Scott Leads Nelson In Tight Florida Senate Race

November 7, 2018 12:28 a.m.

Update: This story has been updated to reflect that the race has still not been called.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is clinging to a narrow lead in the hard-fought contest for U.S. Senate in the battleground state of Florida.

Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson reportedly conceded the close race at around 12:15 a.m. ET, according to an in-state reporter.

“This is obviously not the result Senator Nelson’s campaign has worked hard for. The senator will be making a full statement tomorrow to thank all those who rallied for his cause,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.

As of 3:21 a.m. ET, the race had still not been called, and Scott led by fewer than 40,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast.

Nelson had led in the polls by an average of almost two points leading up to election day in what was the most expensive race of the 2018 midterms. Scott, a two-term governor, spent over $63 million of his own money to defeat Nelson.

The Republican governor aggressively courted the Latino vote, particularly among Puerto Ricans, whose numbers in the state swelled after Hurricane Maria.

Scott got credit early on for running an energetic campaign, traveling all around the state to meet with voters while Nelson was stuck in Washington, D.C. handling Senate business.

He was dogged by protesters furious over overlapping environmental crises that dominated local headlines into the fall. A red tide caused by toxic algae blooms on the Gulf coast killed hundreds of animals and forced businesses to close, while a green algae bloom choked the waterways around Lake Okeechobee.

Democrats used the algae blooms as leverage to hammer Scott on his environmental record, which included slashing regulations and forbidding his administration from using the term “climate change.”

Scott was also criticized for enacting a clemency policy that vastly complicated the process Floridians with felony convictions go through to regain their voting rights. Residents on Tuesday approved a ballot amendment that would streamline the rights restoration process.

Ultimately Scott’s enduring popularity with Republican voters, particularly the Midwestern retirees who are relocating to the state in huge numbers, helped him cement his victory.

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