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DeSantis Might Want to Thank a Demographic Few Republicans Claim: Black Females

December 5, 2018 - 6:00am
St. Andrews Catholic near Orlando
St. Andrews Catholic near Orlando

Here in Broward, we are still caught in the Mobius Strip that is the career of former Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes. But believe it or not,  actual election experts here are still poring over the metrics of the election.

In digging through the demographics and percentages, analysts turned up one surprising result in the race for Florida governor. The winner, Republican Ron DeSantis, appears to have picked up support from a group that may have tilted the result in his favor: African-American female voters.

In this tightly contested race, there were a number of abject differences between DeSantis and his Democratic Party challenger, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. On almost every agenda item there was a stark polarity between the two, with the primary issue being race. (Or, based on how much Gillum brought up the subject, it could count as the top three issues.) Which makes the heavier-than-expected swing of black females to the DeSantis side all the more a standout result. Or, an outlier.

But there was a gulf between the candidates on numerous other platforms, from the economy, agriculture and healthcare, to infrastructure and education. It is that last item -- education -- that analysts are scrutinizing especially.

The Wall Street Journal looked at the results and noted a very telling detail. In the statewide returns, it was discovered that a disproportionate number of black females chose Ron DeSantis -- and it is notable that there is no claim of voter integrity being compromised. In looking at the numbers, 650,000 black females voted in the state for the midterms last month. Of those voters 100,000 cast votes for DeSantis in the gubernatorial race.

The reason there is no hectoring about voter manipulation is that in all other races the numbers were in fact more in line with traditional results. Black voters generally vote Republican in single-digit percentages, and that was the case in most every other contest in Florida. DeSantis was supported by 8 percent of black men, Rick Scott received 9 percent of the black vote, and those numbers align with the national averages on Nov. 6. You cannot allege cheating when the balance of votes on the same ballot was proportionate

But in the gubernatorial contest, DeSantis netted 18 percent of black female voters. So, what happened? According to William Mattox, director of the Marshall Center for Educational Options at the James Madison Institute, the difference here rests with the candidate’s position on school choice.

Gillum was taking a firm position on public education, bolstering schools with tax increases. He also was proposing phasing the charter school program out, which he declared has been a drain on public schools. “We’ve got to begin to bring that to conclusion,” he promised in his campaign. DeSantis, meanwhile, was focused on maintaining support for charter schools, as well as looking to expand school-choice voucher programs.

Nearly 300,000 students attend Florida’s charter school system. Additionally, just over another 100,000 attend private schools through the state’s Step Up For Students program, granting scholarship tax credits. A majority of those students are estimated to be children of minority parents who largely register as Democrats. The shift of these black female voters, dubbed “School Choice Mothers”, is attributed to them voting in the interest of their children’s education.

This is not an insignificant shift by any measure. In the senatorial, and other state-office races, these same women supported candidates in the usual percentile ranges projected. Had these black female voters followed the pattern in the gubernatorial contest as they showed in casting votes in the other races, you are looking at a potential swing of anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 votes. 

Ron DeSantis defeated Andrew Gillum by 32,463 votes.

There is nothing insignificant about this turnabout. In a race that was deeply steeped in racial division, it is glaring to see that what may have turned the tide of the result. It could very well have been a faction of a voting block deciding that racial politics was less important than the issues, primarily when it comes to the best interest of their children.

Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.

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