Rick Scott, Florida’s outgoing governor, was declared the winner on Sunday of his hard-fought U.S. Senate race against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson following a hand recount of ballots, giving Republicans control of both of the state’s Senate seats for the first time since the 19th century.
In the recount of the Nov. 6 election, Scott won by 10,033 votes out of 8.19 million cast statewide, Florida elections officials said. Scott took 50.05 percent, compared to 49.93 percent for Nelson, they added.
A three-term senator first elected to the chamber in 2000, Nelson, 76, telephoned Scott, 65, to concede the race, then issued a statement voicing worry about “a gathering darkness” in American politics in recent years. Republicans including President Donald Trump made allegations, without offering evidence, that the recount process was marred by fraud.
Scott’s victory gave the Republicans 52 seats in the 100-member Senate. In Mississippi, Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democratic challenger Mike Espy will compete in a Nov. 27 runoff election after neither won a majority in their U.S. Senate race.
Nelson became the latest incumbent Democratic senator toppled in the midterm congressional election in which the Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate but lost control of the House of Representatives.
Other defeated incumbent Democratic senators included Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Claire McCaskill in Missouri.
Republicans will hold both Senate seats from Florida, the third most-populous U.S. state and a regular battleground in presidential races, for the first time since 1875, during the post-Civil War period.
The recount process was just as contentious as the campaign itself, with the candidates filing lawsuits and leveling allegations at one another including Scott saying Nelson was trying to “steal” the election. Even before the recount process was completed and he had not yet been deemed the victor, Scott appeared last week in Washington at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell welcoming newly elected Republican senators.
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