The high-profile gubernatorial and senatorial elections in Florida and Georgia are finally over, just two weeks after Election Day. Despite all the vote-counting shenanigans, Ron DeSantis has replaced fellow Republican Rick Scott as governor of the Sunshine State, Scott has ousted incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson from the Senate, and Brian Kemp has defeated his progressive opponent, Stacey Abrams, to become governor of Georgia.
While all three Democrats came very close to winning, they didn’t quite make it. That they had lost was evident by the end of the day Wednesday, Nov. 7 – it just took progressive dreamers half a month to accept it.
Kemp v Abrams
Stacey Abrams hoped to become the first black woman to be elected governor of any state in the Union – and she came damn close. The former Georgia state representative would have been a progressive’s dream in office. She pushed an “assault weapons” ban that would allow the state to confiscate guns otherwise already legally owned, and she advocated for a plethora of tax-funded socialist programs – despite being at least $50,000 behind on her own taxes and around $200,000 in debt altogether.
When the final count was certified, Abrams trailed behind her opponent, former Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, by 17,488 votes, or 1.4%. Despite the fact that she would have needed all but 103 of the 21,190 provisional and absentee ballots to force a runoff, she refused to concede, demanding that every vote be counted. She fell well short of this number, even though the Obama appointee, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones, tried to hand her the election by allowing ballots with missing or incorrect information to be counted – no voter verification needed.
Abrams finally “conceded” Friday, Nov. 16, by accepting the fact that she just couldn’t beat Kemp, though she refused to call it a concession and accused the Republican of stealing the election.
DeSantis v Gillum
In Florida, the controversial mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum, failed to convince enough of the electorate to make him governor rather than former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Gillum, who had hoped to be the first black governor of the Sunshine State, faced plenty of controversy during his campaign, from allegations of corruption to being outed by a campaign staffer as an uber-progressive with no intention to make good on his campaign promises. Yet he still came within about 34,000 votes – a mere 0.4% margin.
Gillum had initially conceded on election night, but he later withdrew his concession – ostensibly under pressure from his campaign staff – to fight on until the recount wrapped up. He surrendered again Saturday, Nov. 17.
Scott v Nelson
Sitting Gov. Rick Scott of the GOP had the votes to give incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson the boot by the end of election night, but by a narrow enough margin that both a machine and hand recount were triggered under state election law.
…but by no means were the Democrats in any of them destined for failure at the outset.
Though a much tighter race than the one between DeSantis and Gillum, a miscount would have been the only way for Nelson to hold on to his seat. Even if the almost 5,000 ballots contested over signature issues were counted and all went in the incumbent’s favor, he would still have lost by about 7,500 votes. Whether by ballots later verified by voters or because of an error in the initial count, Nelson did manage to close the gap a little. But he still lost, by more than 10,000 votes.
A Win, of Sorts, for Progressives
These three elections might have been done deals by the end of election night, but by no means were the Democrats in any of them destined for failure at the outset. The highest final margin by percent of total votes, the one between Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams, was still only 1.4%. The narrow margin between Scott and Nelson might not have been surprising, given that Nelson was a multi-term incumbent. However, the results of the other two elections reveal a shocking truth and should not be merely shrugged off. Gillum and Abrams were very progressive candidates running for offices that have been held by Republicans for years — and almost won.