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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is the winner of Florida’s Republican nomination for governor.
DeSantis defeated Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and faces Democratic primary winner Andrew Gillum in the race to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
DeSantis entered the race in January and largely built his name recognition with near-nightly Fox News appearances. Trump’s endorsement helped him overtake Putnam, who has held elected office nearly his entire adult life.
DeSantis appeared with his wife, Casey Black DeSantis, at 8:51 p.m. on a stage at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando to declare victory. He said Putnam called him shortly after the last polls closed in the Panhandle’s Central time zone to offer support.
WATCH: Ron DeSantis Victory Speech
He also got a call from Trump, whom DeSantis credited for helping him win the primary.
“I was able to talk to the President,” DeSantis told the crowd gathered at his election-night viewing party. “I want to thank him for his support. I want to thank him for entrusting me, viewing me as someone who could be a great leader for Florida. Thank you, Mr. President.”
The double-digit victory was an electoral exclamation point for DeSantis, 39, who began the campaign as a little-known congressman facing a veteran politician who had the backing of most of the Tallahassee Republican establishment.
DeSantis, who has been one of Trump’s fiercest defenders in Congress, had the ultimate asset in the president’s support. It began in a series of favorable presidential tweets and reached a crescendo in a July 31 rally in Tampa where Trump gave DeSantis an in-person endorsement.
“He’s going to be an incredible governor,” Trump told the crowd.
DeSantis, a Harvard-educated lawyer and U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Iraq war, fully embraced Trump’s support. He melded that with frequent appearances on the Fox News network, where his campaign strategists astutely projected he could raise his profile among GOP voters despite Putnam’s early advantages in the race.
DeSantis will face Democratic primary winner Andrew Gillum in the General Election in November.
“He is way, way too liberal for the state of Florida,” DeSantis said of Gillum. “He wants to raise taxes. He wants to engage in more spending. That is exactly what we don’t need to be doing.”
DeSantis has represented Florida’s 6th Congressional District, which includes St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, since the 2012 election.
As governor, DeSantis says he will improve education in the state, including providing options for vocational training for trades and computer training.
He emphasized the importance of preparing students for college and citizenship.
DeSantis also wants the improve the economy by recruiting new industry, particularly finance and technology.
He wants to remake the court system and believes there should there should be a renewed focus on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Following the loss, Putnam was quick to show support for the man who had just defeated him.
WATCH: Adam Putnam Concession Speech
“I also let him know that I would be happy to help him do anything we can do to rally behind his campaign to be successful in November,” Putnam said of DeSantis.
On the final day of the campaign, Putnam stayed true to his “Florida First” strategy that took him across the state for face-to-face encounters with voters. He held sign-waving events with his supporters along busy roadways in Orlando and Brandon, before casting his vote in his hometown of Bartow.
Putnam also had a considerable financial advantage over DeSantis, spending more than $36 million for his campaign compared to $16 million for DeSantis through Aug. 23. The money edge helped Putnam dominate the television advertising in the primary.
But in the end, all of Putnam’s relentless retail campaigning and his advertising advantage was not enough to overcome DeSantis’ greatest strength: his relationship with Trump.
Trump reiterated his support with a final campaign tweet on Monday, calling DeSantis “a special person who has done an incredible job.”
“He will be a great Governor and has my full and total Endorsement!” Trump tweeted.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)