Primary day is finally here! The Tampa Bay Times politics staff is here to walk you through what’s sure to be a wild day in Florida politics, with competitive gubernatorial primaries on both the Democratic and Republican sides. Track the latest developments with this feed, which we’ll be updating throughout the day. The final Florida polls close at 8 p.m. EST.
10:15 p.m. Thank you all for following along with us during a historic night in Florida politics. We’ll have so much more on the governor’s race in the coming months. Join our Facebook group to talk politics with us any time, from anywhere. And subscribe to the Daily Buzz on Florida politics newsletter to get daily email updates on all things Florida politics.
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10:00 p.m.: Graham concedes:
9:50 p.m.: MAP: How Andrew Gillum won Florida. By @LangstoniTaylor
9:44 p.m.: DeSantis weighs in on his general election opponent:
9:38 p.m.: The Tampa Bay Times' Alex Leary with a stunning statistic about the Florida governor’s race:
9:36 p.m.: Watch Gillum’s acceptance speech live:
9:16 p.m.: AP HAS CALLED IT FOR GILLUM.
9:09 p.m.: BIG: Another race call for Gillum:
Elizabeth Koh, from Gillum’s watch party:
Astounded and ecstatic cheers grew deafening at the Hotel Duval shortly before 9, as polls began to show Andrew Gillum pulling away from Gwen Graham with a narrow lead. Between cheers of "Gillum! Gillum!" and his closing slogan "bring it home," the candidate, sequestered in a hotel room in the bilding, tweeted a photo of himself watching the results come in.
“Could be one of those nights...!” he wrote.
9:06 p.m.: Former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush weighs in on the Republican gubernatorial primary:
9:00 p.m.: Miami-Dade’s voter turnout was higher than the *2016* primary.
8:54 p.m.: GILLUM’S LEAD WIDENS: According to the AP, with 85 percent of precincts reporting, Gillum has a 25,000 vote edge over Graham.
Here’s video of Gillum’s watch party:
8:48 p.m.: HUGE: Cook Political Report is calling the race for Andrew Gillum.
8:45 p.m.: More on Gillum from Elizabeth Koh, who’s at his watch party in Tallahassee:
Gillum’s campaign strategy was long predicated on a surprise win, with a groundswell among African-American and young voters. The idea of that slim opportunity was also one that figured prominently into Gillum’s digital ads and messaging, in which he told voters that “my mother said the only thing you should ever ask for in life is a chance.”
As Gillum pulled ahead of Graham Tuesday night, it appeared he could get exactly that. Should Gillum win the Democratic primary, he would be a significant foil to Republican nominee Ron DeSantis in almost every way. He has regularly called health care a human right — DeSantis has suggested the opposite in a primary debate against Putnam. Gillum has called to impeach Trump, DeSantis’s political protector. And Gillum has also positioned himself strongly for tightening laws on guns, which DeSantis has opposed.
Gillum, early on, made his life story a plank of his candidacy, describing himself as the son of a bus driver and a construction worker, born in Richmond Heights in Miami-Dade and raised in Gainesville before attending college at FAMU in Tallahassee. He would quickly make the state’s capital city his political home, successfully running for city commission in his senior year at college and serving for about a decade before he coasted to a victory as mayor in 2014.
8:37 p.m.: Here’s a bit of analysis from some sage Florida politics minds on a hypothetical DeSantis-Gillum matchup:
8:31 p.m.: Is Gillum pulling away? With 78 percent of precincts reporting, Gillum has a 14,000 vote margin over Graham after a stellar showing in south Florida. We could be witnessing history.
8:27 p.m.: GILLUM TAKES THE LEAD: With about 69 percent of precincts reporting, the Tallahassee mayor has a narrow margin of about 5,000 votes over Gwen Graham. This one is coming down to the wire.
8:27 p.m.: BREAKING: Adam Putnam has conceded to Ron DeSantis.
8:22 p.m.: And with Graham and Gillum neck and neck with some 70 percent of precincts reporting, here was the scene at Graham’s watch party:
8:20 p.m.: With Gillum inching his way back into the Florida governor’s race, here was the scene at his watch party in Tallahassee, according to the Herald/Times' Elizabeth Koh:
As polls closed in the western Panhandle of the state, supporters for Andrew Gillum crammed into a ballroom on the top floor of the upscale Hotel Duval in downtown Tallahassee, eagerly watching early vote returns just a few blocks away from the state Capitol.
The shades were drawn closed over the rooftop view of the city, but a screen on the east side of the room ran a live feed of MSNBC’s broadcast of the night’s results. Scores of supporters stood around tables, shaking hands and checking early vote numbers on their screens.
