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ORLANDO (CBSMiami/NSF) – In one of the nation’s tightest races, Florida Governor Rick Scott claimed victory over incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson Tuesday night.
Scott ran an effective campaign against Nelson, attacking him as an ‘empty suit,’ who voted with his party most of the time and has increased the tax burden for Floridians.
Late Tuesday night, Bill Nelson had conceded, according to Pete Mitchell, former chief of staff and current campaign advisor and says Bill Nelson will make a statement Wednesday to thank everyone.
As of midnight, Scott led by about 56,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast, or a margin of 50.35 percent to 49.65 percent.
Nelson did not make a public statement, but Scott’s win even more firmly cemented control of Florida for Republicans. Nelson for the past eight years has been the only Democrat elected statewide.
Shortly before midnight, Scott, flanked by his family, addressed supporters in Naples.
He acknowledged the combative nature of the race, in which Scott and his supporters repeatedly characterized Nelson, 76, as verging on senility.
Campaigns are “divisive” and “tough,” Scott said.
“And they’re really actually way too nasty,” he said. “But you know what? We’ve done this for over 200 years, and after these campaigns, we come together.”
Scott pumped more than $60 million of his own money into the campaign heading into the final week of campaigning.
It was a largely negative campaign, with Nelson criticizing Scott as an untrustworthy Trump supporter who has used the governor’s office to increase his wealth.
His supporters also hit Scott for the state’s environmental problems, calling his “Red Tide Rick” for the deadly algae that has killed millions of fish off the Florida coasts.
Nelson, who was seeking a fourth term, spent part of election eve standing on street corners in Orlando and Melbourne with an introductory sign and waving to voters.
He admitted at first he thought the idea was a little corny, but came to feel it was the right way to campaign.
“The people like to see candidates asking directly for their votes,” said Nelson. “I think you see momentum building and tomorrow will be a happy night.”
Nelson had campaigned on his record of putting Florida first when it comes to crucial decisions.
He said he has fought to expand health care, protect the environment and hold the line on social security and Medicare.
Nelson had hammered his opponent on their differences, saying Scott has cut education and decimated environmental protection.
He also accused Scott of benefiting financially while holding the Governor’s job.
The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam and Jim Saunders contributed to this report.
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