Results in Florida’s most important elections showed Republican candidates winning the race for governor and leading for U.S. Senate, but Democrats captured two crucial South Florida congressional seats. Voters came out in force on all sides.
Ron DeSantis, the Republican candidate for governor, won roughly 50 percent of the vote, compared to 49 percent for Democrat Andrew Gillum, who conceded shortly before 11 p.m.
And Republican Gov. Rick Scott claimed victory over U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democratic incumbent, shortly before midnight. Scott led Nelson in the Senate race by less than one percentage point. His slender lead was still large enough to prevent an automatic recount, but the race remained uncalled by major news organizations with just 12 precincts statewide not yet reporting vote tallies. Nelson had not conceded.
Meanwhile, two U.S. House of Representatives races had been settled by 10 p.m.
GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a two-term incumbent in a district that covers the Florida Keys and southwest Miami-Dade County, conceded to Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell about three hours after polls closed. Results showed him trailing by roughly two percentage, or about 3,300 votes. County-level results showed Mucarsel-Powell won enough ballots in Miami-Dade to overcome Curbelo’s advantage in the Keys.
In a far less competitive contest, Donna Shalala declared victory in a race for a Miami-Dade district won handily by Hillary Clinton in 2016’s presidential election. The former University of Miami president had roughly 52 percent of the vote against 46 percent for María Elvira Salazar, a former television news anchor. The seat had been held by GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring, for 29 years. An independent candidate, Mayra Joli, had just 2 percent of the vote.
The Democratic victories could help the party capture control of the House of Representatives.
Turnout was impressive both before and on Election Day. More than 550,000 people voted early in Miami-Dade, either by mail or in person, far more than the previous midterm election in 2014. Election Day votes were being counted and released throughout the evening.
Overall, turnout in Miami-Dade was expected to be around 56 percent, a record for a mid-term election. Broward’s turnout was roughly 54 percent.
In Florida, turnout stood at about 60 percent, compared to 51 percent in 2014.
As expected, statewide Democratic candidates fared well in South Florida, where the party dominates voter rolls.
Gillum had 60 percent of the vote in Miami-Dade and 68 percent in Broward County against DeSantis.
Nelson was leading Scott by similar margins.
But the Democrats trailed in redder areas of the state.
Thirty-nine percent of Floridians registered to vote did so early, either in person or by mail, according to state election figures.
Going into Election Day, the math favored Democrats: Nearly 23,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans had voted statewide, out of 5.2 million ballots cast early. Democrats ran up the score in South Florida and the Tallahassee region, while narrowly eking out an advantage among Orlando-area early voters. Republicans, meanwhile, were able to win big margins in traditional strongholds in the Panhandle and the Naples-Fort Myers area. They also outpaced Democrats in the wider Tampa area.
Miami Herald staff writer Douglas Hanks contributed to this report.