On Sunday, almost two weeks after Election Day, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.. admitted defeat to Gov. Rick Scott.
With no path to victory, Nelson, now 76 and finishing his third time, conceded though he did not mention Scott by name. After various recounts, including by machine and by hand, Scott was around 10,000 votes ahead of Nelson.
“Well, things worked out a little differently than Grace and I had hoped. But let me say, I by no measure feel defeated,” Nelson said. “And that’s because I have had the privilege of serving the people of Florida and our country for most of my life. And I don’t think anyone could have been as blessed. It has been a rewarding journey as well as a very humbling experience. 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.
“First, I want to say thanks to all of you who rallied to our cause, you walked the precincts, knocked on the doors, made phone calls, and contributed your time and your resources,” Nelson added. “And with an optimistic heart, I wish to say something else: We may have been heavily outspent in this campaign, but we were never outworked.”
Nelson then offered an overview of the priorities he focused on during his more than four decades on the Florida political stage in what sounded like a farewell address.
“To all Floridians, whether you voted for me, or for my opponent, or you didn’t vote at all, I ask that you to never give up this fight,” Nelson said. “You must fight to protect the fundamental right to healthcare and against any attempt to rollback our progress on things like pre-existing conditions. You must fight to preserve the natural wonders of this state, from the Everglades to the Pine Forests to the beaches and offshore waters. Say ‘no’ to drilling – not one rig off our coastline.”
Nelson also focused on space exploration, including mentioning his trip in the space shuttle back in the mid 1980s.
“As a country, we need to continue to launch rockets and explore the heavens,” Nelson said. “I have seen the blue brilliance of the earth from the edge of the heavens. And I will fight on to save this planet, our homes and our cities, from the spreading plague of the greenhouse gases that infect our atmosphere, and play havoc with our weather, and risks the planet our children and grandchildren will inherit.
“Every single one of us needs to keep fighting to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, for the generations that are there and to come. It’s your Medicare, it’s your Social Security; you pay into those programs. They belong to you, and not to the politicians who are plotting to rob your retirement,” he added. “I will continue to fight on and on for the inalienable human rights that are the soul and glory of the American experiment: civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the sacred right to vote. We must end all forms of voter suppression, make it easier for Americans to vote, and honor the ideal that we are governed by the majority and not by the minority rule.
“There are great decisions ahead that will shape the course and character of America in the 21st century,” Nelson concluded. “And yes, I will continue to fight hard for what’s right, and I will also encourage others to seek common ground with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Inevitably, at times, that effort will fall short. But we have to try. We have to move beyond a politics that aims not just to defeat but to destroy; where truth is treated as disposable, where falsehoods abound, and the free press is assaulted as the ‘enemy of the people.’ There’s been a gathering darkness in our politics in recent years. My hope today can be found in the words of John F. Kennedy, who said civility can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future.Thank you, all. God bless you, and God bless our country.”
The Republican National Committee (RNC) weighed in after Nelson conceded. “Democrat dreams of turning Florida blue have fallen short once again. Congrats to Senator-elect Rick Scott, on winning a hard fought election, not once, or twice, but three times,” said Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for the RNC.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had kind words for Nelson on Sunday.
“No two senators from the same state had a better working relationship than the one Senator Nelson and I had. Even though we often voted differently, not once did that interfere with our ability to work together,” Rubio said. “In this era of political tribalism it is easy to forget that there is more to any of us than our political affiliation or our policy leanings. I knew Bill Nelson not just as a Democratic Senator, but also as a man of genuine faith, integrity and character. A man who served our country with a dignity that is increasingly rare in our modern politics.
“I will miss working with him very much,” Rubio added.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.