Decision 2022

DeSantis Defeats Crist in Florida Governor's Race, Elevating National Profile

Massive win sets up a possible run for the 2024 presidency for DeSantis

NBC Universal, Inc.

Ron DeSantis will remain Florida's governor after a decisive victory over Democratic challenger Charlie Crist in Tuesday's election, setting up a possible run for the 2024 presidency for the Republican.

With more than 85% of the vote in, DeSantis had a massive lead over Crist and was the projected winner, NBC News reported.

"Thanks to the overwhelming support of the people of Florida, we not only won election, we have rewritten the political map," DeSantis told supporters at a victory rally Tuesday night. "Thank you for honoring us with a win for the ages."

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers a victory speech after defeating Democrat Charlie Crist in the race for Florida Governor.

Out of 67 counties in Florida, DeSantis appeared to have won all but five. Republicans flipped Duval, Pinellas, Hillsborough, and even Palm Beach.

But the dagger for the Democrats came in Miami-Dade, blue for so long but breaking for DeSantis this year by more than 10 points. Only six years ago Republicans lost the county by almost 30 points.

In a short concession speech, Crist congratulated DeSantis and thanked supporters, saying his political career has been an “absolute blessing."

Democratic candidate Charlie Crist concedes to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in race for Florida Governor.

"And Governor DeSantis, to you and your family, I wish you only the best. And I wish the best to my fellow Floridians because I love this state. I love her with all my heart. And you're your great, good, decent, kind people. And you deserve nothing better than the very best that God has to offer," Crist said.

  • It's a resounding win for DeSantis, who narrowly defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum by a little over 32,000 votes out of more than 8.1 million votes cast in his first governor's race in 2018.

    The incumbent governor's reelection effort had been widely assumed to be a precursor to a presidential run in 2024, though DeSantis hasn't yet said whether he'll run.

    Crist had cruised to victory over fellow Democrat Nikki Fried in the August primary, setting up the showdown with DeSantis.

    But DeSantis benefited from demographic shifts across Florida, a perennial swing state that shifted to the right during his first term. Former President Donald Trump carried the state by more than 3 points in 2020.

    Data from 2022 showed Republicans with a registration advantage of nearly 300,000 voters, reversing a more than 260,000 advantage for the Democrats in 2017.

    A poll released a month before Election Day showed DeSantis with an 11-point advantage over Crist, a lead that would have been unthinkable four years ago.

    Though DeSantis shrugs off talk of 2024, Crist made DeSantis' possible future a focus of the candidates' only debate last month.

    Crist accused DeSantis of being too distracted by his national political ambitions to lead properly. DeSantis avoided several attempts by Crist to get him to say he'd serve a full second term.

    "I know that Charlie is interested in talking about 2024 and Joe Biden, but I just want to make things very, very clear: The only worn-out old donkey I’m looking to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist,” DeSantis said.

    "You won’t even say if you want to be the governor of Florida after this election," Crist said.

    During the campaign, Crist tried to cast himself as a moderate alternative to DeSantis, who has not shied away from wading into cultural issues since taking office.

    DeSantis has signed new laws banning abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest, along with blocking critical race theory and LGBTQ issues from many Florida schools. He also led efforts to eliminate Disney's special tax status after the company said they'd work against his Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed by critics as "Don't Say Gay," and has hit the Biden administration on everything from immigration to inflation.

    For his part, DeSantis has embraced those battles against what he calls "woke" ideology.

    The 44-year-old DeSantis, a graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School, served in the U.S. Navy from 2004 to 2010. He served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps and as legal adviser to a U.S. Navy SEAL commander in Iraq.

    He represented Florida in the U.S. House for three terms beginning in 2012.

    Crist, 66, first won the governor's race in 2006, as a Republican, but chose to not run for a second term in 2010. He then went on to lose a U.S. Senate bid as an Independent, and then he ran for governor in 2014 as a Democrat and lost.

    Crist was elected to a St. Petersburg-area congressional seat in 2016 but resigned in August to focus on the gubernatorial campaign.

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