Of the 36 governorships that were up for grabs on Tuesday night, everyone had their eyes on Florida. Ron DeSantis cruised to re-election with nearly 60% of the vote – a landslide, especially considering that the “sunshine state” is known for tight races. The Republican governor has been tipped as a strong contender for the White House in 2024.
DeSantis, 44, was representative of a surge in support for the right in key swing states. He crushed former governor Charlie Crist, an ex-Republican who switched his allegiance to the Democratic Party. Oftentimes referred to as “mini-Trump” by American outlets, DeSantis was shunned by the former president on the campaign trail, although, in the end, Donald Trump admitted to casting a ballot for him in his home state of Florida.
The re-election of DeSantis has catapulted him to the front of the pack in the race for the White House. However, as Trump is also rumored to be planning a campaign in 2024, it’s possible that the two men will clash in the Republican primaries. While DeSantis has not publicly acknowledged any plans to run, he has repeatedly refused to promise to complete a second four-year term as Florida’s governor – implying that he may interrupt his administration to seek higher office in the near-future. Trump, meanwhile, is widely-expected to announce his candidacy before the end of November.
It is yet to be seen if Florida’s governor will challenge his political mentor. Trump campaigned hard for DeSantis in 2018 and still has a steady grip over the Republican base.
DeSantis has spent the last four years shunning any form of moderation. He has rushed head-first into culture wars, challenging what schools teach about LGBTQ subjects and vowing to keep trans women out of girls’ sports. During the pandemic, he kept restrictions lax, refusing to shutter schools and the tourism sector. This earned him a lot of popular support in Florida, although it caused a national outcry as Covid deaths surged.
His strategy has clearly worked. About 4.6 million Floridians gave him their vote. The 60% that he secured is a far cry from the 49.6% he earned in 2018, when he barely squeaked into office after a campaign that saw him use racist language to describe his African-American opponent.
Six years ago, Hillary Clinton carried Miami-Dade by nearly 30 points. On Tuesday, DeSantis won the county, demonstrating how much support for the Republicans has grown in the Latino community. The Hispanic-majority area hasn’t voted for a Republican governor in two decades.
During his victory speech at his Tampa headquarters, amid a cheering crowd, DeSantis said that voters had “rewritten the political map.” He thanked Floridians for giving him a victory that he deemed to be “historic.”
Just as DeSantis was expected to win his race, there were also few surprises across the rest of the country. As the opinion polls predicted, Wes Moore, a Democrat, became the first African-American governor of Maryland. In Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey was elected. Alongside Tina Kotek of Oregon, she is one of the two first openly lesbian governors in the history of the United States, as well as the first-ever female governor of Massachusetts. She defeated her Republican challenger by nearly 20 points.
Healey’s pick for lieutenant governor of Massachsets, Kim Driscoll, was also elected. This is the first time that an American state has ever elected two women to both posts.
In Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders – a former Trump press secretary – coasted to victory in conservative Arkansas, where her father, Mike Huckabee – an idol of the Christian right – served as governor from 1996 until 2007. And, in Illinois – where Barack Obama once served as senator – incumbent Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker has been projected to win re-election, according to the Associated Press. A multimillionaire, Pritzker self-financed his campaign… although he didn’t need to spend much. He was up against a far-right Trumpist named Darren Bailey, who voiced opposition to abortion in cases of rape and refused to acknowledge that President Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election. While Trump’s extremism plays well in some parts of the country, it was largely shut out in some of the most populous states.
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