TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/CNN) — It was perhaps the worst kept secret in Tallahassee and Monday morning Governor Rick Scott made it official when he announced that he’s running for the U.S. Senate.
“Eight years ago today I said I was going to run for governor. What did the naysayers and critics immediately say? A business guy with no background in government has no chance to run this state, has no chance to turn this state around,” said Scott in making the announcement in Orlando.
He then went on to point out that in the years he’s been governor, 1.5 million jobs have been created in the state, the housing market turned around and there have been $10 billion in tax deductions.
“Now we’ve got to take that same mission to D.C. We’ve got to take that same can do attitude, that it doesn’t matter what the naysayers say, it doesn’t matter what the critics say, ignore them, think of what you can accomplish. So today, with my wife by my side, I am announcing that I am running for the U.S. Senate,” he said.
Scott’s announcement was cheered by former governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush.
Rick Scott has provided strong, conservative leadership for our state throughout his time as governor. Rick’s exactly the type of leader we need in Washington right now, and I know he will represent Florida well in the U.S. Senate. @ScottforFlorida
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) April 9, 2018
The Republican governor’s run sets up a serious challenge to the state’s incumbent Democrat, Bill Nelson.
“I’ve always run every race like there’s no tomorrow – regardless of my opponent. While it’s clear that Rick 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,” Nelson said in a statement.
While talking to reporters in Washington, D.C., Sen. Nelson responded again regarding Gov. Scott’s announcement.
Watch that clip here:
“Well I don’t care who is an opponent, I always take them seriously and I run like there’s no tomorrow and I think in this case a lot of the differences between the two of us will come out during the course of the campaign.”
Scott’s chief of staff, Jackie Schutz Zeckman, announced her resignation last month, potentially positioning her for a role on a Senate campaign.
“Since the minute he was elected governor, Rick Scott has done nothing but look out for himself. One of his first actions as governor was rolling back the progress Florida had made in restoring voting rights for so many Floridians. Whether Scott is creating new obstacles to make it harder to vote, signing legislation that does little to make our schools and communities safer by encouraging schools to arm personnel or flipping on this promise to expand Medicaid, Rick Scott proves over and over he’s only in this for himself,” said Democrat Sen. Oscar Braynon II in a statement.
The state’s Democratic party issued a response after Scott made his announcement. It read in part:
“For eight years, Rick Scott has put himself and his political interests above the people he serves, and in the Senate he would do the same thing. Here’s his record: lost jobs, low wages and an economy that works for himself and his political donors, not to mention higher healthcare bills, a broken public education system and scandal after scandal. There is no limit to Rick Scott’s dishonesty and Floridians don’t trust him to look out for them in the Senate.”
Scott is the last major Republican recruiting target on a 2018 Senate landscape that features Democrats defending seats in 10 states that Trump won in 2016. He’s been viewed as the only Republican with a chance of seriously challenging Nelson.
Scott previously won two close races for governor. He’s also shown he is willing to spend tens of millions of dollars his own money on campaigns — a trait that is especially important in Florida, a large and expensive state for television advertising.
Nova Southeastern University history and political science professor Charles Zelden says the Trump presidency has fired up the democrats and that will be key for Nelson on Election Day.
“Scott rode in on the Tea Party coattails,” Zelden said. “Nelson, what’s gonna save him is there’s a blue wave coming that may be able to get him over.”
Asked if he considers himself a Donald trump republican, Scott told Politico, “I consider myself a Rick Scott.”
(©2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to this report.)