Miami, Fla. – Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis won another fouryear term in office by defeating former governor and U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist in Tuesday’s election in which abortion, inflation, the handling of Hurricane Ian and whether DeSantis already is running for president became cornerstones of the race.

In another high-stakes race that helped make Florida a red state, Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Rubio defeated U.S. Rep. Val Demings, a Democrat, to hold on to his seat for a fourth term despite his support of an abortion ban and his poor Senate attendance record.

For Congress, U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a Democrat, defeated Republican challenger Drew Montez-Clark in decidedly blue District 20.

DeSantis, who’s viewed as a potential U.S. presidential candidate in 2024, captured 58 percent of the vote to Crist’s 41 percent with most of the precincts reporting, as predicted by pre-election polls.

DeSantis took the vast majority of votes in Miami-Dade, the most populous county in the state, the first Republican governor to do so since Jeb Bush in 2002. DeSantis lost MiamiDade to Democratic candidate Andrew Gullium in his first election in 2018, which Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won by 29 points in 2016. Former U.S. President Donald Trump won Miami-Dade with 51.26 percent to President Biden’s 47.84 in 2020.

"Thank you very much," DeSantis, 41, told supporters during a victory speech consistent with his combative campaign rhetoric. "We chose facts over fears, we chose education over indoctrination and we chose law and order over rioting in Florida," he said. "We faced the taxes, we took the hits but we weathered the storm. We didn’t back down. We had the courage to lead. We made promises to the people of Florida and we delivered on those promises."

Crist, 66, said "I thank all of you because Florida has been great my entire life," during his concession speech in front of supporters in St. Petersburg. "It’s an absolute blessing to serve as governor before and serve as a congressman from my hometown.” To DeSantis, he added, “I want to wish you and your family nothing but the best."

The rivals clashed last month during their only debate in Fort Pierce, in which Crist kept prodding DeSantis, “Why don’t you look in the eyes of the people of Florida and say to them, if you’re reelected you will serve a full four-year term as governor,” amid suggestions DeSantis is eyeing a run for the U.S. presidency in 2024. “Yes or no, Ron?”

DeSantis sidestepped the question, citing his putting a cap on college tuition for public universities and colleges, keeping Florida open during the COVID-19 pandemic, improve public school funding, and boosting salaries of teachers, first responders and healthcare workers.

But Crist said the governor was mean and calculating by flying 50 Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, imposing the 15-month abortion ban and not responding quickly in the wake of Hurricane Ian that caused $40 billion in damages while the death toll mushroomed to 112 in Florida including 61 deaths in Lee County.

Crist also attacked DeSantis on his 15-month abortion ban, saying he’s taking away the right for women to choose what to do with their own bodies, as DeSantis became a lighting rod of criticism by Democrats and teachers for his Don’t Say Gay bill, which gives parental rights in education and prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten to the third grade.

DeSantis fought back and said Crist was in favor of allowing abortions up to the moment of birth, and pointed out Crist’s party switching from Republican to Independent and then Democrat. “Is this an honest change of heart or is this a guy that’s going to shift with whatever wind he needs to?” DeSantis asked.

DeSantis, who outraised Crist $200 million to $137 million in campaign contributions, repeatedly linked Crist and Biden as he blasted the current presidential administration for inflation, rising energy prices and a surge in immigration across the nation’s Southern border.

Rubio, 51, captured 57 percent of the votes over Demings’ 42 percent and had led in most polls. Rubio, whose parents were Cuban immigrants, led in most polls and counted on support from Trump, the Florida Sheriffs Association, the Florida Police Benevolent Association and the National Association of Police Organizations. Trump stumped for Rubio two days before the election during a political rally at the MiamiDade County Fairgrounds attended by thousands of Republicans, most of them Hispanics.

During his victory speech, Rubio said the win was "great" for America and the Republican Party. "Do you know when we call Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Haitians, men and women who come from other countries … Do you know what we call them in Florida?" Rubio asked. "We call them Americans."

Demings, 65, was greeted by her supporters in Orlando and joined by her husband, Orlando Mayor Jerry Demings and other family members on stage.

"Thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart," she said. "Things didn’t quite turn out the way we had hoped but that’s alright." She said she called and congratulated Rubio and told him to work hard for Florida.

It was one of the most expensive races in the U.S. Senate, Rubio raising more than $50 million and Demings $52 million.

Cherfilus-McCormick trounced Montez-Clark by picking up 72 percent of the votes for Congressional District 20. She won her first full term after winning a special election this year to replace Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings who died from pancreatic cancer in 2021. She had lost to Hastings in 2018 and 2020. The district covers portions of Palm Beach and Broward Counties but

before the election, the House District was redrawn and some votes were split between Plantation from Pembroke Pines.

Cherfilus-McCormick’s campaign focused on tackling the housing crisis by providing funding for rental and mortgage assistance and through increasing affordable housing reducing inflation, fighting to end health care disparities by pushing for universal health care, defending reproductive and voting rights and creating economic opportunities for workers and small business owners in the district.

In local races, Pam Beasley-Pittman became the first Black woman elected to the Fort Lauderdale Commission by winning the District 3 seat with 45 percent of the votes. Yvette DuBose picked up 31 percent, Donna Gutherie had 14 percent and Nadine Hankerson got 7 percent of the votes. Pittman, president of the Dorsey Riverbend Homeowners Association, replaces Robert McKinzie who represented the city’s historically Black western neighborhoods. McKinzie won a seat on the Broward County Commission in August.

In District 1, John Charles Herbert, a CPA, won a seat on the Fort Lauderdale Commission with 39 percent of the vote. Ken Kecchi picked up 22 percent, Christina Disbrow with 19 percent and Chris Williams with 18 percent. Warren Struman was leading with 21 percent for District 4 and Kevin Cochrane picking up 20 percent. A recount will be required in the close race.

For Miami-Dade County Commission District 2, nonprofit founder Marleine Bastein defeated North Miami Mayor Philippe Bien-Amie, 59 percent to 41 percent in a runoff election to replace Jean Monestime, who’s term-limited this year.

Monestime and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava both endorsed Bastien. Bien-Amie was backed by U.S. Reps. Frederica Wilson and McCormick Cherfulus, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, former Broward County Mayor Dale Holness and lobbyist Ron Book.