Florida’s outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott just won a U.S. Senate in the country’s most notorious swing state, narrowly defeating incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who served for three terms.
Scott, a former businessman who served as governor since 2011, poured more than $64 million of his own money into his bid to defeat Nelson — close to the $70 million he spent running for governor nearly a decade ago. Nelson, by contrast, raised $28.3 million in his campaign, and spent none of his own money.
Despite the massive gap in spending, the race came down to the wire, with Scott eking out the incumbent Democrat, by less than 1 percentage point.
A series of deadly hurricanes, and a tragic school shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, propelled Scott to the national stage in 2018. His handling of the Parkland tragedy in February was closely watched, especially as he risked his long-standing NRA endorsement to sign a modest gun control bill in March, which raised the minimum age for assault rifle purchases and banned bump stocks, among other measures.
Still, Scott’s victory will sting for the state’s student-led movement against gun violence, which sought to mobilize young voters in Florida and beyond after the Parkland shooting. Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum, who was a vocal proponent for gun control, narrowly lost to Trump-loving Republican Ron DeSantis.
Scott had positioned himself as a stalwart ally of President Donald Trump, who had publicly urged him to run for Senate. But as the midterms neared, he kept the president at a noticeable distance, fearing Trump’s divisive rhetoric and unfavorable numbers might cost him the swing state.
Scott will join Republican Sen. Marco Rubio as a representative for Florida in Washington D.C.
Cover image: Rick Scott waves to supporters at an election watch party, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Naples, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)