WFTV: Republicans, Democrats choose their candidates ahead of 2018 midterm elections

ORLANDO, Fla. – The stage is set for the 2018 midterm elections. Republicans and Democrats have made their choices.

The biggest race will be for the governor’s seat, currently held by Rick Scott.

U.S. Rep. Ron Desantis won the Republican nomination, but perhaps the biggest upset of the night was the Democratic nomination.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum beat U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who led the pre-election polls, to become the first African-American gubernatorial nominee in Florida’s history.

Gillum, who pulled ahead in the final hour, embraces a “Medicare-for-all” health care system. He also said the government should “abolish ICE in its current form.”

Speaking with his supporters Tuesday night, Gillum presented himself as a direct answer to Trump-style politics.

“Those of us in this room. Those of us outside of this room. Those of us who didn’t vote, and those who couldn’t vote for me because they are Republican. But you know something? I want to be their governor, too,” Gillum said.

Gillum’s victory was hard fought, and it took a major endorsement to put him over the top.

Political experts said U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ endorsement led to the win.

Gillum lagged in fundraising. He spent about $7 million compared with Graham’s $16 million, and he was slow to launch television ads.

The Republican candidate, Desantis, had an easy win. He was declared the primary winner over Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The results from the Panhandle section of the state put Desantis over the top. He credits an endorsement from President Donald Trump for his big win.

“I was able to talk to the president, and I want to thank him for his support — thank him for entrusting me to be a great leader for Florida. Thank you, Mr. president,” Desantis said.

Desantis said he expects Trump to help him campaign in Florida.

Gillum said he thinks Trump’s support for DeSantis will be a good thing for Democrats come November.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the rural panhandle of Florida or in the I-4 corridor or in the very populous or very diverse South Florida,” Gillum said Wednesday on CNN. “If you’re working multiple jobs to make ends meet, you’re not happy.”

Hours after the candidates’ victories, DeSantis found himself facing criticism for his remarks.

“Let’s build off the success that we’ve had on Gov. Scott,” DeSantis said Wednesday on Fox News. “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda.”

Some criticized DeSantis’ word choice because of their racial undertones.

Gillum said he prefers to set a different tone.

“It’s very clear that Mr. DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump,” Gillum said Wednesday on Fox News. “But I think he’s got another thing coming to him if he thinks that in today’s day and age … Florida voters are going to respond to that level of derision and division. They’re sick of it.”

A spokesman for DeSantis issued a clarification to Fox News on Wednesday afternoon:

“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses. To characterize it as anything else is absurd.”

Desantis said he has several names on his list for a running mate and could decide in the coming weeks.

Scott easily won his party’s primary for a chance to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November.

Scott won 89 percent of the Republican vote. He will travel to Brevard County on Wednesday to talk about jobs.

Orange County Mayor-elect Jerry Demings won by a landslide.

“It feels pretty good. It’s been a long 13 months, you heard me say, and now it’s about really transitioning to various offices, so I am looking forward to that,” Demings said.

Nancy Soderberg won the Democratic nomination for U.S. House District 6. She was the front runner going into the primary and won by a big margin.

Soderberg was a national security adviser and ambassador for the Clinton administration.

Soderberg will face Republican Michael Waltz in November.

Waltz worked at the Pentagon under President George W. Bush.

After 16 years serving as Orange County mayor, Teresa Jacobs will chair the Orange County School Board.

“We have kids that are going to school afraid. There are people that will tell me that statistically, our schools are safe. The chances of an incident in any of our schools or affecting our children are remote. But for our children, teachers, parents, any chance is a chance too great. We have to continue the work that the school district has already started to harden our schools, use technology in a non-intrusive way. I don’t want kids to feel like they’re walking into a prison cell. But I want them to feel like they’re walking into a safe environment,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs will replace the current chair, Bill Sublette, who served for eight years.

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