Florida Democrat Bill Nelson Blows Race to Rick Scott, an Admitted White-Collar Criminal

Rick Scott
Rick Scott Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
Rick Scott is one of the worst people in America. It's fitting, then, that he will follow his eight-year tenure as Florida governor with a new, six-year stint as U.S. senator. Scott, as governor, displayed nothing but bitterness and resentment toward the poor and needy in his state. Low-income people's lives became statistically harder and more precarious while he was in office.

But Bill Nelson, a three-term incumbent, somehow managed to blow what should have been a shoo-in Senate race against an astoundingly uncharismatic, inhuman-seeming ghoul-man who has been plagued by an untold number of scandals and painfully obvious ethical lapses as governor. Although Miami Herald columnist and author Carl Hiaasen once labeled Scott the worst governor in state history, Nelson still lost to him. As of around midnight, Scott had amassed 4.04 million votes to Nelson's 3.98 million with 99.7 percent of precincts reporting — a big enough difference to decide the race.

There are signs all over the place that it was Nelson who blew a sure-fire win. Scott won this race in the middle of a red-tide crisis that he personally had a hand in creating. Protesters showed up to scream at Scott in typically sleepy towns, including even the retiree-filled Villages. Activists Photoshopped dead manatees and toxic beaches on pictures of Scott's grimacing face.

That's only Scott's latest scandal. Anyone who paid a lick of attention to him knows what type of person he is. Even before he ran for office, he was an admitted Medicare thief. He ran in 2011 by bashing immigrants. He released an attack ad to personally scream at a constituent because she once called him an asshole. He infamously banned state workers from using the term "climate change" in the state that stands to be most impacted by the phenomenon. He let polluters do whatever they wanted to the state. He repeatedly had a hand in approving gigantic projects in which he just so happened to have a financial investment, including a railway and a gas pipeline. And surprise! Florida's poor didn't get any richer.

Scott was wily. He shied away from appearing too often on Fox News and endorsing outright Trumpism, thus appearing more moderate than incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Nelson, in contrast, had no idea what to offer voters. He barely even knew how to capitalize on Scott's negatives. Hell, he didn't even bother campaigning in Spanish until news reporters started criticizing him. On the campaign trail, Nelson said he felt like he didn't need to do anything to appeal to voters of color. He has been a lawmaker for roughly four decades, but the only major headlines he generated in 2018 related to the fact that voters mostly did not know who he was.

He refused to endorse any even moderately progressive proposals, including Medicare-for-All, which polls well across the state. In the meantime, he alienated immigrant activists, crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans on a number of unpopular bills, and did virtually nothing to excite state voters.

He stuck to his guns. The problem was, his guns were just old, rusty, and hadn't been serviced in years. And so he lost.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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