Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) campaigns with his wife, Grace, in Orlando. Voters… (Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay…)
WASHINGTON – Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson was elected to a third term after bucking a challenge from Republican Rep. Connie Mack.
Mack, a four-term congressman married to Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs, sought to follow his father, the former senator, in the state that has been a key battleground in the presidential contest. The Associated Press called the race for Nelson.
But Nelson took an early and consistent lead in the polls, and Mack's campaign hit turbulence when attack ads highlighted his past as a “promoter for Hooters with a history of barroom brawling.” One ad called him the “Charlie Sheen of Florida politics.”
Mack’s mother shot back in an ad that said, sure, her son was “a bit of a handful,” but was a “good kid” who would make a difference in the Senate.
Nelson was armed with more than double the financial war chest Mack had amassed. But outside spending helped to narrow the gap with more than $20 million spent, most of it against Nelson and in support of Mack.
First elected in 2000, when he won the seat opened by the elder Mack’s retirement, Nelson is a space enthusiast and a champion of NASA. He who once orbited Earth from a trip in the space shuttle.
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