- Florida Gov. Rick Scott claimed victory in the US Senate race in Florida.
- The state had been recently ravaged by a hurricane, which put much of the campaign activities for both candidates on hold.
- Scott would serve alongside Republican Marco Rubio in the Senate, who won reelection in 2016.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott claimed victory in the US Senate race in Florida, where he would unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson.
Scott, the Republican candidate, had been serving as governor since 2011, but was barred from running for reelection again due to Florida’s swift term limits. Nelson conceded after midnight,according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“Congratulations to Governor Rick Scott on his hard-fought victory tonight. During his time as Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott has worked tirelessly to turn around Florida’s economy and create good-paying jobs across the state. It’s clear his leadership has not gone unnoticed by Floridians,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner said in a statement.
He added: “Tonight, voters have sent a strong message that they want a proven leader representing them in Washington, and we have no doubt that Governor Scott will continue to deliver for Floridians in the U.S. Senate.”
During the course of the election cycle, Scott spent tens of millions of dollars from his vast personal fortune to bolster his own campaign. In the final two weeks, he spent nearly $US12.5 million, bringing the total to over $US64 million of his own money, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Nelson, the incumbent Democrat, has been serving in the Senate since 2001. Though at the start of the 2018 campaign, Nelson still had a relatively low level of name recognition in his state.
Nelson regularly hit Scott for his environmental record, and enlisted the help of former President Barack Obama, who made a last-minute swing through the state on Friday for the several candidates on the ballot in Florida.
At the Miami rally, Obama bolstered Nelson keeping his Senate seat a key component of uniting Americans from the sharp racial and political divides plaguing the country.
“In four days you can choose a bigger, more prosperous, more generous vision of America – an America where love and hope conquer hate,” he said.
Florida, one of the most crucial swing states, had been hit with a hurricane just several weeks before Election Day. During the cleanup effort, both candidates sparred with each other as they attempted to fulfil the duties to their constituents.
The state was a hotbed for highly contested races in 2018, with many swing districts battling it out for House seats. In addition, the gubernatorial race between Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum became one of the most heated in the country.
Gillum sparred with DeSantis over campaign tactics and rhetoric, which he said made racists and white nationalists very fond of the Republican Trump ally.
“Now, I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist, I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist,” Gillum said during a heated debate.
DeSantis ultimately defeated Gillum, who conceded earlier Tuesday evening.
Trump won Florida in 2016, convincing Republicans to go all in on the swing state’s Senate race
The Sunshine State went for President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, handing him a key victory in his path to winning the presidency.
Trump travelled to Florida at the end of October during his final stint on the campaign trail to bolster Republicans. During a rally, Trump bashed Nelson as “a vote for Chuck Schumer.”
“I am here a lot and I never see Sen. Nelson until six months before the election,” Trump added.
The fate of Nelson’s seat was another key component in Republicans’ ability to strengthen their majority in the Senate. Florida was among the high priority targets for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in their endeavour to flip several seats from blue to red.
In unseating Nelson, Scott has solidified Florida as a Republican stronghold in the Senate for several years to come. Scott is also primed to position himself as another crucial ally for Trump in the Senate, which will no doubt continue its breakneck speed of confirming judicial nominees, a top priority for the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.