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Wednesday 18 September 2019

Florida offers Donald Trump a sunny outlook ahead of 2020 elections

The Republicans not only won the governorship but also ousted a long-serving Democrat from the US senate.

President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One (Evan Vucci/AP)

By Gary Fineout, Associated Press

The US midterm elections provided a mixed picture but the battleground state of Florida offers plenty of comfort for President Donald Trump as he prepares to bid for a second term in the White House.

The Democrats had hoped to end 20 years of political exile in the battleground state.

Instead, election results after a tense and bruising recount showed Republicans coming out on top for governor and even picking up a US Senate seat in one of the swing states Mr Trump captured in 2016 when he beat Hillary Clinton.

(PA Graphics)

Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum conceded on Saturday, followed by three-term incumbent US senator Bill Nelson a day later.

More than eight million voters participated, a far higher turnout than in past midterm elections, but the result was the same for Democrats.

When official returns were posted on Sunday, Republican Governor Rick Scott led Mr Nelson in the Senate race by slightly more than 10,000 votes.

Republican Ron DeSantis edged Mr Gillum, Florida’s first African-American nominee for governor, by more than 32,000 votes.

State officials will certify the official results on Tuesday.

The close of nearly two weeks of high political drama in the presidential swing state likely spelled the end of the political career of the 76-year-old Mr Nelson.

First elected to Congress 40 years ago, Mr Nelson had been a Democratic survivor in an era when Republicans swept to power in Florida in the 1990s.

He was first elected to the US Senate in 2000 and seeking a fourth term.

“It has been a rewarding journey as well as a very humbling experience,” Mr Nelson said in a videotaped statement.

“I was not victorious in this race but I still wish to strongly re-affirm the cause for which we fought: A public office is a public trust.”

The political journey, however, appears to still be unfolding for Mr Gillum, who ran on a liberal platform that included expanding Medicaid and raising taxes to spend more on education, both potential hard sells in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

In his concession video, Mr Gillum told supporters to “stay tuned” about his next move.

“Although nobody wanted to be governor more than me that this was not just about an election cycle,” said the 39-year-old Tallahassee mayor.

Workers at Florida’s Broward County Supervisor of Elections office (Wilfredo Lee.AP)

“This was about creating the type of change in this state that really allows for the voices of everyday people to show up again in our government, in our state, and in our communities.

“We know that this fight continues.”

Now, ahead of the 2020 presidential election, it will be Republicans again in firm control in Florida which famously gave George W. Bush the presidency in 2000 after a contested Supreme Court case over his wafer-thin win over then vice-president Al Gore in the state.

Mr Gore had sought a recount to get the electoral votes that would have seen him to the Oval Office.

A Scott victory means Florida will now have two Republican senators while increasing the chamber’s Republican majority.

Mr Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago complex is in Florida, congratulated Mr Scott on Twitter: “From day one Rick Scott never wavered. He was a great Governor and will be even a greater Senator in representing the People of Florida. Congratulations to Rick on having waged such a courageous and successful campaign!”

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