Supporters at Andrew Gillum's party cheered deafeningly and hugged each other as the gap in votes between Graham and the mayor appeared to narrow about a quarter after 8 pm. MSNBC showed Gillum closing in on the former representative statewide, and people in the audience shouted as the screen showed early vote returns from Duval County, where Gillum appeared to have a comfortable lead.
"Less than a point!" shouted Vincent Sams, 58, Gillum's uncle, as the network showed Gillum at a little over 31 percent statewide to Graham's 32. "Less than a point!"
He expressed pride at Gillum’s performance thus far in the primary: “We’ve worked hard. He’s gone every place in this state, places he wasn’t supposed to go, Pensacola, Marianna. It’s really up to them now.”
8:17 p.m.: The Democratic race tightens: With nearly two-thirds of precincts reporting, Gillum now trails Graham by less than a percentage point.
8:10 p.m: Gillum’s got a real shot at this. Early voting from Broward County shows he significantly outperformed Graham:
8:02 p.m: KEY UPDATE: Fox News has called the Republican gubernatorial primary for Ron DeSantis. Emily Mahoney reports that chants of “Ron! Ron! Ron!” broke out at the congressman’s Orlando watch party when the result was announced.
AP has also called the race for DeSantis.
7:55 p.m.: Democratic governor’s race update: The gap between frontrunner Gwen Graham and the surprisingly strong Andrew Gillum has tightened a bit. With just under a third of state precincts reporting, Graham leads Gillum by 4.5 percentage points, 34 percent to 29.5. Broward County, a hugely populous south Florida Democratic stronghold, has yet to report a single vote. It could well make the difference.
7:48 p.m.: With about a quarter of precincts reporting, DeSantis is maintaining a 23-point lead over Putnam. Graham is holding onto about a 56,000 vote lead over Gillum, who’s had a strong showing Tuesday.
Here’s a fun little vignette from Gillum’s watch party from the Herald/Times' Elizabeth Koh:
7:39 p.m.: With about 7.5 percent of precincts reporting, Gwen Graham and Ron DeSantis have shot out to early leads. Graham leads Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum statewide 35 percent to 26 percent, with former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at 21 percent.
DeSantis, meanwhile has a sizable 23 point lead over Putnam.
Here’s what the scene is like at DeSantis' opponent’s watch party:
7:29 p.m.: With 118 out of 300 Hillsborough County precincts reporting, here’s where things stand:
Adam Putnam: 51%
Ron DeSantis: 43%
Gwen Graham: 37%
Andrew Gillum: 35%
Statewide, with about five percent of precincts reporting, Graham and DeSantis have opened up sizable leads, though, according to AP.
7:24 p.m.: Democrat Philip Levine, Republican Ron DeSantis did very well in the Miami-Dade early vote:
7:19 p.m.: With early results trickling in, some notable early voting numbers out of Hillsborough:
7:00 p.m. Polls are closing in much of the state! Here’s how to track local election results in real time:
6:58 p.m.: This Sun-Sentinel reporter makes a good point. If you’re in line and haven’t voted, stay in line!
6:45 p.m.: The Times’ Steve Contorno is live at Adam Putnam’s watch party in Lakeland. Follow him at @scontorno for all things Putnam.
6:37 p.m. More on turnout: the chair of the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee says Democrats have a sizable — and growing — turnout advantage over Republicans in the county that’s home to Jacksonville. (Thread)
6:29 p.m.: Here’s the scene at Democrat Philip Levine’s watch party in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, according to the Miami Herald’s Joey Flechas:
6:08 p.m.: Polls haven’t closed yet, but Democrat Andrew Gillum’s campaign is already using the reports of high voter turnout as evidence that he’s going to do well tonight.
From Gillum’s communications director:
And from Gillum himself:
6:04 p.m.: From the Times/Herald’s Lawrence Mower:
Graham’s watch party is at The Social, a small concert venue in downtown Orlando, and her biggest asset just walked in to speak to the press.
Former Florida Governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, Gwen Graham's father, opined for a few minutes about the race and how it compared to his own.
Bob Graham was a big underdog in his first run for governor, in 1978. His daughter? She's been a front-runner basically from the beginning, when she declared last year.
"Gwen has shown to be better, earlier, than I was," he laughed.
But he identified two key differences between the race today and the past.
"One of which is that the money is so much greater today than it was," he said.
The other big difference? Back then, Florida was essentially a "one-party state" - a Democratic one - which made the primary far more important than the general.
"Now, we're essentially just getting through the first step, but the final and most significant step is to come in November," he said.
As for his prediction tonight?
“I hope that we’ll be happy in a few hours,” he said.
