Thursday, August 16, 2018
Politics

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson wins re-election by defeating Connie Mack

ORLANDO — Democrat Bill Nelson strolled easily into re-election for a third term Tuesday, demolishing Republican challenger Connie Mack IV by a wide margin in a bitterly fought and expensive contest.

Nelson, 70, will return to Washington as the only Democrat in statewide office in Florida and with a goal, he said, of breaking the partisan gridlock that has marred progress for the past two years.

"In this toxic atmosphere, you must understand that Connie Mack is my opponent. He is not my enemy,'' Nelson told an enthusiastic crowd about 9 p.m. Tuesday. He told supporters he will "try to reach across the aisle and build consensus so that we can govern this country."

His victory comes despite being outspent by his challenger in a $39 million race, the most expensive of his political career.

Mack, 45, had hoped to unseat Nelson for the job once held by his father, Connie Mack III, who retired in 2000 and was replaced by Nelson. But the Fort Myers congressman never could get ahead of Nelson in the polls, despite an estimated $22 million spent by Mack and outside political groups.

Mack addressed his supporters at 9:30 p.m. and told them that it was "with some sadness tonight that we didn't win but, I'll tell you this: I'm very proud of the campaign we ran.''

"This is not an ending," he said. "This is just a beginning."

Mack's entry into the race was highly anticipated among Republicans as part of a multi-state strategy to win the four seats needed to retake the U.S. Senate.

He cleared the Republican field of two challengers and handily won the primary against former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Indialantic. But his general election campaign struggled to raise cash as Nelson blistered Mack early with a barrage of negative ads.

Nelson's ads attacked Mack for his hard-partying youth and financial troubles even before the primary ended. Mack fought back by linking Nelson to President Barack Obama and a series of unpopular votes on health care and the federal debt.

Outside conservative groups, affiliated with Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, funneled an estimated $15.2 million into the race, according to the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute.

Nelson, by contrast, spent a total of $17.5 million, including more than $12 million he raised himself and another $4.8 million from the Democratic party and third-party groups.

According to early polls, Nelson secured his win despite the surge by Republican Mitt Romney in Florida by luring crossover voters with his reputation as a moderate.

He said he would use that approach to end the bitter, ideological divisions that have stalled progress on the budget and deficit reduction in Washington.

His longtime friend Bruce Smathers predicted that Nelson will return to Washington in a stronger position than ever to help bridge the partisan differences. Nelson has begun working with moderate Republicans, he said, on a compromise over the budget deficit talks to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff."

Nelson campaigned with Obama on Sunday in Hollywood, the first time the two have made an appearance together despite a number of trips by the president into the state. Mack, by contrast, campaigned aggressively with Romney and his surrogates throughout the state, hoping that Romney's success in Florida would translate into a victory for him.

It was not the only race Mack was watching closely on Tuesday. His wife, California U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack, was also awaiting results of her own close election fight.

Mack's father, the former senator, said his son was prepared for the outcome.

"He's very comfortable," the elder Mack said. "He's got it" under control.

 
Comments
In Republican race for Pinellas County Commission seat, Rep. Kathleen Peters outpacing field

In Republican race for Pinellas County Commission seat, Rep. Kathleen Peters outpacing field

As the Aug. 28 primary election approaches, three Republicans are battling to represent a Pinellas County Commission district that hasn’t witnessed a competitive contest for more than 15 years.State Reps. Larry Ahern of Seminole and Kathleen Peters o...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Romano: Con artist or Florida politician? You decide

Romano: Con artist or Florida politician? You decide

Decorum matters, and so the attorney’s language was appropriately measured.In seeking to have a constitutional amendment thrown off the ballot, a motion filed in Leon County used words such as "misleading’’ and "ambiguity’’ and "wordsmithing.’’That’s...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Veteran Hernando politicians take oversized contributions, run afoul of campaign finance laws

Veteran Hernando politicians take oversized contributions, run afoul of campaign finance laws

BROOKSVILLE — With primary Election Day at the doorstep, two Republican candidates vying for seats on the Hernando County Commission found themselves in uncomfortable spots over potential filings with the Florida Commission on Ethics.And a third Repu...
Published: 08/15/18
Q&A: A Watergate trickster talks dirty politics, then and now

Q&A: A Watergate trickster talks dirty politics, then and now

CLEARWATERNearly half a century ago, Martin Kelly made the mistake of his life.He was a senior at the University of Miami when he decided to take part in what would become one of the most infamous political scandals in U.S. history: Watergate. He was...
Published: 08/15/18

Pasco Political Notebook for Aug. 17

Republican Club hosts candidate forum at meetingThe West Pasco Republican Club will host an "Election Extravaganza" candidate forum at its meeting Aug. 21 at Heritage Springs Country Club, 11345 Robert Trent Jones Parkway, Trinity. A social time will...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/15/18
Early voting in Pasco: Here’s what to remember when you head to the polls

Early voting in Pasco: Here’s what to remember when you head to the polls

Early voting Pasco County begins Saturday and runs through Aug. 25, with 11 locations across the county for voters.Polls are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 20-24, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug...
Published: 08/13/18
Largo election cancelled as incumbents stay with no opposition

Largo election cancelled as incumbents stay with no opposition

LARGO — There will be no suspense in the city when elections arrive Nov. 6. In fact, there will be no election at all, because all four city commissioners whose seats were up were re-elected by default when no one came forward by the end of the candi...
Published: 08/13/18
Florida candidate tried to prove she’s a college graduate. The school says her diploma is fake.

Florida candidate tried to prove she’s a college graduate. The school says her diploma is fake.

The political kerfuffle around Melissa Howard began when a news site reported that the Florida state House hopeful is not a college graduate, as she claims to be. To prove the story wrong, Howard, R, reportedly flew to her proclaimed alma mater, Ohio...
Published: 08/12/18
Romano: Two years later, politicians still ignoring Florida voters on medical marijuana

Romano: Two years later, politicians still ignoring Florida voters on medical marijuana

The war is over, except no one in Tallahassee has bothered to read the news.And so Florida continues its daft fight against medical marijuana. All of which means patients are being left behind, voters are getting ignored, and lawyers are buying fanci...
Published: 08/11/18
Hillsborough, tops in state for drug-addicted babies, will file suit against opioid makers

Hillsborough, tops in state for drug-addicted babies, will file suit against opioid makers

TAMPA — Hillsborough County plans to file a lawsuit next week against companies that manufacture opioid drugs, alleging that aggressive marketing of painkillers worsened the opioid crisis.The county joins a number of other local governments nationwid...
Published: 08/10/18