Two big primary elections in Florida Tuesday, one showing President Trump’s endorsement power and the other an upset showing Bernie Sander’s political clout.
In the Republican primary for governor, Rep. Ron DeSantis, who trailed early, surged back with Trump’s endorsement to defeat Adam Putnam, the state’s agriculture commissioner.
On the Democrat side, progressive Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum rode Sanders’ endorsement to an upset win over a crowded field. It included Rep. Gwen Graham, who is the daughter of former Florida governor and Sen. Bob Graham. She had been leading in the seven-person field.
The primary victories set up a mega-duel on Nov. 6 for political control of the fourth most-populous state between a Trump favorite and a Sanders favorite, who is seeking to become Florida’s first black governor.
“Ron will be a fantastic Governor. On to November!” the president tweeted. For his part, DeSantis thanked the president for “viewing me as somebody who could be a great leader for Florida.”
Governors’ races this cycle are especially critical. Twenty-six of the GOP’s record 33 seats are up. State governors will play a key role in legislative reapportionments that emerge from the 2020 census.
The winner in this governor’s race will succeed incumbent Rick Scott. With Trump’s encouragement the term-limited Scott is seeking to oust incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson, who was unopposed.
The wealthy Scott easily triumphed in the GOP primary and is expected to give the two-term Nelson a tough challenge. If he can pull it off, that would give the GOP an important Senate pickup and, with Marco Rubio, both senators from the Sunshine State.
Gillum’s win is yet another confirmation of the hard tack to the left among this cycle’s Democrat voters.
This race is shaping up as likely the nation’s most expensive. By early August, Scott, anticipating primary victory, had already spent more than $20 million of his own money going after Nelson.
In a political footnote, former Bill Clinton Cabinet secretary and president of the Clinton Foundation Donna Shalala won the House Democrat primary in Florida’s 27th District for the seat being vacated by GOP veteran Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Shalala will face Maria Elvira Salazar, a former TV news anchor who captured 41 percent of the Republican vote in a nine-person race.