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Florida Governor Rick Scott announces U.S. Senate run

Race between Scott and incumbent U.S. Senator Bill Nelson could be nation’s most expensive

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

ORLANDO (CFP) — Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott has made official what was widely expected — he will challenge Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Bill Nelson in November.

Florida Governor Rick Scott

Scott’s decision, announced April 9 in Orlando, sets up what is likely to be a hard-fought and hugely expensive battle for Florida’s seat, with control of the Senate hanging in the balance.

Calling Washington “dysfunctional” and slamming “career politicians,” Scott called on Floridians to “stop sending talkers to Washington. Let’s send doers to Washington.”

“We shouldn’t be sending the same type of people to Washington. We should say we’re going to make change,” Scott said. “We can change Washington. We must change Washington. We will change Washington.”

The emphasis on changing the culture of Washington was a direct slap at Nelson, who has served in the Senate for 18 years after serving 12 years in the U.S. House.

Scott, who kicked off his campaign at a construction company that has expanded during his eight years in Tallahassee, also touted his record as a “jobs” governor, taking credit for creating 1.5 million new jobs and cutting taxes by $10 billion.

“People are flocking to Florida because this is where you can live the dream of this country,” he said. “Now, we’ve got to take that same mission to D.C.”

Scott, 65, a multimillionaire former for-profit hospital executive, was a political newcomer when he was first elected governor in 2010 after pouring more than $70 million of his own money into the race. He was re-elected by a narrow margin in 2014.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida

Nelson, 75, was first elected to the Senate in 2000 and won re-election easily in 2006 and 2012. He is one of just five Democrats representing Southern states, along with U.S. Senators Doug Jones of Alabama, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Nelson and Machin, who both represent states President Donald Trump carried in 2016, are among the top Republican targets in the 2018 election cycle. Trump had been publicly urging Scott to run against Nelson.

In response to Scott’s announcement, Nelson issued a statement saying he has “always run every race like there’s no tomorrow — regardless of my opponent” and adding that Scott “will say or do anything to get elected.”

“I’ve always believed that if you just do the right thing, the politics will take care of itself,” he said.

The race in Florida, a state that is closely divided politically and has 10 television markets, is expected to approach or break spending records, particularly because of the personal fortune Scott can bring to bear.

The most expensive Senate race in history was in Pennsylvania in 2016, where more than $160 million was spent by candidates and outside groups.

Democrats will no doubt try to tie Scott to Trump, which could have unpredictable results in what’s shaping up to be a Democratic year. Another wildcard will be the effect of Scott’s support for new restrictions on gun purchases that passed the Florida legislature after 17 people died in a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland.

The new restrictions have drawn the ire of the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups, although supporters of stronger controls on guns faulted the measure passed by Florida lawmakers for not going far enough.

Republicans current have a narrow 51-to-49 seat advantage in the Senate, which means all of the seats up in 2018 could be pivotal in deciding which party is in control.

Among Southern seats, Democrats’ best targets are in Texas, Tennessee and a special election for a vacant seat in Mississippi. For Republicans, Nelson and Manchin are at the top of the target list, with an outside shot at Kaine.

No other Southern states have Senate races this year.


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