A day after Gov. Rick Scott made it official that he’s running for the U.S. Senate, his opponent, Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, announced his campaign raised $3.2 million dollars in the first quarter of this year. Nelson will need every penny of it and plenty more.
Nelson’s campaign was quick to point out that over 67,000 people have contributed to Nelson’s campaign and nearly 50,000 are grassroots supporters, who donated $50 or less.
“Floridians know Bill Nelson will always fight for them and this record breaking quarter driven by grassroots supporters shows Floridians want a leader who puts Florida first,” said Campaign Manager Marley Wilkes said Tuesday.
It’s estimated the race for the Senate seat will be one of the most expensive of this year’s senatorial elections, with some projections exceeding $100 million. Some say it could surpass the 2016 Pennsylvania Senate contest which cost $180 million, the most expensive in history. The high price tag is due in large part to the closeness of the race and the cost of advertising on television in Florida’s 10 media markets.
There’s no doubt Scott, with his vast wealth, will be well-funded as was evident in his two elections for governor in which he spent millions of his own money. He contributed $73 million in his first bid for governor and $13 million four years later to win reelection. Scott suggested Monday he’s ready to tap into his personal funds again. But, he will also have help from GOP donors.
Arizona oil investor Dan Eberhart, who has donated to Scott, told the Washington Examiner on Monday that Scott is aiming to raise upwards of $110 million for the campaign, Eberhart says about 40 percent of that amount will likely come from out of state.
“This is a serious political juggernaut that’s ready for battle,” Eberhart told the Examiner.
But, how much money can Nelson raise in order to retain his seat for a fourth term? His campaign says, counting the first quarter numbers for 2018, it currently has $10.5 million on hand.
“I’ve always run every race like there’s no tomorrow — regardless of my opponent,” Nelson said in a statement on Monday. “While it’s clear that Rick Scott will say or do anything to get elected, I’ve always believed that if you just do the right thing, the politics will take care of itself.”
Democrats across the country, including Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Kamala Harris of California, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, sent out emails to their supporters on Monday asking them to contribute to Nelson’s campaign.
The Senate race in Florida will likely take money away from the other Senate contests that are critical to the future of Democrats in the Senate.
Holding Nelson’s seat is critical for Democrats if they plan to regain control of the Senate in 2018. Nelson is one of 10 Democratic senators seeking re-election in states that President Donald Trump won in 2016.