Rick Scott did what he always does – capture a statewide election by the slimmest of margins. As he said Friday, “it only takes one vote.” And while he captured a few more votes, he didn’t win by much. This victory, though, could be his sweetest — ending Bill Nelson’s political career and knocking off the last statewide Democrat standing in Florida. Scott’s win was historic. For the first time since Reconstruction following the Civil War, there will not be a single Democrat holding statewide elected office in Florida.
Scott used more than $63 million of his own money to win the race and was successful in defining Senator Nelson, who many Florida voters didn’t really seem to know despite his five-decade political career.
During his victory speech in Naples, Governor Scott acknowledged the campaign was divisive but encouraged Floridians to move on. “And they’re really actually way too nasty,” Scott said. “But you know what? We’ve done this for over 200 years and after these campaigns, we come together.”
For his part, perhaps holding out hope, Nelson refused to concede to Scott. A campaign spokesman addressed Nelson’s supporters late Tuesday night saying the three-term Senator would make a statement Wednesday.
Scott quickly pivoted from campaign mode to the role of Senator-elect, saying he was prepared to take his business-like approach to Washington.
“The federal government is frustrating. It’s outdated. It’s wasteful. It’s inefficient,” Scott said. “All of us in state government have dealt with the federal government over the last eight years, and we can tell you story after story after story. Now, I’m just one individual, but there are a lot of other individuals in D.C. that want to do the same thing. And I’m going to work with them and we will change, like we did in Florida, the direction of Washington, D.C.”
Scott thanked his wife, Ann and his campaign team. He choked up as he talked about his late mother and aide Jeri Bustamante, who died in a boating accident just days before Scott announced his campaign for the Senate.
For Bill Nelson, it’s likely the end of a charmed political career. He easily won three 6-year terms to the Senate and before that served as Florida’s Insurance Commissioner and in Congress. Since he first ran for office in the early 70’s, Nelson has only lost two races — Tuesday’s to Scott and the 1990 Democratic primary for Governor when he was easily defeated by then-Senator Lawton Chiles.
Scott will continue as Governor until early January 2019. Because he’ll be sworn-in to the Senate before his term as Governor ends, Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera will assume the governorship for three days.