By staff writer
August 29, 2018  – 2 min. read

In the wake of last night’s primaries, Florida has quickly become the setting of one of 2018’s most important governor’s races. In the hotly contested Democratic primary, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum prevailed over former member of Congress Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and businessman Jeff Greene to advance as the Democratic candidate. In November, he will go up against Trump-backed Republican Ron DeSantis in a contest that election forecasters predict will be a toss-up.

Gillum’s win came as a surprise to many. Going into the primary, he led no independent polls and trailed the field in fundraising. However, with 94 percent of the votes counted, he had a 3 percentage point lead over Graham, his closest rival. In Miami-Dade and Broward, the state’s two largest Democratic counties, he overwhelmed Graham by a margin of two to one with record turnouts at the polls.

Gillum, who is both young (age 39) and ideologically progressive, would be the first black governor of Florida, and he has already made history as Florida’s first black nominee for governor. The foundation of his campaign centered on a message of social justice, raising the downtrodden and appealing to the state’s growing diversity. His agenda includes support for Medicare for all, raising the minimum wage and strong opposition to the Stand Your Ground self-defense law.

Looking ahead to November’s election, Gillum’s work is cut out for him. While Florida’s population is growing and the state’s demographics are changing rapidly, Florida has not elected a Democratic governor since 1994, and the state voted for Donald Trump in the last presidential election.

Like Gillum, Republican candidate Ron DeSantis is young (also 39), and his opponent, Adam Putnam, outspent him two to one in the primary campaign. But that might be where their similarities end. An Iraq war veteran with a strong conservative record, DeSantis’s campaign largely rested on his Florida credentials (he was first elected to the U.S. Congress in 2012) and his vow to continue the economic progress he credits to outgoing Governor Rick Scott. He supports tighter restrictions on illegal immigration and staunchly supports the Second Amendment.

The stage is set for a clear ideological contest in November’s gubernatorial race in one of the country’s major presidential battleground states. 2018 is certainly shaping up to be an exciting midterm election year, and Invest: Miami, Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County and Invest: Tampa Bay will be keeping a close eye on the races in Florida.