At a party with Democrat candidate Donna Shalala, who had wrested Florida's 27th congressional seat away from the Republicans in an early victory, party-goers looked a little glum despite their win.
In almost every way, DeSantis did not win by running a campaign by the book.
Democrats selected a candidate who was once considered a long shot, arguably the most progressive to ever run for statewide office and the only African-American gubernatorial candidate in the state's history.
DeSantis ran a campaign marred by racism, which began with his praising the economy and saying Gillum would "monkey this up" if elected governor.
DeSantis has represented northeast Florida in Congress since 2012.
The Associated Press called the victory for DeSantis at 11:35 p.m. on Tuesday. Furthermore, in the last days of the campaign the polls seemed to move show a gorwing Nelson lead, suggesting that this race would move in the direction of those "fundamental" election factors.
But DeSantis won the governor's mansion by turning out the base and the state's growing share of conservative retirees from the Midwest, many of whom strongly back Trump.
On issues like climate change, which is increasingly important in Florida, Mr DeSantis has said he didn't want to be known as an "alarmist", while Mr Gillum promised to be a governor who "believes in science".
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In a shocking upset, Mayor Andrew Gillum lost to an open racist for governor of Florida.
"I worked as hard as I could and left everything on the field", DeSantis told the crowd.
But by the time DeSantis walked on stage to debate Gillum for the first time in October - live and in front of a national CNN audience - Wiles said she witnessed one of DeSantis' biggest strengths as a candidate, during his debate preparation. I've been voting my whole life.
DeSantis, who has described himself as a "Teddy Roosevelt-Republican", is outspoken on environmental concerns.
"If he doesn't have a photographic memory, it's close", Wiles added. In fact, during his victory speech that night in Orlando, one of his first remarks was, "Thank you, Mr. President".
Meanwhile, DeSantis' campaign was plagued by actions some perceived as racist.
In his final push in the campaign for governor, former Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis told supporters on Monday that he can win the race if the GOP dominates election-day voting.
DeSantis and his supporters accused Gillum of being dishonest and corrupt for accepting a ticket from an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent to the popular Broadway show "Hamilton", and traveling to Costa Rica and other places with lobbyist Adam Corey. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it. He's already seen his insurance premiums sky-rocket and says he doesn't "want to be in a high-risk pool". "That will cost you your jobs, that will cause businesses to leave Florida ... it would be a historic mistake".