TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and his wife Casey voted early Tuesday morning in Ponte Vedra Beach.
A small crowd of supporters chanted, “We want Ron!” He shook hands and thanked supporters before he and his wife, holding their children Madison and Mason, went into the polling place.
DeSantis faces challenger Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to replace Gov. Rick Scott, who is running against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in a race that could help determine whether the U.S. Senate stays in Republican control.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and his wife R. Jai voted Tuesday morning at a church in the northside of the city. As he left the polling place, a crowd gathered outside chanting, “Bring it home!”
“I tried to look over to see what she was doing,” Gillum said of his wife while holding their 1-year-old son Davis.
“I voted for you,” she replied.
Gillum talked about how he tried to keep his campaign positive despite attacks from former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump.
He said that winning “will send a message to Mr. Trump, and Mr. DeSantis as well, that the politics of hatred of division and separation, that they’ve come to an end. At least in this election.”
He added that “people are going out and they’re voting for something and not against. And by voting for something we’re returning to the politics of decency and what’s right and what’s common between all of us.”
More than 5.2 million voters cast ballots ahead of Election Day in the battleground state, and records show that Democrats have a slight edge.
New statistics released Tuesday by the state Division of Elections show that more than 2.7 million people voted early, and nearly 2.5 million people have voted by mail.
Democrats have cast more than 2.1 million ballots. Republicans have cast 2.08 million. More than 973,000 voters with no party affiliation have also voted.
This year’s totals far exceed those of 2014 midterms, but are still short of the 6.6 million who voted ahead of Election Day in 2016. In 2014, Republicans edged Democrats in votes cast before Election Day, while Democrats led two years ago in the presidential election. Despite the edge from Democrats in 2016, President Donald Trump won Florida due to a surge of GOP voters on Election Day.
Florida’s more than 13 million registered voters are choosing a new governor and voting on a pivotal U.S. Senate contest.
Polls opened quietly at Miami Beach City Hall, where a short line of people waited to cast ballots.
Among the first in line Tuesday morning was Greg Freeman, who took a red-eye flight from the West Coast to make sure he could vote in his Miami Beach district on Election Day.
Freeman had a list of things that mattered to him as he cast a ballot in the gubernatorial race. He cited health care, the ability to tell the truth and human decency.
Freeman voted for Gillum. He said health care is a priority for him because of a pre-existing medical condition. He’s already seen his insurance premiums sky-rocket and says he doesn’t “want to be in a high-risk pool.”
In Little Havana, 34-year-old Enrique Tarrio says he chose DeSantis because the businesses he owns have flourished under Republican Gov. Rick Scott. He says DeSantis is “picking up where Rick Scott left off.”
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.