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Florida’s midterm elections by the numbers

A Governor’s race. A U.S. Senate race. Donald Trump.

The 2018 midterm elections in Florida pretty much had everything a political junkie could want. Here are some of the numbers from Tuesday’s unofficial results:

62: The percentage of voters who went to the polls. For those of you keeping score at home, that equates to 8.25 million voters out of nearly 13.28 people who were registered to cast ballots.

77: The turnout percentage in Sumter County, the highest in the state. No wonder Republican politicians head to Sumter County every two years to woo voters in The Villages retirement community. GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, for example, received nearly 70 percent of the vote in Sumter.

57 and 57: The turnout percentages in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, respectively. For Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, those number might have sealed his loss Tuesday. Southeast Florida is long where Democrats have gone to pile up margins.

54: The number of counties won by DeSantis and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott. Yes, from Escambia to Monroe, they won the same counties.

13: The number of counties won by Gillum and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bill Nelson, including all of the large urban counties — Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Duval. The others carried by the Democrats were Alachua, Gadsden, Leon, Osceola, Seminole and St. Lucie.

4: The number of counties that Republican President Donald Trump won in 2016 that went to Gillum and Nelson this year. Those four were Duval, Pinellas, Seminole and St. Lucie.

1: Scott’s margin of victory — as in one vote — over Nelson in Monroe County. Scott got 18,021 votes, while Nelson got 18,020.

11: The number of constitutional amendments approved by voters. From restoring the rights of felons who have served their sentences to banning greyhound racing, voters were on board with the ballot proposals. The outcome was a victory for the state Constitution Revision Commission, which got seven of its proposals approved.

58: The percentage of votes received by Amendment 1, the only ballot proposal that failed to reach the required 60 percent threshold to pass Tuesday. Amendment 1 would have provided a larger homestead property-tax exemption to many Floridians.

0: The number of statewide offices that Democrats will hold if Nelson and Agriculture-Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried do not prevail in recounts. Nelson has been the lone Democratic statewide office-holder since former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 2010.

Ross Spano

Ross Spano wins CD 15 over Kristen Carlson

In what could have been a major upset for Republicans, Florida Rep. Ross Spano held off Democrat Kristen Carlson in the race for Congressional District 15.

With 88 percent of the vote counted, Spano led 53-47 percent.

The solidly red Congressional District 15 should have been an easy win for conservatives. It covers parts of Hillsborough, Lake, and Polk counties and voted plus-10 for President Donald Trump in 2016. Incumbent Republican Dennis Ross scored a 15-point victory over the Democratic nominee Jim Lange.

That majority saved Spano in what became an example of Democrats funneling money into districts they thought they could flip.

Buoyed by Democratic momentum, Carlson enjoyed a surge in campaign funding and a barrage of outside spending on political ads and direct mail. She outspent Spano by more than double with more than $1.2 million in contributions. The spending power gave Carlson the crucial ability to boost her name recognition and tout her experience as a lawyer working on agriculture-related cases.

Carlson lacked name recognition as a politician but was widely known in her district through high-profile work fighting orange juice manufacturers that led to stricter labeling regulations after public schools began purchasing out-of-state juice “adulterated” with additives but still labeled as 100 percent pure.

Spano’s campaign tried to stymie that momentum by firing back that an ad touting her commitment to fighting for average Floridians and ability to take on special interests was mired in hypocrisy.

After the orange juice case, Carlson took on another case asking the federal Food and Drug Administration to change the way it tested imported orange juice for banned or otherwise regulated substances. The FDA bans imported orange juice concentrate from containing the chemical carbendazim. Carlson argued the highly concentrated orange juice should be tested in its drinkable form, not its concentrated form because that’s how it’s meant to be consumed.

The Spano campaign tried to make the argument that Carlson was “speaking out of both sides of her mouth” when she claimed to protect children, but then supported a rule change to allow chemicals in juice.

Despite the heavy Republican bent in the district, Carlson and Spano polled fairly closely throughout the campaign, with Spano typically maintaining an edge. The once safe district earned a “toss-up” rating from the political posturing pros at FiveThirtyEight.

Call him ‘Senator’: Joe Gruters wins SD 23, overcomes Olivia Babis

Republican Joe Gruters gets a promotion to state Senate, after defeating Democratic opponent Faith Olivia Babis in Florida Senate District 23.

Gruters led in Sarasota County with 53 percent of the vote over Babis’ 47 percent, with all early and absentee votes and 28 percent of precincts counted.

