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What to watch for in the Florida Senate and governor races

Florida governor race — live results

Florida Senate race — live results

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has conceded defeat to Republican Ron DeSantis in the race for governor of Florida, falling short in his quest to become the first African-American governor of the Sunshine State.

In another closely watched statewide race, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott were separated by less than one percentage point as of 11:15 p.m. Tuesday, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

Gillum addressed reporters shortly after 11 p.m. and DeSantis soon declared victory.

DeSantis’ apparent victory marked a bright spot on a mixed night for Republicans, who lost control of the House while retaining control of the Senate.

Exit polls showed the priorities of Florida voters largely reflected the rest of the nation, with health care the top mention (selected by 41 percent), followed by immigration (29 percent) and the economy (16 percent). Just 11 percent of Florida voters identified gun policy as the most important issue facing the country, less than a year after the mass shooting in Parkland.

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Florida voters said health care was their top priority in the 2018 midterms.

CBS News

In both the gubernatorial race and the Senate contest, voters concerned with health care and gun policy broke heavily for Democrats Gillum and Nelson. Voters focused on immigration and the economy overwhelmingly supported DeSantis and Scott.

Sixteen percent of Florida voters said this was the first time they had ever voted in a midterm election. These new voters leaned toward the Democratic candidates for both statewide offices by a nearly two to one margin.

In terms of race, about 13 percent of the Florida electorate are black and the majority voted for Gillum for governor and Nelson for senator. Although the majority of white voters supported DeSantis, about 40 percent say they voted for Gillum. Similarly, about 40 percent of white voters say they voted for Nelson.

Gillum would have been Florida’s first black governor, and over two-thirds of voters said that it is important to elect more racial and ethnic minorities to public office. He and DeSantis two are ideological opposites, with DeSantis an ardent Trump supporter who vows to implement the president’s policies, and Gillum, a progressive who advocates expanding Medicaid and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Nelson is defending his seat against Scott, the current governor. The Florida Senate race is one of the most important in the country, and a victory for Nelson or Scott could help determine the partisan balance of the Senate. While the candidates have addressed national issues such as health care and immigration, local concerns are also playing an important part in the race, such as post-hurricane recovery and the influx of toxic “red tide” algae into Florida’s waters.

President Trump visited Florida multiple times in an effort to boost DeSantis’ campaign, even going twice in a single week. He told a Pensacola crowd that “this election is about safety,” and hit also hit themes of the economy, immigration and the Supreme Court. The Republican is trailing Gillum in the polls by a narrow margin. Former President Obama has also campaigned in the state, telling voters Andrew Gillum will expand Medicaid coverage, and Democrats “won’t let Republicans gut your health care.”

An October CBS News Battleground Tracker poll showed Gillum leading DeSantis by just one point, within the margin of error.

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