Florida Senate race the most expensive ever, surpassing $200 million

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Governor Rick Scott (R) and Senator Bill Nelson (D) faced off in the 2018 Florida Senate race.
Photo of Scott: (Joe Raedle/Getty Images) Photo of Nelson: (George Pimentel/Getty Images,)

The 2018 Florida U.S. Senate race between Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson is the most expensive Senate race in American history according to FEC data.

Scott’s campaign blew through $82.8 million while his opponent spent $31.5 million. As of October, Scott’s campaign was outspending Nelson’s by a factor of four. Including outside spending, the cost of the election surpassed $200 million.

Compare this to other high profile Senate races from the 2018 cycle. In Tennessee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) spent $14.3 million to beat Phil Bredesen, who spent $19.4 million. In Wisconsin, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) beat Leah Vukmir with $29 million. Her opponent spent $5.7 million.

Nelson’s campaign website accused Scott of trying to “buy this seat.”

Scott does have a history of spending heavily out-of-pocket on campaigns. To win the governor’s race in 2010, Scott spent over $70 million of his own money. It was the same year many Tea Party candidates were swept into the House of Representatives, partially as a backlash to the Affordable Care Act.

Scott’s time as governor is currently running out thanks to his term limits. He frames his pivot to the Senate as a move to send a more practical sort of politician to Washington.

As governor, Scott gave President Donald Trump a ringing endorsement early in the election. Scott also chaired the Rebuilding America Now PAC which supported Trump. The PAC spent roughly $22 million in the 2016 election cycle. Trump won in Florida and Trump has returned the favor by endorsing Scott’s run for Senator.

“It’s time for us to fire the politicians,” Scott said in a press release for the Rebuilding America Now. “That’s what this election is all about.”

Scott mostly aligns with Trump on legislative issues though he famously worked to pass modest gun legislation after the Parkland shooting.

The Senatorial race went to a machine recount, but when the dust settled Scott emerged as the clear winner. Republicans scored another big win in the state as Ron DeSantis defeated Andrew Gillum to take the Governorship

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