In the slice of Charlotte County within the Senate district, the Republican led with 60 percent to the Democrat’s 40 percent, with early and absentee counted.

Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota, had been favored to win, but Babis, with the potential to become the first disabled lawmaker in state history, posed a greater threat than many expected at a time when Republicans dealt with both the effects of a national “blue wave” and anger in Southwest Florida over red tide.

And as co-chair of President Donald Trump’s Florida campaign in 2016, Gruters faced some risk of an anti-Trump backlash sticking to his candidacy.

Gruters recently announced he won’t seek re-election as chairman of the county party, so he had a good deal riding on this race. And he raised a good deal of money to hold a strong lead together.

In total, Gruters raised $367,668 to win the open seat. Babis in comparison raised $48,849.

The district before the August primary didn’t appear in play at all to most prognosticators. But in September, Democrats touted a push poll in District 23 that showed Babis up by 3 points among “informed” voters. That poll generally inspired skepticism, but when Republicans didn’t respond with their own polling, it started to raise alarm bells.

In late October, Democratic analyst Matthew Isbell went so far as to adjust the MCI Maps Florida Senate forecast to move District 23 from “Safe GOP” to “Leans GOP.”

Gruters did provide polling results to Florida Politics after that which showed him leading Babis by 9 percent.

That this seat was up for grabs this year came as a surprise to Southwest Florida politicos. State Sen. Greg Steube won election to the seat two years ago and was expected to serve through 2020, but after U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney announced his retirement, Steube resigned to run in Florida’s 17th Congressional District and Gruters ran for Steube’s seat.

Gus Bilirakis

Gus Bilirakis elected to seventh term in Congress

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis will serve a seventh term in office after defeating Democrat Chris Hunter Tuesday in a contentious race.

Bilirakis has held the seat since 2007. Before that, his father represented Congressional District 12. Between the two, there has been a Bilirakis representing the district for more than three decades.

The race became competitive for a couple of reasons. Hope for the “blue wave” of Democrats unseating conservatives from local, state and federal offices gave Democrats momentum this election cycle as more people flooded the polls.

It’s not unusual for midterm elections to serve as a referendum for the party in power in the White House, but this election cycle appeared even more fueled against the policies of President Donald Trump.

But it was Bilirakis’ own blunders that took a race that should have been a total shellacking and turned it into a toss-up heading into Election Day.

Most recently, Bilirakis took credit for a law seeking to put water on the nationwide opioid epidemic. An ad referred to it as the “Bilirakis Interdict Act.” That law provides funding and equipment to detect fentanyl at the border.

Bilirakis was not one of the 18-sponsors of that bill nor did he vote in committee on it, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

What he did do is co-sponsor the 2016 “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act” that scaled back the Drug Enforcement Agency’s ability to halt shipments of drugs that posed a danger to the public.

The optics are made worse by Bilirakis’ cozy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, from which he accepted more than $80,000 in campaign contributions during the 2016 election cycle. During this cycle, he has collected nearly $70,000 from the industry.

In July, Bilirakis came under fire for a campaign press release that claimed 90 percent of his contributions came from Florida voters. That number was actually 62 percent.

The negative headlines didn’t necessarily hamper Bilirakis’ loyal support in his Clearwater district, but they did give Hunter the ability to get his face and name out to the voter.

A relative unknown in politics, Hunter was a great candidate on paper. Hunter is a former federal prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice and served as an FBI agent after the 9/11 terrorist attack. That resume is attractive to conservatives who vow to support rule of law.

But Hunter’s absence in the political sphere paired with Bilirakis’ family legacy put him at a huge disadvantage. As Bilirakis’ campaign mistakes made headlines, so too did Hunter’s.

Still, it wasn’t enough to push Hunter through the finish line.

blue wave

Darryl Paulson sees possible ‘blue wave’ in Tampa Bay

Longtime Florida politics expert Darryl Paulson says voters “appear to be saying no to both Republicans and President Trump.”

Jeff Brandes seems to be the only secure candidate at this point,” said Paulson, a former Republican, in an interview. “That is due to his incumbency, his huge financial advantage and his Democratic opponent entering the race at a late date.”

Other local Republicans in the Tampa Bay area are facing credible threats in races that should be easy wins for Republicans, indicating the so-called “blue wave” that might be coming to this region.

The Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg looked at four races:

— Amanda Murphy and Ed Hooper in Senate District 16.

