Following a protracted recount battle, three-term incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson conceded Sunday, acknowledging GOP Gov. Rick Scott has been elected to replace him in January.
“Well, things worked out a little differently than Grace and I had hoped,” Mr. Nelson’s statement read. “But let me say, I by no measure feel defeated. And that’s because I have had the privilege of serving the people of Florida and our country for most of my life.”
As he left the political stage, Mr. Nelson, 76, also took a parting shot at President Trump.
“We have to move beyond a politics that aims not just to defeat but to destroy,” Mr. Nelson’s said. “Where truth is treated as disposable, where falsehoods abound, and the free press is assaulted as the ‘enemy of the people.’”
A concession appeared to be looming Sunday morning when Mr. Nelson announced he would be making a statement at 3 p.m. eastern time, but shortly before that Mr. Scott’s campaign said the two politicians had spoken.
“I just spoke with Senator Bill Nelson, who graciously conceded, and I thanked him for his years of public service,” Mr. Scott said.
Mr. Nelson’s concession comes nearly two weeks after he trailed Mr. Scott on Election Day by roughly 60,000 votes. That lead steadily eroded as election officials continued to count votes in heavily Democratic Broward and Palm Beach counties for days after Nov. 6, eventually standing at just over 12,500, a margin close enough to trigger a machine recount.
Although Mr. Nelson’s legal team insisted from the outset that once “all the votes were counted,” he would emerge victorious, Mr. Scott’s lead remained at roughly 10,000 votes after a hand recount turned up far fewer additional votes for Mr. Nelson than his campaign had claimed it would.
The resolution of the senate race, which still must be confirmed by Florida’s secretary of state on Nov. 20, brings to a close two tight statewide races in the Sunshine State. Earlier, Tallahassee’s Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum had conceded to Republican Ron DeSantis in the race to succeed Mr. Scott in the governor’s mansion.
The protracted process again thrust Florida into an unwelcome electoral spotlight, as the chaos engulfing operations in Broward County especially summoned memories of the 2000 presidential race in which Al Gore tried repeatedly to top George W. Bush through various recount methods.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who found himself handling a number of legal motions filed in the election’s aftermath, declared Florida had become a “laughingstock” as the drama unfolded.
Mr. Scott’s win marks another GOP pickup in the senate as Republicans slightly expanded their majority in that chamber in the 2018 midterms. The last remaining contest is in Mississippi, where Republicans are heavy favorites to retain their seat in a Nov. 27 runoff between Cindy Hyde-Smith, who currently holds the seat vacated by Republican Thad Cochoran, and Mike Espy, a former agriculture secretary in Bill Clinton’s administration.