-styled Republican Ron DeSantis in Florida's governor's race

Florida's high-stakes gube...

Posted: Aug 29, 2018 5:10 PM
Updated: Aug 29, 2018 5:10 PM

Florida's high-stakes gubernatorial race will be fought between a progressive Democrat vying to become the state's first black chief executive and a Republican congressman closely allied with President Donald Trump.

In a late primary season shocker, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum defeated the front-runner, former Rep. Gwen Graham, who had led in the polls for most of the campaign. He emerged from a field of five competitive candidates, in which he was the only non-millionaire and only supporter of "Medicare for all" single-payer health care, to become the state's first black gubernatorial nominee.

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"The point has never been lost on me that my name on the ballot is simply a vessel, is simply the name,' Gillum told a raucous crowd of supporters in Tallahassee on Tuesday night. "But what is underneath that name are all the issues that we care so deeply about."

Gillum will face Republican nominee Rep. Ron DeSantis, setting up a clear ideological battle between progressive Democrats and a Trump-styled Republican in a major presidential battleground state.

In a statement Tuesday night, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who campaigned for Gillum in Florida earlier this month, cheered the 39-year-old's "vision" and cast him as an emerging leader in the broader progressive movement.

"No one person can take on the economic and political elites on their own," Sanders said. "Tonight, Floridians joined Andrew in standing up and demanding change in their community. That's what the political revolution is all about and Andrew Gillum is helping to lead it."

Meanwhile, Trump was tweeting his congratulation to DeSantis, touting the congressman's "fantastic win."

"Ron will be a fantastic Governor," Trump wrote. "On to November!"

DeSantis was quick to credit the President when speaking after the results came in.

"I'm not always the most popular guy in D.C., but I did have support from someone in Washington," he said on Tuesday night. "If you walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, he lives in the White House with the pillars in front of it."

If the primary was any indication, Democrats in Florida and from around the country seem ready to line up behind Gillum and spend to end two decades of Republican rule in the largest swing state.

Democrats in the race, including billionaire Jeff Greene and the wealthy former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, splayed out more than $100 million for the chance to wrest back control of the governor's mansion. Gillum got a late boost when liberal megadonors Tom Steyer and George Soros led a group that donated $650,000 to his affiliated political action committee.

As the primary neared, progressive groups -- Indivisible Action, The Collective PAC, The New Florida Vision PAC and the Sanders-inspired Our Revolution among them -- banded together to invest an additional $3.5 million in get out the vote efforts supporting Gillum, who campaigned as an outspoken critic of the state's controversial "Stand Your Ground" gun law, which he said at a protest earlier this month "has no place in a civilized society."

Progressive organizations that backed Gillum from early on, when he was struggling to crack double digits in the polls, celebrated his win as their own as the projections rolled in.

Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, which came out for Gillum back in May, called Gillum's success "proof positive that there's a progressive revolution underway, and the old guard establishment can either get on board or get out of the way."

Indivisible, the increasingly influential grassroots group formed in the aftermath of the 2016 election, called the primary results a rebuke to Democratic leaders' conventional wisdom about the state.

"For decades, pundits have acted like the way to win statewide in Florida is to run white, cautious, centrist candidates," said the organization's national political director, María Urbina, who touted local chapters' who lined up early behind Gillum because he "matched their values and embraced an unapologetically progressive platform."

In his remarks on Tuesday, Gillum also said expanding Medicaid to the estimated 700,000 people who would qualify under the Affordable Care Act would be among his top priorities if he won in the fall, a Democratic priority that has been stymied by state Republicans.

DeSantis, who cruised to victory over state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, ran a campaign focused closely -- some critics said almost exclusively -- on his support for Trump. He made headlines with an ad, narrated by his wife, that featuring him building a "wall" (of paper blocks) with his young daughter and appearing to read from Trump's book, "The Art of the Deal," to his son.

Trump campaigned for DeSantis at an event in Tampa late last month, then tweeted his support again on Monday, calling him "a special person who has done an incredible job."

Putnam was endorsed by state Attorney General Pam Bondi, an early Trump backer.

But in a year when the President's support has been all but required for Republicans running in contested primaries, there was no substitute for the White House itself.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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CountyConfirmedDeaths
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DeSoto137316
Madison122234
Jones106949
Neshoba96069
Lauderdale88278
Rankin84112
Forrest81442
Scott75015
Harrison7448
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Tate2577
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Smith20611
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Marshall2013
Coahoma1866
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Union1759
Walthall1724
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Webster12310
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Jefferson923
Wilkinson919
Tunica893
Amite822
George743
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Tishomingo681
Perry614
Alcorn561
Stone521
Franklin382
Benton270
Sharkey240
Issaquena71
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 38442

Reported Deaths: 947
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4387142
Montgomery383999
Mobile3697134
Tuscaloosa204938
Marshall153710
Lee118937
Shelby108223
Madison10577
Morgan9813
Walker86723
Franklin85213
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Butler60427
DeKalb6025
Chambers58127
Tallapoosa56369
Autauga54511
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Russell4840
Lowndes45820
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Houston4344
Limestone4090
Cullman4003
Pike3995
Colbert3685
Bullock3629
Coffee3532
Barbour3231
Covington3087
St. Clair3042
Hale29321
Marengo28611
Wilcox2808
Sumter27612
Calhoun2705
Talladega2677
Clarke2665
Escambia2636
Dale2440
Jackson2382
Winston2333
Blount2141
Chilton2112
Pickens2116
Marion20312
Monroe1972
Choctaw19212
Conecuh1804
Bibb1711
Macon1708
Randolph1709
Greene1667
Perry1451
Henry1303
Crenshaw1233
Lawrence1010
Washington1007
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Geneva670
Clay582
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