— Janet Cruz and Dana Young in Senate District 18.

— Gus Bilirakis and Chris Hunter in Congressional District 12.

— Ross Spano and Kristen Carlson in Congressional District 15.

In each of them, Republicans have at least one reason they should be waging easy campaigns.

Senate District 16 is a Republican-leaning district, having been in the hands of Jack Latvala for years. But without an incumbent in the race, Hooper is facing a credible challenge to keep the seat red.

Paulson (Photo: USF)

“Murphy is the more charismatic candidate and has sufficient resources to pull off an upset,” Paulson said.

In the Cruz/Young race, Paulson said Young should have an advantage and, in any other year, would be the clear favorite.

But because Cruz, as a current elected state representative, is a well-known political figure in Hillsborough politics. That throws water on Young’s incumbent status.

He also points out that, even though Young is out-raising Cruz, Cruz has raised enough financial resources to remain competitive in the race. It’s a matchup Paulson said “could go either way.”

Paulson isn’t sure if Hunter can pull off a win in his battle to unseat longtime Congressman Bilirakis in the Clearwater Congressional district, but notes it is a possibility.

“Bilirakis should be a lock to win his congressional race, but is facing strong opposition from Hunter, a former FBI agent and a model candidate,” Paulson said. “Bilirakis may have damaged his campaign with last-minute false allegations about both his and his opponent’s record.”

Paulson is referring to several of Bilirakis’ campaign missteps.

As far back as July, someone published a push poll asking leading questions about whether they would support Hunter if they knew he supported open borders and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Speaker should Democrats regain that chamber.

Hunter hasn’t said either of those things and, in fact, said he thought Democratic leadership needed to venture away from the traditional establishment vanguard.

Bilirakis also came under fire more recently for staking claim to federal legislation aimed at addressing the national opioid crisis. Not only did that effort not include Bilirakis’ fingerprints, he also co-sponsored legislation in 2016 that did the exact opposite.

Furthermore, he “claimed Hunter supported a proposal to raise energy bills $1,200 a year. Never happened,” Paulson said. “Both missteps occurred in October and made Bilirakis look scared.  

“This would be a major upset, but it may well happen.”

Paulson also sees a potential shift for Democrats in the Congressional seat currently held by Republican Dennis Ross. That district includes Brandon, Plant City and Lakeland and is heavily conservative.

Ross won re-election against a Democratic challenger in the previous election cycle handily and the district went double digits in support for President Donald Trump.

But “the longer the race goes on, the more likely it looks to be trending Democrat,” Paulson said.

“Midterms are often a referendum on the party in power and the person in the White House,” he added.

And that, it seems, might be happening.

What blue wave? Pinellas GOP exudes confidence majority will hold firm

Hours before midterm election results start rolling in, Pinellas County Republicans are just as optimistic as Democrats.

“I think you’re going to see us win Election Day turnout, as always,” said Todd Jennings, Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee vive-chair.

Party volunteers have been calling voters in a last-minute get-out-the-vote effort. They also have groups continuing to canvass neighborhoods as well as volunteers at the polls to monitor voting activity, on the watch for potential problems.

One problem was reported by Democrats earlier in the day at Jet Jackson Recreation Center in South St. Pete, but that issue was quickly rectified. Voters were delayed when some people who showed up had been listed as already voted.

The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office explained it as a poll worker error.

Jennings said the Party feels good with its legislative lineup of candidates and doesn’t expect the so-called “blue wave” to reach Tallahassee.

Some Pinellas County incumbents are easily favored to win re-election, which includes state Sen. Jeff Brandes and Reps. Chris Sprowls and Chris Latvala. Newcomer Nick DiCeglie is also a favorite in his mid-Pinellas and Clearwater House District 66.

Ed Hooper, the Republican running against Amanda Murphy for the Senate District 16 seat (previously held by Jack Latvala) is facing a tough race. Both Hooper and Murphy have previous legislative experience, each with good name recognition. Even though SD 16, which includes north Pinellas, all of Pasco and parts of Hillsborough counties, leans conservative, Hooper’s race is considered one of several that Democrats could pick up.

Another is the House District 69 seat incumbent Kathleen Peters is vacating to run for Pinellas County Commission. That district covers parts of western St. Pete, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach and Seminole. Democrat Jennifer Webb is polling ahead of Republican Ray Blacklidge.

The Republican Party has recently dumped a ton of money into an onslaught of direct mail targeting Webb as a “radical” progressive candidate and questioning whether she can be trusted to work for voters, not special interests.

