Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said there are "a lot of white folks" in Florida and Georgia who may have been "uncomfortable" voting for black gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams.
"I think you know there are a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American," Sanders told The Daily Beast. "I think next time around by the way it will be a lot easier for them to do that."
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Gillum conceded defeat Tuesday night in a narrow loss to Republican Ron DeSantis in Florida; Democrats have not won a governor's race in the state since 1994. Republican Brian Kemp declared victory over Abrams and holds a significant lead, but she has not yet conceded defeat as she holds out faint hopes that outstanding votes can get Kemp below the 50-percent threshold and force a runoff.
Barack Obama, the country's first African American president, carried Florida in 2008 and 2012, winning more than 4.2 million votes both times.
Sanders endorsed Gillum in the Democratic primary, and the strongly progressive Tallahassee mayor scored a surprising victory to gain the nomination. He also endorsed Abrams, who was trying to become the first black female governor in the country's history.
Both races were marked by accusations of racism, with DeSantis drawing outrage when he remarked voters shouldn't "monkey this up" by embracing Gillum's "socialist agenda" and derailing the state's economic success. He denied any racist intent with the comment. Gillum also said of DeSantis at a debate that "racists believe he's a racist."
Abrams and other Democrats accused Kemp, who was Georgia's secretary of state until resigning Thursday, of engaging in voter suppression tactics and disenfranchising African Americans, although those charges were not borne out by the facts.