For all of Florida’s squeaker election controversies, the state’s Republicans showed this cycle how conservatives can actually start picking up substantial black and Hispanic votes — and not by pandering, but by promoting conservative principles.
Namely, school choice for parents — which is very popular with black moms.
It has become apparent that white Republican Ron DeSantis likely won the Florida gubernatorial election against black Democrat Andrew Gillum because about 100,000 more black women voted for him than was expected. And considerably more voted for him than voted for Republican Rick Scott in his U.S. Senate campaign as school choice is more of a state-level issue than a national one.
About 650,000 black women voted in Florida. Of that total, 18% chose DeSantis, according to CNN’s exit poll of 3,000 voters. The same exit poll found that Scott received only 9 percent of their vote. A little higher than expected, but nothing like DeSantis’. And DeSantis’ support among black women was more than twice GOP candidates’ average support nationally among black women of 7%.
(School choice was also key to getting DeSantis’ support among Hispanic voters at a surprisingly high 44%.)
That 100,000 votes easily was the difference in the race decided by 41,000 votes. But many of these women then voted for Democrat Bill Nelson for Senate. What to make of this ticket splitting vote?
Florida has strong, well-funded school choice programs. The state is a leader in school choice and in fighting for poor and minorities to have a shot outside of being trapped in failing urban schools. (Thank you, then Gov. Jeb Bush.) Condoleezza Rice has called school choice “the civil rights issue of our time.” She obviously knows what of she speaks.
More than 100,000 low-income Florida students take advantage of the state’s Step Up For Students program, which grants tax-credit funded scholarships to attend private schools — corporations can choose to not pay a portion of their taxes and instead direct that money to funding school choice for needy families. Hundreds of thousands more students use the state’s 650 charter schools.
Most of the students in the Step Up For Students program are minority kids and their parents (typically mothers) are registered Democrats and normally vote straight ticket.
These moms see the value of the school choice voucher program for their children and are willing to vote for the gubernatorial candidate most committed to protecting and strengthening the programs. William Mattox in the Wall Street Journal called them “school choice moms” — like the vaunted soccer moms and safety moms of earlier times.
These school choice moms almost assuredly carried Rick Scott to victory four years ago as he too was a big supporter of school choice.
More than 10,000 of these Step Up kids and their moms went to Tallahassee in 2016 to protest a lawsuit filed by the state teachers’ union to kill the school choice and its funding mechanism. It was the largest school choice rally in American history and it was heavily minority.
Andrew Gillum, Mayor of Tallahassee, ignored their pleas and sided — as do virtually all Democrats — with the teachers unions, who deliver a lot of PAC money to campaigns and can put people to work on the ground. He paid the price, as did Scott’s Democratic opponent four years ago.
Every Republican Governor and gubernatorial candidate should take note; and every GOP candidate learn that solid conservative principles rightly applied work. Pandering is not necessary.
Rod Thomson is an author, TV talking head and former journalist, and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act. Rod is co-host of Right Talk America With Julio and Rod on the Salem Radio Network.
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