Editorial: Nelson better voice for Florida in U.S. Senate

Senator Bill Nelson speaks to students attending a Vote Early, Vote Loud Rally at Florida International University, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 in Miami. (Emily Michot /Miami Herald via AP)
Senator Bill Nelson speaks to students attending a Vote Early, Vote Loud Rally at Florida International University, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 in Miami. (Emily Michot /Miami Herald via AP)
Published November 2 2018
Updated November 12 2018

Except for television attack ads, it would be easy to miss the U.S. Senate race in Florida. There was just one debate between incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott. Neither one is charismatic, and Scott suspended his campaign to deal with Hurricane Michael. Take the long view, and Nelson remains the best voice for Floridians eager for bipartisan solutions and a steady hand in tumultuous times.

Nelson, who is seeking his fourth term, works with fellow Democrats as well as Republicans in the Senate. In fact, he often has taken on issues such as caller identification fraud that are nonpartisan. Scott has been a partisan governor who failed to develop close relationships with even fellow Republicans in the Legislature who called most of the shots in Tallahassee.

For voters who care about access to affordable health care, Nelson is far superior to Scott. The Democrat voted for the Affordable Care Act and is committed to improving it. Scott has fought the law for years, opposed Medicaid expansion and would not be a positive force. Don’t trust the television ad that shows him pledging support for requiring insurers to offer coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. It’s hollow rhetoric.

For voters who care about the environment, Nelson has a strong record and has been Florida’s most steadfast opponent to expansion of off-shore drilling. Scott has the worst environmental record of any governor in recent history, from dismantling growth management to gutting water management districts to embracing the pro-growth, deregulation approach that has contributed to the massive green algae blooms. His deal with the Trump administration to exempt Florida from expanded drilling is less than iron-clad.

For voters who care about immigration, Nelson voted for bipartisan legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and protected so-called Dreamers -- and strengthened the border and added thousands of border patrol officers. Scott has taken harsh positions on immigration in the past. He spoke out against the Trump administration’s separation of undocumented parents and children at the border, but he didn’t immediately react to the president’s ridiculous pitch last week to repeal birthright citizenship by executive order.

For voters who care about ethical leadership, Nelson has an unblemished record over decades in elected office in Tallahassee and Washington. Scott was forced out as CEO of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chain, which then paid a record fine for Medicare fraud. As governor, his blind trust for his personal fortune appears to be not so blind following multiple reports of investments by his wife and the trust that are similar and at least indirectly related to state business. He also is the first governor who has paid public money to settle lawsuits accusing him of violating public records and open meetings laws.

The U.S. Senate should work in a bipartisan manner and serve as a check on an impulsive, unpredictable president. Scott would serve neither of those goals. Nelson would serve both, and he deserves to be re-elected.