Some of the information in those flyers was misleading or exaggerated.

For months leading up to the elections, Jennings has been walking neighborhoods talking to voters. He said a lot of those he’s spoken with expressed frustration with the current harsh political climate.

“I spoke with one cul-de-sac of independents who said they were all voting straight R down the ticket,” Jennings said. “I don’t know if that’s necessarily a countywide trend or it was just that neighborhood in Seminole.”

Registered Republicans in the county got fired up for this election during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation, Jennings noted, as well as what they see as an unfair bias in the mainstream media.

Seven Florida congressional races in spotlight

Races in seven Florida congressional districts continue to draw national attention as Democrats and Republicans battle for control of the U.S. House in Tuesday’s elections.

Listed as “hot races” by the non-partisan, the seven contests have attracted sizable political contributions, usually an indication of who donors, parties and special interests believe have a chance.

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said that in the battle for the U.S. House, “more and more seats seem to be coming into play, with Republican and/or Democratic outside groups expanding their ad buys to districts where the GOP has seemed favored,” including Central Florida’s Congressional District 15 and Southeast Florida’s Congressional District 18.

In District 18 and in Northeast Florida’s Congressional District 6, the center earlier labeled the races “likely” Republican but moved them to “leans” Republican. Meanwhile, the center upgraded its evaluation of the GOP’s chances of retaining control of Southwest Florida’s Congressional District 16, held by Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan. The center moved the race from “leans Republican” to “likely Republican.”

Here are snapshots of the seven Florida races targeted by

CD 6

Registered voters: Republicans 38 percent, Democrats 33 percent.

2016 voting: 57 percent for President Donald Trump, 40 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The seat, made up of all or parts of St. Johns, Flagler, Volusia and Lake counties, was held by Republican Ron DeSantis until he resigned in September to focus on his campaign for Governor.

Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a former national-security official in the Clinton administration, had raised $2.8 million as of Oct. 17. Republican Michael Waltz, a businessman and former Army Green Beret, was at $1.7 million in fundraising.

CD 15

Registered voters: Republicans 36 percent, Democrats 35 percent.

2016 voting: Trump 53 percent, Clinton 43 percent.

The seat, which includes parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties, opened because Republican Congressman Dennis Ross decided against seeking another term.

Kristen Carlson, a former prosecutor and general counsel at the Florida Department of Citrus, had raised $1.3 million as of Oct. 17. Republican candidate Ross Spano, a state House member and attorney from Dover, had raised $581,690.

CD 16

Registered voters: Republicans 41 percent, Democrats 32 percent.

2016 voting: Trump 54 percent, Clinton 43 percent.

Held since 2013 by Buchanan, an auto dealer, the district covers all or parts of Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties.

Buchanan had raised $2.7 million. His Democratic opponent, attorney David Shapiro, had raised $2.3 million.

CD 18

Registered voters: Republicans 38 percent, Democrats 34 percent.

2016 voting: Trump 53 percent, Clinton 44 percent.

A Republican-leaning district covering St. Lucie, Martin and northern Palm Beach counties, the region has since 2007 been represented by Democrat Tim Mahoney, Republican Tom Rooney, Democrat Patrick Murphy and, now, Republican Brian Mast.

Mast, a U.S. Army veteran who won the seat in 2016, had raised $5.3 million as of Oct. 17.

Democrat Lauren Baer, an attorney who served as a foreign policy adviser in the Obama administration, has raised $3.98 million. Baer entered the race with regional name recognition from her family’s ownership of Baer’s Furniture.

CD 25

Registered voters: Republicans 38 percent, Democrats 29 percent.

2016 voting: Trump 50 percent, Clinton 48 percent.

Stretching across South Florida, the district includes parts of Miami-Dade and Collier counties and all of Hendry County.

Republican Congressman Mario DiazBalart, a former state legislator who has been in the U.S. House since 2002, had raised $2.1 million.

Democrat Mary Barzee Flores, a former circuit judge in Miami-Dade, had raised $1.95 million.

CD 26

Registered voters: Democrats 36 percent, Republicans 31 percent.

2016 voting: Clinton 57 percent, Trump 41 percent.

The district, which is made up of Southwest Miami-Dade County and all of Monroe County, is held by Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 2014.

Curbelo had raised $4.75 million as of Oct. 17. Democrat Debbie MucarselPowell, who has worked for non-profit organizations and as director of development for Florida International University, had raised $3.75 million.

