The race for Florida’s governorship could turn out to be one of the most closely-watched local elections in the country. Thanks to Tuesday’s primaries, the race will be between Rep. Ron DeSantis – an outspoken conservative who has earned the full-throated endorsement of President Donald Trump – and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who has earned the support of Bernie Sanders and is unquestionably one of the most left-wing politicians to ever make a name for himself in the state. This showdown will not only define the future for Florida, it could also show whether or not Democrats can or will have mainstream electoral success by going down the socialist rabbit hole.
Accepting the nomination for the Republican Party on Tuesday night, DeSantis immediately turned his attention to the Democrat challenger, telling supporters that Gillum wanted to turn Florida into Venezuela. In an interview with Laura Ingraham, DeSantis said that Gillum was “the most liberal candidate that the Democratic Party has ever nominated in the state of Florida by a country mile in a governor’s race.”
Gillum’s victory was a surprise to be sure; he lagged well behind his establishment opponents for most of the race and spent only a fraction of what they did to secure the victory. His platform is right on point with the Bernie Sanders wing of the party; he supports “Medicare for All,” wants to pursue criminal justice reform, has advocated for abolishing ICE, and wants to hike the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. If he won, he would not only be Florida’s first Democrat governor in nearly two decades, he would also be the state’s first black governor.
The only question that remains now is whether or not he stands a prayer of winning in the general election.
With ties to Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and funding from George Soros and Tom Steyer, Gillum is indeed a more leftist figure than Floridians are used to seeing on their political stage. This is a state that’s getting ready to (probably) boot their moderately Democratic senator in favor of Gov. Rick Scott and whose other senator is one-time Tea Party insurgent Marco Rubio. Florida is seen as a swing state in presidential times, and there’s no question that it can easily go blue…but can it go THAT blue? Time will tell.
Unlike his primary opponent, Adam Putnam, DeSantis embraced Trump wholeheartedly throughout his campaign and has adopted many of the president’s signature policies. This earned him Trump’s endorsement, over the top of protest from the GOP establishment, which preferred Putnam. Trump will almost certainly campaign for DeSantis in the coming months just as Sanders will likely stump for Gillum. Thus we could be looking at a true-blue Trump/Sanders showdown through their proxies in Florida.
The result could tell us a lot about the near future of American politics.