Politics

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Announces Senate Campaign

Scott is challenging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at the 2016 Republican National Convention in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott made his long-expected announcement for Senate on Monday.

"Some say as governor I've never fit in," Scott said in a video message. "Well that's true. I never plan to fit in. And I won't fit in Washington either," he said, before criticizing Washington for being "full of politicians." 

Scott is challenging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who’s running for a fourth term in November. 

Nelson responded Monday morning.

"I’ve always run every race like there’s no tomorrow —regardless of my opponent," he said in a statement.

"While it’s clear that Rick Scott will say or do anything to get elected, I’ve always believed that if you wake up every day and if you try to do the right thing, the politics will take care of itself."

The governor was expected to launch his Senate campaign after the end of Florida’s legislative session in early March but pushed it off because of the school shooting in Parkland.

Scott, a wealthy health care executive, could bring millions of dollars of his own money to the race. He’s also been raising money for his pro-Trump super PAC, New Republican PAC. He’ll no longer be able to coordinate with the super PAC now when he’s a candidate.

President Donald Trump narrowly carried Florida in 2016, making Nelson one of the 10 Democrats running for re-election in a Trump state. Nelson ended 2017 with $8 million in the bank.

Trump has urged Scott to challenge Nelson. In January, his administration agreed not to include Florida in its plans to expand offshore oil drilling — a move that Nelson, an opponent of drilling, and environmentalists denounced as a political move intended to help Scott.  

In the wake of the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting, when a gunman killed 17 people, Scott signed gun control legislation that would raise the age limit for buying firearms — signifying a break from the National Rifle Association.

For Florida Democrats, the move looked politically motivated since Scott didn’t take similar action after the Pulse night club shooting.

The state party has also gone after Scott for his administration’s response to Hurricane Irma, including heat-related deaths at a nursing home, and the collapse of a bridge at Florida International University. The state Democratic Party held voter registrations drives this weekend inspired by Scott’s likely candidacy.

Politics and Nominations Abound as the Senate Returns to Washington

National Democrats have been gearing up for Scott’s announcement for months, too. Senate Majority PAC released a new digital spot this weekend as part of a six-figure campaign against Scott alleging Scott enriched himself at the expense of others.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched Facebook ads Monday morning calling the governor, "Self Serving Scott." The DSCC released two digital ads attacking Scott in March and expanded its digital buy last week to run through this past weekend. The committee is also running Google search ads that direct users to a website that accuses Scott of using his office for his own self interest. The DSCC also tied Scott to the GOP’s health care plan in a digital ad last year. 

A recent statewide poll, conducted after the Parkland shooting by Quinnipiac University, gave Nelson a 46 percent to 42 percent edge. The poll surveyed 1,156 Florida voters from Feb. 23-26 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

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