(NewsNation) — The Florida governor’s race — widely seen to be a referendum on the job incumbent Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has done for the past four years — has been called by NewsNation/ Decision Desk HQ in favor of Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis squared off against his Democrat rival, former Gov. Charlie Crist, in a contentious race during which the sitting governor far out-raised and out-spent his challenger on campaign ads.
Crist, who previously served as governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011, frequently attacked DeSantis on the campaign trail, calling him a bully and saying the governor was not doing enough to lower costs for Florida residents amid skyrocketing inflation.
Crist has also hammered DeSantis relentlessly over abortion rights, warning that if DeSantis wins a second term, he’s likely to try further to restrict the procedure beyond the current 15-week ban.
During his first term in office, DeSantis took a hardline stance on divisive social issues — opposing COVID lockdowns and protections, flying a group of migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard and restricting how teachers can talk about gender identity, sexual orientation, and race in classrooms.
During his victory speech Tuesday evening, DeSantis says Florida has fought “woke” ideology.
“The woke agenda has caused millions of Americans to leave these jurisdictions for greener pastures.” Now this great exodus of Americans, for those folks, Florida has served as the promised land. We have embraced freedom. We have maintained law and order. We have protected the rights of parents. We have respected our taxpayers, and we reject woke ideology. We fight the woke in the legislature, we fight the woke in the schools, we fight the woke in the corporations. We will never ever surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die,” Gov. DeSantis said.
In the speech, DeSantis said while the country “flounders” under the leadership of the Biden administration, “Florida is on the right track,” attracting visitors and new residents.
“People have come here because our policies work. Leadership matters … Leaders don’t follow, they lead. We set out a vision, we executed on that vision and we produced historic results, and the people of this state have responded in record fashion,” DeSantis said.
Leaning into former President Donald Trump’s false rhetoric about election fraud, DeSantis previously launched a state-funded unit to investigate the issue despite no evidence of fraud. He also had 19 formerly incarcerated people arrested for trying to vote in the 2020 election.
DeSantis spent time outside of Florida during the campaign cycle raising his national profile, making him a potential 2024 Republican presidential contender. During a debate with Crist, DeSantis refused to commit to a full four-year term as governor if he were reelected. Crist used the opportunity to accuse DeSantis of being too distracted by his national political ambitions to effectively lead the state.
Both President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama traveled to Florida to show their support for Crist. In his endorsement, Obama said Crist was “fearless, guided by what’s right, even when it’s hard.” He went on to tell voters that Crist would “fight for voting rights and a woman’s right to choose.”
Weeks before the election, DeSantis held a strong, several-point lead over Crist in the polls. The governor’s approval ratings were boosted in part due to his response to Hurricane Ian, according to a poll by the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative.
Florida is one of 36 states electing their top executive officials during the 2022 midterm elections. Before the election, there were 28 Republican governors and 22 Democratic governors.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.