Florida GOP have a record night from Gov. DeSantis all the way down the ballot

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis presented voters with a clear choice on Tuesday: do they want more of his brash brand of culture war politics or Democratic challenger Charlie Crist’s appeal to moderates. The voters have spoken and they gave Gov. DeSantis what could be a record win when all the votes are counted.

The big win for DeSantis could serve to advance speculation of a 2024 presidential run, a question DeSantis has so far dodged as former President Donald Trump’s next move remains unclear. Trump, who credits himself for propelling DeSantis to a first term in the governor’s office, has grown frustrated with DeSantis’ refusal to rule out a 2024 run, according to people familiar with Trump’s thinking.

Democrats, the minority party in the state government, faced considerable challenges in a state recently considered to be a perennial political battleground but that has drifted to the right. Trump won the state twice and Republicans have been aggressive in organizing at the local level and made a sustained push on voter registration.

In a telling signal, GOP voters cast a greater number of ballots than Democrats in Miami-Dade County during the early voting period, increasing confidence that Republicans who won the county for the first time in 20 years.

Last year, the GOP notched more registered voters in the state than Democrats for the first time in modern history, and then continued to widen the gap into November. Still, the state’s large number of voters not affiliated with any party have the ability to swing an election.

Some Democrats have admitted that their previous organizing and registration efforts in Florida had mostly centered around presidential races, and there were concerns that big donors and the national wing of the party might cede the state after recent losses and DeSantis’ growing popularity.

The Democratic Governors Association has bristled at that characterization and said it considers Florida a competitive battleground. The organization has spent $685,000 to help elect Crist, a spokesperson said.

The election unfolded under the state’s controversial new Office of Election Crimes and Security, created at the request of DeSantis to address concerns in the GOP about voter fraud. The office notified county election supervisors in October of certain voters who could be ineligible to cast ballots due to prior felony convictions and requested counties prevent them from voting.

The move follows the office’s arrest of 20 people for illegally voting in 2020, the first major election since a state constitutional amendment allowed many felons to have voting rights automatically restored, except for those convicted of murder or felony sexual assault or those who still owe fines or restitution. One of those 20 people had his case recently dismissed by a Miami judge, though the governor is expected to appeal the ruling.


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