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Gillum Ends Campaign for FL Governor   11/18 10:28

   TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Andrew Gillum, who tried to energize Florida's 
young and minority voters through a Democratic coalition seeking to end two 
decades of Republican control of the governor's office, ended his hard-fought 
campaign Saturday as the state's first black nominee for the post.

   Gillum, whose refrain had been "bring it home" as he recounted stories of 
growing up poor in the state, concluded his campaign with a Facebook video he 
recorded alongside his wife in a park.

   In his four-minute plus video, 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. Of his future plans, Gillum 
said: "stay tuned."

   Gillum, just 39 years old, earned national attention and financial backing 
from well-known liberal billionaires with his first bid for statewide office. 
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 GOP-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: Stacy 
Abrams in neighboring 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.

   "This has been the journey of our lives," said Gillum, appearing in the 
video with his wife, R. Jai Gillum. "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."

   Gillum's concession came hours before Florida's counties must turn in their 
official results at noon Sunday after tense days of recounting ballots in both 
the gubernatorial and a U.S. Senate contest --- two nationally watched midterm 
elections that have keep the presidential swing state on edge since Election 
Day.

   Gillum's brief remarks came hours after President Donald Trump, who at one 
point in the campaign had sharply criticized 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.

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

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

   DeSantis, 40, was considered an underdog before Trump tweeted his support 
for DeSantis in December, a month before DeSantis even entered the race. Trump 
campaigned to help push DeSantis to a primary victory in August and visited 
Florida two more times to help the Republican in the final days of the election.

   DeSantis's campaign did not respond to 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," 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."

   DeSantis stumbled out of the gate after winning the Aug. 28 primary, telling 
Fox News that voters shouldn't "monkey this up" by electing Gillum.

   Despite implications that DeSantis is racially insensitive --- an idea he 
angrily disputed during a debate --- he is poised to officially win the state 
that Trump carried in 2016. He has promised to keep intact many of the same 
policies on education and health care that have been in place by previous 
Republican governors.

   DeSantis ran as a political outsider despite serving three terms in Congress 
and running for the U.S. Senate in 2016 before dropping out of the race when 
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election.

   DeSantis is a former Navy officer who graduated from Yale University before 
getting his law degree at Harvard University.

   He gained name recognition during the primary with more than 100 appearances 
on Fox News, often to defend the president.

   DeSantis ran a largely negative campaign, calling Gillum a socialist and 
saying he oversaw one of the most corrupt and crime-ridden cities in the state. 
Trump joined in on the criticism, tweeting similar messages. The corruption 
allegation stemmed from a continuing FBI investigation into City Hall that 
Gillum has said he is not a target of and is cooperating with; the charge that 
Tallahassee had the state's highest crime rate was false.

   Gillum portrayed DeSantis as racially divisive, repeatedly pointing out his 
"monkey this up" comment.

   "I'm not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I'm simply saying the racists 
believe he's a racist," Gillum said previously.

   Gillum's announcement came as most Florida counties were winding down their 
hand recount in the state's contentious U.S. Senate race. The smattering of 
results publicly posted Saturday showed that Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson 
was only gaining a few hundred votes in his bitter contest with outgoing Gov. 
Rick Scott, a Republican.

   State officials ordered a manual recount earlier in the week after a legally 
required machine recount showed that Scott led incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson 
by about 12,600 votes. More than 8 million voters cast ballots in the race.

   Nelson and Democrats filed several lawsuits following the close election, 
challenging everything from the state's signature mismatch law to deadlines for 
mail-in ballots.

   If the 76-year-old Nelson loses, it would likely spell an end to a lengthy 
political career that stretches back four decades. Nelson was first elected to 
the U.S. Senate in 2000. A win for Scott would mark his third victory since the 
multimillionaire businessman launched his political career in 2010. In each 
race, Scott has barely edged his Democratic opponent.

   State law requires a machine recount in races where the margin is 0.5 
percentage points or less. Once that recount was complete, if the differences 
in any of the races are 0.25 percentage points or less, a hand recount is 
ordered. Local canvassing boards only review ballots where a vote was not 
recorded by voting machines.


(KA)

 
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