CD 27

Registered voters: Democrats 36 percent, Republicans 32 percent.

2016 voting: Clinton 59 percent, Trump 39 percent.

The district, which includes areas in Southeast Miami-Dade, opened when Republican Congresswoman Ileana RosLehtinen decided to retire after nearly 30 years in the U.S. House.

Democrat Donna Shalala, a former University of Miami president who served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, had raised $3.4 million.

Republican Maria Elvira Salazar, a long-time journalist and television personality who worked for Telemundo, had raised $1.54 million.

Andrew Gillum: Victory ‘will send a message to Mr. Trump’

Andrew Gillum cast his vote in Florida’s close governor’s race in a Roman Catholic Church meeting hall in Tallahassee’s northern suburbs, saying he was focused on making history, but also on the need to win.

“I’m extremely excited to have just — I think I can reveal — cast a vote for myself,” Gillum told reporters, surrounded by his wife, R. Jai, and their three small children.

“This has been a long journey — 21 months moving across the state of Florida, talking to everybody that we could meet.”

That included voters in the Panhandle, a deep red section struggling to recover from Hurricane Michael. An area, he conceded, not likely to be rich in votes for him.

“But that’s OK. What I want people to know — even in the deepest red areas — that I want to be their governor, too. In order for that be true, you’ve got to go there, you’ve got to hear from people, you’ve got to talk to folks and let them know that you plan to work on their behalf, too.”

Gillum and his family arrived at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church at 10:03 a.m. and emerged from voting about 15 minutes later. He then spoke to the press.

Asked about the message from Republicans Donald Trump and Ron Desantis that a Gillum election would hurt Florida’s economy, the mayor noted that 44 percent of Floridians can’t make ends meet, and 36 counties are economically worse off than in 2007.

“What we’re going to do is grow an economy where people can work one job instead of two or three jobs in order to make ends meet,” he told reporters. “We’re going to lean into the kind of economy where folks can earn enough where they can not only pay their bills, they can save up enough to take a vacation every once in a while.”

And what about the historical implications should Gillum become Florida’s first African-American governor?

“Us winning tonight, I think, will send a message to Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis, as well — that the politics of hatred and of division, of separation, that they’ve come to an end.

“At least in this election, that’s what we’re going to show. That people are going out and they’re voting for something and not against. And by voting for something, we’re returning the politics of decency and what’s right and what’s common between all of us,” Gillum said.

“We’ll worry about history later, but today we’re working to win.”

Has the nasty turn the campaign has taken overshadowed the issues?

“I am extremely proud that we ran a campaign focused on expanding access to health care, paying teachers what they’re worth, leaning into the green economy,” Gillum said.

“We’re really, at every turn — in spite of all the distractions — tried to keep voters in the state focused on what matters. I believe that is what’s going to allow us to walk away with a win today.

“I’m looking forward to then turning around and going back to those voters whose votes I didn’t get and letting them know that I plan to be a governor for them, too.”

Amendment seeks to restore voting rights for 1.5M felons

More than 1.5 million adults in Florida are ineligible to vote because they have felony convictions. Voters rights’ groups are hoping that will change on Tuesday.

Known as the voting rights restoration initiative, constitutional Amendment 4 would fundamentally alter the way convicted felons participate in democracy.

If it passes, those with felony convictions will be able have voting rights restored automatically if they’ve completed their sentences, including parole and probation. It doesn’t apply to anyone convicted of murder or sexual assault. Supporters of the amendment say the current process to apply for restoration of those rights is prohibitively difficult and arbitrary.

The ballot measure needs 60 percent of the vote to pass. At the beginning of 2018, Floridians for a Fair Democracy collected more than 799,000 certified petition signatures, or about 33,000 more than the group needed to get the measure on the ballot.

Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington nonprofit that advocates sentencing reform, says Florida is “ground zero” for disenfranchised felons.

Of the 6.1 million disenfranchised felons in the U.S., about 1.7 million live in Florida — the most of any state, Mauer said. Only 12 states disenfranchise people for a felony conviction after they’ve served their sentence, he said.

“The numbers in Florida really dwarf any other state,” Mauer said.

The Florida ballot proposal has been championed by celebrities — singer John Legend held a community event in Orlando in October to highlight the issue. And it’s been the subject of several national news pieces.

