US Sen Nelson concedes to Gov. Scott as Florida recount ends

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida political icon who first arrived on Capitol Hill in the decades when Democrats dominated this presidential battleground state, conceded his bitterly close re-election bid to Republican Rick Scott on Sunday, ceding a razor-thin race to the outgoing governor after a bruising recount.

Nelson gave up his quest after days of acrimony and tense recounting leading to a midday Sunday deadline for Florida’s counties to turn in their official results. Florida will not officially certify the final totals until Tuesday, but the totals showed Nelson trailing Scott by slightly more than 10,000 votes.

“It has been a rewarding journey as well as a very humbling experience,” Nelson said in a videotaped statement. “I was not victorious in this race but I still wish to strongly re-affirm the cause for which we fought: A public office is a public trust.”

The close of nearly two weeks of high political drama in the presidential swing state likely spelled the end of the political career of the 76-year-old Nelson. First elected to Congress 40 years ago, Nelson had been a Democratic survivor in an era when Republicans swept to power in Florida in the ’90s. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000 and was making his fourth attempt at re-election.

Nelson, a Florida native with a distinct twang, was defeated by Scott, a multimillionaire businessman and relative newcomer to the state who had been urged to run by President Donald Trump. A Scott victory will help Republicans boost their majority in the U.S. Senate.

This marked the third time Scott, who did not jump into politics until eight years ago, has barely edged a Democratic opponent.

Scott ran a harsh campaign against Nelson, calling him ineffective and out-of-touch. Amid the recount, Scott suggested that some county election officials were allowing fraud to occur.

“Now the campaign truly is behind us, and that’s where we need to leave it,” Scott said in a statement soon after official results were posted. “We must do what Americans have always done: come together for the good of our state and our country. My focus will not be on looking backward, but on doing exactly what I ran on: making Washington work.”

Trump congratulated Scott on Twitter: “From day one Rick Scott never wavered. He was a great Governor and will be even a greater Senator in representing the People of Florida. Congratulations to Rick on having waged such a courageous and successful campaign!”