Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum, for the second time, conceded the race for Florida governor to Republican Ron DeSantis on Saturday, three days after a statewide machine recount indicated DeSantis retained his winning lead and as contentious recounts in two other statewide races draw to a close.
“We said we would fight until the last vote is counted,” said Gillum with his wife R. Jai in a video livestreamed on Facebook Saturday afternoon. “Now that we are rounding that process out, R. Jai and I wanted to take a moment to congratulate Mr. DeSantis on becoming the next governor of the great state of Florida.”
Gillum had conceded on Election Night to DeSantis when it appeared the Republican former congressman had won by a narrow, if insurmountable, margin. But after that margin further narrowed in the days after the midterms to within a half of a percentage point, and a statewide machine recount was triggered, Gillum held a brief press conference last weekend in which he withdrew his concession and called for counties to “count every vote.”
Gillum participated in a handful of rallies, many anchored in churches, to support the recount effort, as flurries of lawsuits filed largely regarding the U.S. Senate race battled over deadlines for the recounts and some counties — including Palm Beach and Broward — struggled to meet deadlines to submit recounted ballot numbers in time.
But by Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline, when the results of a statewide machine recount were due, DeSantis still maintained a margin wide enough to avoid triggering a further manual recount, essentially ensuring his status as governor-elect.
DeSantis sent a statement to reporters that day, declaring victory again. “I remain humbled by your support and the great honor the people of Florida have shown me as I prepare to serve as your next governor,” he said in his statement, inviting Gillum “to join me in the days ahead in a conversation about the future of our great state.”
But Gillum issued only a brief statement saying, “It is not over until every legally cast vote is counted.”
The slim possibility existed that Gillum could have contested the results by a lawsuit before the end of the month, but Gillum appeared to rule out any further action from his campaign in his comments Saturday.
“We wanted to make sure that every single vote — including those that were overvotes, undervotes, as long as it was a legally cast vote — we wanted those votes to be counted,” he said, adding they were “now rounding that process out.”
After Gillum’s concession, DeSantis tweeted: “This was a hard-fought campaign. Now it’s time to bring Florida together.”
A few hours before Gillum’s statement, President Donald Trump, who during the campaign had sharply criticized the Tallahassee mayor, congratulated him “on having run a really tough and competitive race for Governor of the Great State of Florida. He will be a strong Democrat warrior long into the future - a force to reckon with!”
Gillum gave little indication of his future plans after the end of his mayoral term, though — in a nod to the still-ongoing recount issues — he called for updating the state’s election system to “bring it into the 21st century.” On his own path, he said only to “stay tuned. There will be more to come. This fight for Florida continues.”
His wife added: “We are still committed to making our community a better place... This is not the last of Andrew and R. Jai Gillum.”