Sunshine State Opera- The Drama of Florida’s Midterm Elections

Charlie Gers


The presidential election of 2000, the closest race in modern political history, was a historical election cycle that will forever be remembered in American politics. Unlike any other previous presidential election, the 2000 presidential election was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court after a state’s result was so close that it triggered a statewide obligatory machine recount—that state was, of course, Florida. Florida, a state with over 20 million people and 29 electoral votes, once again stole the attention of the entire nation during the midterm elections this year after a voting recount was called for the close Senate and governor’s race.

Across the nation, we saw numerous races too close to call, such as the Georgia gubernatorial race and the Arizona Senate race. However, perhaps no race was as dramatic as Florida’s gubernatorial race that concluded with Ron DeSantis leading Andrew Gillum by fewer than 34,000 votes or margin of .41 percent. Florida’s razor-thin race for governor consisted between two highly qualified contestants,  Gillum, the former mayor of Tallahassee, and  DeSantis, a former U.S. Representative for Florida’s 6th congressional district. Floridians headed to the polls on Nov. 6 to vote for two vastly opposite directions, a fervid Donald Trump supporter who released a campaign ad featuring his daughter, “how to build a wall” against an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter who vouched for ideas such as Medicare for All. As one of the states with the highest number of immigrants, immigration issues still remain a core debate in the swing state; according to the American Immigration Council, 4.1 million immigrants comprised 20.2 percent of the population in 2015. While DeSantis emphasized that he would cooperate with federal law enforcement and punish cities that adopt sanctuary policies to protect undocumented individuals, Gillum staunchly advocated to abolish ICE in Jul. 2018.

“Donald Trump has turned ICE into a police and child separation agency — not a border enforcement agency that treats people humanely and compassionately,” he said. “A decision between security or compassionate immigration policy is a false choice; we can have them both, and I promise to fight for that as Governor.”    

Florida’s Senate race between Democrat Bill Nelson, who was seeking reelection after his 2012 victory, and Rick Scott, the Republican incumbent Florida Governor, also triggered a recount due to the margin of less than 0.25 percent that separated both candidates. After Scott miraculously defeated Nelson with less than 15,000 votes, 50.1 percent versus Nelson’s 49.9 percent, the dispute over the half-percent threshold requisite for an automatic recount under Florida law immediately began. While Nelson and Scott aren’t as polar opposites like DeSantis and Gillum, both neck-and-neck Senate candidates still have a fair share of differences. Nelson, a moderate Democrat who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1978, supported tax increases for wealthier Americans, has previously supported comprehensive immigration reform bills, staunchly advocated against offshore drilling near Florida’s coasts, and vouches for newer gun control laws, scoring an “F” National Rifle Association (NRA) rating. On the other hand, Scott ran on a platform that advocated for more stronger, more robust immigration laws, a platform that argued that lower-taxes would contribute to the economy for all Floridians, and a platform that demeaned gun control laws. 

It has been half a month since the midterm elections ceased, yet Florida’s future was only decided this week. After a controversial machine recount that saw one county’s tedious recount completely rejected, Gillum conceded for a second and final time. DeSantis will be Florida’s next governor. 

With the Senate race still too close after the machine recount, a manual recount was triggered. Scott held on to his lead, causing Nelson to finally concede defeat. Scott will transition from the governor to the newest U.S. Senator from Florida.

Florida’s elections don’t just influence the state, but the nation. These results that will play a massive role in the 2020 presidential election.

Mitch Bendis contributed to this post.