5:48 p.m.: 2018 voter turnout in Miami-Dade county, Florida’s most populous county — and a key Democratic stronghold — is blowing the doors off of 2014 turnout, per CBS' Jim DeFede.
5:46 p.m.: Some great frames from our photojournalists covering the DeSantis and Graham watch parties:
5:29 p.m.: Primary Day weather update, part II:
5:13 p.m.: Primary Day weather update:
4:55 p.m. Our reporters and photographers have arrived at two of the state’s most notable watch parties. Follow Emily Mahoney at @mahoneysthename to get the latest on Ron DeSantis' shindig in Orlando. Tailyr Irvine, @TailyrIrvine, will be shooting the DeSantis event.
4:47 p.m.: Some Tampa Bay-area turnout numbers are trickling in:
4:15 p.m.: All day, Democratic candidates for governor have taken to Twitter to retweet messages from supporters who voted for them. Here’s an example, from Gwen Graham:
Here’s another, from Democratic former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine:
Interestingly, the major Republican candidates, Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam, haven’t retweeted supporters as much from their personal Twitter accounts. However, each has tweeted a message urging voters to get out to the polls. And Putnam has been running an all out social media blitz from other accounts such as @teamputnam.
3:45 p.m.: If you aren’t registered with the Democratic or Republican Party, you likely won’t have a full say in who gets to be Florida’s next governor.
Because of Florida’s closed primary system, in which only voters registered with a certain party can vote in that party’s primary, more than a quarter of Florida voters will be left out of Tuesday’s governor’s races.
At least one advocacy group wants to change that. Florida Fair and Open Primaries, a nonpartisan group that wants to transition the state to an open primary system, put out a release bemoaning the “millions of Floridians barred from today’s pivotal election.” (Non-affiliated voters can (and should!) still vote in local nonpartisan races.)
“An open system is better for our state, our people, and even our elected officials. Florida can’t shut out almost a third of voters forever,” Tom Cullen, Florida Fair and Open Primaries' director of outreach, said in a sentence.
One could argue that the closed system is even more exclusive than normal this year, when five Democrats are seeking the nomination. Even the winner of that contentious primary will likely emerge with a small plurality of Democratic voters.
Does it make sense that two people who will get a fraction of a fraction of the primary electorate in a midterm year will likely be the major nominees for governor of the nation’s third-largest state? It’s a fair question.
3:10 p.m.: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham got a couple of significant — if late — endorsements Tuesday. Democratic Congresswoman Lois Frankel Graham, backed her former congressional colleague, as did Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello.
3:00 p.m.: Wondering about the Florida primary turnout? Democratic strategist and Andrew Gillum campaign consultant Kevin Cate has been tracking the early vote and mail ballots throughout the state:
And read the Times' Steve Bousquet on how 2018′s turnout is sure to surpass the 2014 numbers.
2:37 p.m.: From the Times/Herald’s Elizabeth Koh, who’s with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum:
Just after 11 a.m. on primary day, Tallahassee mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum arrived at Good Shepherd Catholic Church to vote for himself for governor. Accompanied by his wife R. Jai and their three children, Gillum greeted a small group of supporters before he walked into the polling location. “Let’s go vote,” he told them, as he held his 1-year-old son Davis in his left arm. “Let’s bring it home.”
Afterward, he told reporters that voting for himself — in his historic bid to become the state's first African-American governor — was moving.
“I didn’t realize what the sensation would be like to see my name on the ballot there,” he said. “When I think about that little boy growing up in Richmond Heights, watching my mother and father struggle at different times between paying the bills, to now be in this race and to have my family right alongside me, it’s an overwhelming feeling.”
Gillum also spoke confidently of a late surge in polling he hoped would lift his campaign to victory Tuesday night.
"I think we're going to surprise a lot of people this evening," Gillum said. "Four, five weeks ago, all y'all's polls had us fifth. Then we were fourth, then we were third, now we're second. Today, I think we're going to close in first."
But when asked by reporters, Gillum also did not rule out the possibility of considering being a lieutenant governor should someone else win the party's nomination.
“We’re optimistic we will be the nominee,” he said. “If it isn’t me, I’ll do everything I can to see a Democratic elected governor.”
2:30 p.m.: Our reporters are at the polls asking people why they voted how they did. Here’s what a few gubernatorial primary voters had to say:
2:15 p.m.: Welcome to the live blog! My name is Kirby Wilson, and I’m a Times reporter and web producer. I’ll be curating feeds from our politics team all day today. Shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or a tweet at @kirbywtweets if you see anything of interest, and we’ll be sure to chase it down.
Just like our reporter Tony Marrero chased down Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam as he voted today:
Read why Putnam, who’s facing the Donald Trump-endorsed Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis in the gubernatorial primary, is convinced he’ll win.