Democrat Bill Nelson strolled easily into re-election for a third term Tuesday, demolishing Republican challenger Connie Mack IV by a wide margin in a bitterly fought and expensive contest.
Nelson, 70, will return to Washington as the only Democrat in statewide office in Florida and with a goal, he said, of breaking the partisan gridlock that has marred progress for the past two years.
“In this toxic atmosphere, you must understand that Connie Mack is my opponent. He is not my enemy,’’ Nelson told an enthusiastic crowd at about 9 p.m. Tuesday.
He told supporters he will “try to reach across the asile and build consensus so that we can govern this country.”
His victory comes despite being outspent by his challenger in a $39 million race, the most expensive race of his political career. Mack, 45, had hoped to unseat Nelson for the job once held by his father Connie Mack III, who retired in 2000 and was replaced by Nelson.
But the Fort Myers congressman never could get ahead of Nelson in the polls despite an estimated $22 million spent by Mack and outside political groups.