Democrat concedes defeat as bid to become Florida’s first black governor fails

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Democrat Andrew Gillum has conceded defeat to his Republican rival in the race to become governor of Florida.

Mr Gillum, who was aiming to become Florida’s first black governor, concluded his campaign with a Facebook video he recorded alongside his wife in a park.

In his four-minute-plus video, Mr Gillum congratulated Republican Ron DeSantis and also vowed to remain politically active even though his term as mayor of the Florida capital of Tallahassee ends next week.

#TeamGillum, our fight continues.

Posted by Andrew Gillum on Saturday, November 17, 2018

He ran on a liberal platform that included expanding Medicaid and raising taxes to spend more on education even though both ideas would have been hard to pass through the Republican-controlled legislature.

His final act as a candidate was less confrontational than that of another prominent African-American candidate in this year’s midterm elections when Stacy Abrams in neighbouring Georgia ended her campaign for governor on Friday, ceding to a Republican with an unapologetically indignant tone establishing herself as a leading voting rights advocate.

Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams ended her challenge to Republican Brian Kemp on Friday (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

“Although nobody wanted to be governor more than me that this was not just about an election cycle. 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.”

Mr Gillum’s concession came hours before Florida’s counties must turn in their official results after tense days of recounting ballots in both the gubernatorial and a US Senate contest — two nationally watched midterm elections that have keep the presidential swing state on edge since election day.

Mr Gillum’s brief remarks came hours after US President Donald Trump, who at one point in the campaign had sharply criticised Mr Gillum, praised him for running a tough race.

“He will be a strong Democrat warrior long into the future – a force to reckon with!” said Trump in a Twitter post.

Mr Gillum had initially conceded to Mr DeSantis on election night, but he retracted it as the razor-thin margin between the two candidates narrowed.

But he still trailed Mr DeSantis by more than 30,000 votes following a legally required machine recount. Counties are wrapping up a hand recount this weekend and must submit their official results by noon on Sunday.

Mr Gillum’s concession assures Florida Republicans will retain their grasp on the governor’s office since Jeb Bush’s term starting in 1999.

Mr DeSantis, 40, was considered an underdog before Mr Trump tweeted his support for him in December, a month before Mr DeSantis even entered the race.

Mr Trump campaigned to help push Mr DeSantis to a primary victory in August and visited Florida two more times to help the Republican in the final days of the election.

Mr DeSantis’s campaign did not respond to Mr Gillum’s remarks, pointing instead to a statement the former congressman put out two days ago.

“Campaigns are meant to be vigorously debated contests of ideas and competing visions for the future,” Mr DeSantis said.

“The campaign for governor achieved this objective as evidenced by historic voter turnout from people of all parties across our state. But campaigns of ideas must give way to governing and bringing people together to secure Florida’s future. With the campaign now over, that’s where all of my focus will be.”

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