Great Scott! Rick Scott Defeats Bill Nelson in Close Race for Florida Senate

Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) has defeated incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in a hotly contested race for Florida’s Senate seat.

Polls for weeks had been showing Nelson ahead, although mostly within the margin of error. In the end, Florida maintained its reputation as America’s largest swing state, with the race proving too close to call until over three hours after polls closed.

As traditionally happens in Florida elections, Nelson performed stronger in the South Florida counties around Miami and Fort Lauderdale, as well as Tampa and Orlando, and Scott racked up the needed votes in the more conservative Panhandle.

Large areas of the Florida Panhandle are still reeling from the damage caused by Hurricane Michael, and Scott’s calm and competent handling of the storm preparation and aftermath undoubtedly helped his electoral ambitions.

Scott also made a concerted effort to reach out to Puerto Ricans, supporting relief efforts after Hurricane Maria wiped out utilities and roads for significant parts of the island, running bilingual campaign ads, and making multiple visits to Puerto Rico himself.

Notably, Scott — an early supporter of Trump — quickly denounced the President’s comments suggesting that the Puerto Rican death toll from Maria was being exaggerated.

Nelson has been in the Senate since 2000. He previously served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1972 to 1978, and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991.

With Scott’s victory, all statewide elected offices are now in Republican hands: Rep. Ron DeSantis won a narrow victory over Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to be Governor, Ashley Moody will be Attorney General, Matt Caldwell will be Agriculture Commissioner, and Jimmy Patronis was re-elected as CFO. Sen. Marco Rubio will now be Florida’s senior Senator, having been elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2016.

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