Despite raising $52.5 million including at least $11.5 million from several out-of-state billionaires, Democrat Andrew Gillum lost the Florida governor’s race on Tuesday to Republican opponent Ron DeSantis, by about a 1% margin with 99% of the votes counted. As of 11:30 pm ET, DeSantis had 49.9% of the votes, and Gillum had 48.9%.
The swing state’s race had been tight for weeks, with Gillum holding a narrow lead over DeSantis in the polls leading up to Election Day. But last week, Trump flew to Florida to campaign for DeSantis and senatorial candidate Rick Scott, leading to DeSantis gaining on Gillum in the polls.”
Gillum led a campaign with an unapologetically progressive platform. Rather than trying to reach across the aisle with a moderate message, he endorsed a $15 minimum wage, gun control, criminal justice reform, single-payer health care for all and raising the corporate tax rate to fund education.
The bold, liberal strategy—one that mirrored Bernie Sanders’ in the 2016 election-was one that big-money donors had hoped the party could replicate in 2020 races. Out-of-state billionaire Tom Steyer gave $7.2 million to political action committees that support Gillum, plus $2.8 million directly to his campaign. George Soros and his son, Alex, and Michael Bloomberg—two more billionaires who don’t live in Florida—gave $1.25 million and $250,000, respectively.
DeSantis ran a similarly hyper-partisan campaign, aligning himself with conservatism and Donald Trump, and thus his victory represents a larger one for the party and its current ideology. A former congressman for Florida’s 6th district who raised a total of $53.5 million, DeSantis opposed Medicaid expansion and corporate tax increases, drew a tough line on immigration and promised to defend gun rights.
DeSantis drew financial support from several billionaires, including Chicago-based hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who has a home in Palm Beach, Florida. Griffin donated $5.75 million to DeSantis’ campaign.
Florida resident and billionaire Isaac Perlmutter, the founder of Marvel Entertainment and a close ally of Trump (he belongs to the President’s Palm Beach club Mar-a-Lago and served as an unofficial aide to Trump’s Department of Veterans Affairs), also backed DeSantis. Perlmutter and his wife, Laura, donated $2.5 million to DeSantis’ campaign and rented the candidate their plane for campaigning.
“The motivation for their support is that Mr. Perlmutter is a well-known Tump fan, Trump supporter and Trump friend, and DeSantis supports the president’s agenda,” said a spokesperson for the Perlmutters, adding that “DeSantis is pro-Israel and showed up for the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem.”
Florida billionaire Thomas Peterffy and Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson each gave $200,000 or more to DeSantis.