LEE COUNTY, Fla. — A clean sweep for Republicans in statewide races, with incumbents and other candidates winning by substantial margins.
At the top of the ballot, Governor Ron DeSantis returns to Tallahassee for another four-year term. Coming off a 33,000-vote margin in 2018 to defeat Democrat Andrew Gillum, the governor racked up 4.6 million votes in an easy win over former Governor and Democratic nominee Charlie Crist. The 1.5 million-vote margin underscoring his 59%-41% win over Crist, who was governor in 2007-2011, as a Republican.
The victory was also the largest margin, by percentage, since Bob Graham's 1982 victory, where he earned 64% of the vote on his way to re-election.
Republicans followed the governor’s lead down the ballot, with Senator Marco Rubio earning a third-term in office. Rubio defeated Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings 58 percent to 41 percent, with a margin of more than 1.2 million votes. Rubio’s three wins in the U.S. Senate have all come in heavily Republican election years, starting in the 2010 mid-terms, where Tea Party support lifted Republicans to gain control of the U.S. House. Rubio’s 8-point victory in 2016 over Patrick Murphy came after Rubio’s own presidential run along with President Trump winning Florida and the White House.
Earlier this year, state legislators redrew Florida’s maps for the Congressional districts to reflect the 2020 census. Increasing from 27 seats in the U.S. House to 28, the margin of Republicans from Florida going to the House is also moving up. Florida’s delegation was 16 Republicans and 11 Democrats in the current Congress and a 20-8 Republican advantage for the next session, starting in January.
Voters in Southwest Florida sent all four Republicans incumbents back to the U.S. House, with ease. Greg Steube, from the 17th (Sarasota, Charlotte, Lehigh Acres in Lee County) captured 64 percent over challenger Andrea Kale. Scott Franklin (18th, now including DeSoto, Hendry and Glades) with 75 percent support over Keith Hayden. In the 19th (Cape Coral/Fort Myers and western Collier County), voters sent Byron Donalds back for another term with a win over Cindy Banyai in a rematch of Donalds’ 2020 victory. In the 26th (eastern Collier and Miami-Dade), Mario Diaz-Balart returns for two more years, 71 percent to 29 percent over Christine Olivo.
Republicans completed the statewide sweep, with Ashley Moody returning as attorney general (61% to 39% over Democratic challenger Aramis Ayala), Jimmy Patronis as state treasurer (59% to 41% over challenger Adam Hattersley) and, in an open seat, Republican Wilton Simpson captured 59 percent of the vote over Democrat Naomi Blemur.
For mayoral races in Lee County, incumbents in Fort Myers and Cape Coral easily won. Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson with a 79%-21% victory over David Ruffin and John Gunter returns as Cape Coral mayor over Tom Shadrach, 61 percent to 39 percent.
School board races became a flashpoint in the August primaries as the nominees for governor backed certain school board candidates across Florida. On August 23, three different challengers in Collier County earned more votes than the incumbents. In the general election, all three challengers won “for good”, far surpassing the “50 percent plus one” threshold. Jerry Rutherford (1st), Kelly Lichter (3rd) and Tim Moshier (5th) are voted into a Collier County School Board in the midst of major change.
More of a split decision in Lee County. DeSantis-backed Sam Fisher beat Kathy Fanny in Lee County School Board District 1 by about 1,800 votes. Crist-supported Debbie Jordan held off challenger Dan Severson in the 4th district, 56 percent to 44 percent. The at-large seat for District 6 went to Jada Langford Fleming over Denise Nystrom, 52 percent to 48 percent.