Why deep blue Broward looms large in Florida’s U.S. Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott and the Petty family at Broward's Lincoln Day dinner [Steve Bousquet - Times]
Gov. Rick Scott and the Petty family at Broward's Lincoln Day dinner [Steve Bousquet - Times]
Published May 21, 2018|Updated May 21, 2018

FORT LAUDERDALE — A safe prediction about the 2018 election in Florida is that Gov. Rick Scott will get trounced in Broward County for a third time.

The deepest blue county in the state soundly rejected Scott in both of his races for governor in 2010 and 2014. But Scott won both races, and a big reason why is that Broward underperforms in midterm elections as Democrats vote with their backsides and stay home.

Now Scott is a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, and Broward has been transformed by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in February. But whether the tragedy changes the county's vote patterns won't be known until November, when either Scott or Democrat Bill Nelson wins the Senate race.

In the last midterm in 2014, the statewide voter turnout was 50.5 percent, but it was 6 points lower in Broward, 44.5 percent, and Scott beat Charlie Crist statewide by 64,145 votes. Scott won statewide by 1 point.

READ MORE: Crist's big challenge: Motivating South Florida Democrats

The fact that Scott got 30 percent of the Broward vote might be enough for him to ignore the state's second-largest county. But he gave a well-received speech Friday night at the Broward Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner with a crowd of 400 GOP activists. (No, Scott didn't mention President Trump in Fort Lauderdale, either).

The governor recognized Andrew Pollack, the father of Parkland victim Meadow Pollack, in the audience. He invited up on stage and hugged the parents and brother of Alaina Petty, also a Parkland victim. Her father, Ryan Petty, is a newly-announced candidate for a Broward school board seat, and a strong Scott supporter.

Scott talked about the need for term limits in D.C.: "We've got to stop this concept of career politicians," he said.

READ MORE: Scott's term limits idea: Hugely popular, highly unrealistic

The last time Nelson was on the ballot in Broward, in 2012, he got a mother lode of 511,000 votes (about 3,000 more than President Barack Obama got on the same ballot). But that was not a midterm, obviously, and voter turnout was dramatically higher.

Nelson's last publicized visit to Broward was on March 28, when he told county officials and judges about $190 million in funding for a new Fort Lauderdale federal courthouse.