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Politics Florida's Senate race just became one of the most competitive and expensive in the country

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced that he'll challenge Sen. Bill Nelson in what may become one of the most hard-fought and expensive races in the country.

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governor rick scott florida

(Reuters/Joe Skipper)

  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced on Monday that he'll challenge Sen. Bill Nelson in what may become one of the most hard-fought and expensive races in the country this year.
  • Democrats will be forced to pour funds into Florida's expensive media market while simultaneously defending nine other Senate seats in states the president won in 2016.
  • Scott, who oversaw one of the largest healthcare fraud settlements in US history as CEO of a hospital chain, is a multimillionaire who has self-funded his past campaigns.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced on Monday that he'll challenge Sen. Bill Nelson in what may become one of the most hard-fought and expensive races in the country this year.

"I admit that Washington is horribly dysfunctional," Scott said in prepared remarks released before his announcement on Monday. "Washington is full of old thinking. Washington is tired. And the truth is, both political parties share some of the blame. They've tried a lot of things — it just didn't work. But I will not accept the idea that we can't change Washington."

Some predict Scott, a multimillionaire who has self-funded past campaigns, will amass upwards of $100 million for his Senate bid, forcing Democrats to spend generous sums in Florida's 10 media markets. President Donald Trump and national Republicans have been encouraging Scott to run for months.

Scott's challenge is bad news for Democrats, who are defending nine other Senate seats in states that Trump won in 2016. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has already launched a website and begun running ads attacking the governor for "looking out for himself, not doing what's best for Floridians."

The former businessman is particularly controversial for his decade-long leadership of hospital chain Columbia/HCA, which he grew into the largest healthcare company in the country before being ousted during a federal fraud investigation. The company was ultimately fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud — the largest fine of its kind at the time.

As governor, Scott has flipped on Medicaid, supporting the program's expansion in his state under Obamacare in 2013, the year before he won a tight reelection. In 2015, he announced that he opposed the expansion of the program, saying that his initial support was part of an effort to convince the Obama administration to allow Florida to privatize its Medicaid system.

Scott, whose eight-year run as governor will end this year due to term limits, has broken with Trump on a few issues recently, opposing both off-shore oil drilling in Florida waters and the president's proposal to arm teachers as a way to reduce gun violence in schools. (Scott previously supported off-shore drilling in Florida.)

Scott found himself under intense pressure following the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida school that left 17 dead on Valentine's Day. The governor, who has an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association, signed new laws raising the age to legally purchase a firearm to 21 and empowering law enforcement to confiscate guns from individuals determined to be dangerous.

Nelson, meanwhile has called for universal background checks and the prohibition of certain types of semi-automatic rifles.