TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The 2018 campaign for the U.S. Senate has not officially begun, but it is clearly underway.
As next November’s election approaches, Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson are taking opposing stances on several issues important to the state.
This week, Scott, the Republican governor, was touting a decision by President Donald Trump's administration that will provide $1.5 billion in Low Income Pool, or LIP, funding to help Florida hospitals provide care to poor and uninsured patients.
Scott said it was refreshing to have a federal government that treats the state fairly.
However, during a visit to the state capitol, Nelson, the incumbent Democrat who will have to fend off Scott's challenge, called the governor's embrace of $1.5 billion in LIP funding while rejecting five billion in Medicaid expansion funding “the greatest inconsistency, irony and hypocrisy."
Nelson even chided Scott for rejecting more than $2 billion in federal funding during the governor's first term to build a high-speed rail system between Tampa and Orlando.
Floridians can expect more exchanges between Nelson and Scott, who likely will be Nelson's most formidable challenger since the Democrat's first election to the Senate in 2000.
Nelson said he will be prepared.
“In Florida, the third-largest state, I take nothing for granted. I always run scared as a jackrabbit, like I am behind. I will continue to do so," he said.
Much of Scott's electoral strength lies in his ability to raise money and then bolster it with his own personal wealth.
A Scott political committee raised more than $600,000 in March and had more than $3 million on hand through the end of February.
Nelson reported raising more than $2 million in the first three months of 2017, with about $3.6 million on hand for his campaign.