Gov. Rick Scott ended months of speculation and announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate Monday morning in a much anticipated showdown for the Senate seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson for the past 18 years.
“You’re the first to know I am going to run for the U.S. Senate representing the great state of Florida,” Scott announced during a live statement broadcast from Orlando via his Facebook page.
For Scott, it will be his third election of his political career. A successful, multi-millionaire businessman, Scott decided to get into politics as a novice in 2010 when he entered the race for governor. He campaigned as a member of the tea party movement and used his own wealth to fund his campaign aimed at changing the way government did business.
“Eight years ago today I announced I was going to run for governor,” Scott told the crowd. “What did the naysayers and critics immediately say? A business guy with no background in government has no chance to run this state. There’s no chance they can turn this state around.”
He spent $73 million dollars of his own money in a race that surprised the party’s establishment, He defeated then-Attorney General Bill McCollum, a long-time politician who had also served in Congress, in a shocking primary. He went on to defeat Democrat Alex Sink, who was Florida’s chief financial officer, in the general election.
“I ran on a campaign of 700,000 jobs over seven years and why?” Scott asked. “This state had lost over 800,000 jobs in four years. We still had this beautiful weather but we increased regulations, we increased taxes on people in this state, but we stopped it. We’ve now added 1.5 million jobs almost.”
His rise in politics was symbolic of his rise from poor beginnings to a successful business career. He grew up in public housing and later enlisted with the Navy. When he finished his service he worked his way through college, got a law degree and went on to become head of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain.
Scott says he had two things going for him while growing up — being a citizen of the U.S., which he says provided him the opportunities to succeed, and his mother, who provided him with the motivation.
“She was wonderful. She worked her tail off. She said work your butt off and anything is possible in this country,” he said.
Scott said when he ran for governor, the political insiders wrote him off telling him he would never fit into Tallahassee and he said he didn’t.
“You know, I didn’t fit into Tallahassee because I didn’t play the insider games,” Scott said. “I never intended to fit into Tallahassee and guess what? I’m not going to fit into Washington either. We need to shake up Washington.”
Scott says one of his priorities as a Senator would be to enact term limits on Congress. He says term limits are in place in Florida and elsewhere, including for the president, and he says they should be in place on members of the U.S. House and Senate.
The contest between Scott and Nelson is expected to be a close, hard-fought battle. While most recent polls give Nelson a slight lead, many are within the margin of error and indicate the race to be a toss-up.
In a midterm election in which many political observers believe President Donald Trump’s presidency could be an issue that could impact political races, Scott doesn’t expect it to be an issue for his candidacy — even though he has been a supporter of Trump and the president has urged Scott to run for Nelson’s seat.
In an interview with Politco on Sunday, Scott insists that while he supports the president, he is his own man.
“I consider myself Rick Scott. I don’t consider myself any type of anything,” the governor told POLITICO in an exclusive interview Sunday when asked if he considers himself a “Donald Trump Republican.”
“I run on what I believe in. I’ve been very clear,” he said. “People ask me that a bunch of times, about ‘Are you this or are you that?’ No. I’m Rick Scott. I grew up poor. I believe in jobs.”
The contest for the Florida Senate seat could be one of the most important of the 2018 election cycle and could decide which party controls the Senate. Nelson released a statement Monday morning promising a tough battle.
“I’ve always run every race like there’s no tomorrow — regardless of my opponent,” Nelson said in the statement. “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 have been gearing up for the campaign with the Democratic Senate Majority Super PAC releasing a video spot critical of Scott’s record as governor and his actions in the business world prior to getting into politics.
The video points out that Scott was forced to step down from Columbia/HCA while the federal government was investigating a federal fraud case against the company which resulted in what was a then-record $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud.
The spot is also critical of Scott’s record as governor, pointing out efforts to cut education funding and his failure to expand Medicaid to provide health care coverage to more Floridians.