Currently, felons in Florida can only regain voting ability if they apply to the state Office of Executive Clemency. The felon’s case is heard by the governor and his Cabinet, and sometimes, the person seeking restoration will go before the board and explain their situation, and how they have repented or been rehabilitated. Florida’s governor has a unilateral veto on the applications.

Shortly after taking office in 2007, then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist persuaded two of the state’s three Cabinet members to approve rules that would allow the parole commission to restore voting rights for nonviolent felons without a hearing. Within a year, more than 100,000 ex-felons were granted voting rights.

But Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet ended automatic restoration of voting rights as one of Scott’s first acts upon taking office in 2011.

Siottis Jackson, 30, of Jacksonville, is director of the North Florida chapter of Second Chances, a nonprofit group supporting Amendment 4. He’s been a political activist for years. In 2015, he was convicted of a felony fraud charge, meaning that he asks people to vote, but can’t vote himself.

“I work for candidates and I can’t vote for them,” he said. “I live in a community where a lot of people are affected by this.”

Jackson said that when people lose their right to vote, “they begin to lose their hope and their engagement in our democracy.”

“If there’s a streetlight out, they don’t complain. They feel their voice isn’t going to be heard. It reduces their interest in community pride. They say, ‘I don’t get involved, because I don’t have the right to vote.’”

Adding more than a million people to the state’s voter rolls could have broad implications in a state where elections are often won by a razor-thin margin. In 2016, President Donald Trump won Florida with less than 50 percent of the vote, defeating Hillary Clinton 49 percent to 47.8 percent, or 112,911 votes.

Separately, Florida’s process of restoring voting rights to felons is winding its way through an appeals court case. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled the state’s system is unconstitutional because it is arbitrary and open to having applications approved or rejected for political reasons. He ordered the state to revamp its system, but Scott’s administration appealed. The appellate court put Walker’s order on hold while it considers the case.

A spokesman for Scott has said that judges should interpret the law, not create it, and that the governor will “never stop fighting for victims of crime and their families.”

Ron DeSantis expecting GOP super voters to make the difference on Tuesday

The polls and the voter turnout through the weekend might have a blue tint but Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis is counting on Florida’s Republican super-voters to do what they always do – turn out en masse on Election Day – and make the difference.

“I really believe if we can get people out to vote I will be elected governor on Tuesday,” DeSantis told a crowd of about 150 people gathered in an Orlando pharmacy parkling lot Monday morning.

DeSantis made the comment during a get-out-the-vote rally that featured Republicans U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Agriculture Commissioner nominee Matt Caldwell, Attorney General nominee Ashley Moody, and congressional nominee Mike Miller, among others. So naturally, the comment was a standard line for such a rally.

Yet an edge in DeSantis’s voice sounded as if he knows it will be needed, as someone trailing by five points in three different polls released Monday morning, and with reports that Democrats had a big voter turnout over the weekend. After his Orlando speech he told reporters that the voter turnout numbers will turn.

“We have a lot of our super voters left to vote. We have hundreds of thousands of voter-advantage in terms of potential voters,” DeSantis said. “Not all the votes have been tabulated from weekend in the Panhandle from earely voting. I think we’re going to go into the election having  rough parity, which we were not anticipating. We thought we’d have to come back.

“We just have a lot of our voters who like to vote on election day,” DeSantis added. “That’s just the way they are. So I think we’re definately going to win election day.”

Considering the star power of three cabinet nominees and Florida’s Republican U.S. Senator appearing at Monday in Orlando the rally drew a modest crowd to a small space. DeSantis’s end game speech included the usual comparisons with his Democratic opponent Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and reminders that Tallahassee is being investigated by the FBI for potential corruption.

Yet DeSantis also put more emphasis Monday on seeking to define the leadership differences, and in reminding the crowd that he has at least a good working relationship with President Donald Trump, if not a mutual-admiration society, while Gillum has called for Trump’s impeachment.

“You also have to someone who is a good leader and can get this stuff done. If you look at transportation, which we obviously need in Central Florida, you should have a governor who can work constructively with the administration in Washington to make sure Florida is getting what it needs for us to be able to fix our infrastructure,” DeSantis said.

“I can do that because I can call the president, I can call key people in the administration, and I can fight for Florida and fight for Florida’s interests,” he continued. “Andrew Gillum wants to impeach Donald Trump.”

Rubio spoke only briefly, mainly warning against a state of high taxes and business regulations that he said Gillum would bring.

“We’re not going backwards,” Rubio said. “We are most certainly not going to become a state like people are leaving. That’s not going to happen.”

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