After the most expensive Florida election season in history, Republicans triumph.
Gov. Rick Scott won re-election after defeating Democratic challenger Charlie Crist by more than 70,000 votes, or approximate 1 percent.
The Associated Press called Scott’s victory over Crist at 10:20 p.m. and Scott took the stage in Bonita Springs over an hour later.
Scott asked the room full of energetic supporters to move past the partisan divide that defined the 2014 elections.
“Tomorrow is a new day,” he said. “Florida is on a mission to keep growing and be the best place in the world to get a job, raise a family and live the American dream.”
Crist kept his concession speech to fewer than two minutes at the Renaissance Vinoy in St. Petersburg.
“We need to come together, we really do,” he said. “Losing is not fun, but what’s really important is that we need to come together as a state.”
USF professor Susan MacManus, a political analyst for News Channel 8, said Scott won because he understood what concerned Floridians the most.
“Scott stayed on message with the number one issue … the economy,” MacManus said. “The exit polls showed clearly that those who were concerned with the economy voted for Scott and those fine with the economy voted for Crist.”
The push for medical marijuana stalled out at 57 percent before it could reach the 60 percent supermajority needed to pass Amendment 2.
“There were two big issues: opponents’ success at convincing people that the amendment itself was not well written,” MacManus said. “The second aspect was that 60 percent of Floridians felt that full legalization would just be a step away if the amendment were to pass. People were concerned with that.”
MacManus said medical marijuana could make a comeback on the ballot in 2016 and receive increased support from youth who tend to vote more during the presidential election cycle.
USF’s voting precinct gave approximately 70 percent of the vote to Crist. Medical marijuana received nearly 85 percent approval. The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections reported 319 votes were cast in the precinct.
Chairman of USF College Republicans Tommy Rayder said Scott’s victory creates jobs by getting government out of the way of business.
“We’re very happy the people of Florida will keep going in the right direction and keep working,” he said. “Students should know Scott will fight tuition increases.”
President of USF College Democrats Alyson Strand said she is concerned that Scott is not fighting for funding education, protecting the environment and equal pay for women.
“It will be the same path we’ve been going down for four years,” she said. “We worked day and night to bring change to Florida. We feel let down, but we’ll support the governor.”
Both the USF College Republicans and College Democrats campaigned on campus in the weeks leading up to the election, though most of the rallying seen at the university was for medical marijuana.
Colin Fitzgibbon, state campus coordinator for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, held up a sign that read “Vote Yes on 2” Tuesday afternoon in front of the Marshall Student Center, where the precinct vote was held.
“I will weep for the thousands of sick who don’t have easy access to this natural medicine,” he said. “I don’t even know what I’ll do with myself – lose faith in humanity and move out of Florida, I guess.”
However, Fitzgibbon said, in all likelihood, he'll keep fighting for medical marijuana.
He said he might move to Tallahassee and lobby against Charlotte’s Web, a non-psychoactive marijuana extract, as only a half-measure.
“I can’t wait for the day I see the faces of people who doubted us and said marijuana would only lead to abuse,” he said. “They’ll see it can be used for good and not just for stoners who want to sit around getting high.”
Even if medical marijuana is put on the ballot again, pre-med student Mario Cuzzi said voters shouldn’t rush into it until all of the medical research is in.
“Marijuana is so much more potent today,” he said. “We need to research how these strands affect the brain.”
Cuzzi also said he feels most students voted for medical marijuana because it’s a stepping-stone to recreational use.
“It’s going to be talked about more openly and kids may be desensitized,” he said. “I just hope little kids don’t think it’s fine to try it just for fun.”
Though the defeat of medical marijuana was called early in the night, the Governor’s race was anyone’s guess until the very end.
Crist didn’t concede for an hour after the elections were called. He considered asking for a recount, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Seventy thousand of the 5.9 million votes cast isn’t typically a narrow enough margin to warrant a recount.
Crist did ask for an emergency extension of voting hours for Broward County earlier in the evening. He cited multiple electronic voter identification system errors in multiple precincts, but the county’s supervisor of elections denied the request.
Republicans in the Florida cabinet coasted to victory. The GOP secured seats for Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer and Agriculture Commissioner.
In a victory speech scored by Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said she has no intention of backing down from the fight against the Affordable Health Care Act.
“I won’t be silenced,” she said. “I won’t be bullied by anyone in D.C.”
Republicans reclaimed a supermajority in the Florida House of Representatives after winning 17 seats to the Democrats’ 10 wins.
Republicans flipped the seat of Tampa Rep. Mark Danish who lost with 47 percent of the vote.
The GOP continued its streak in the state Senate, winning five of the seven contested seats.
Voters highly supported Amendment 1, expanding land conservation initiatives to beaches, wetlands, forests and historical sites.
However, Floridians struck down Amendment 3, which would have allowed the governor to prospectively fill Florida Supreme Court vacancies.
Former USF Student Government Senator Christopher Carlos Cano lost his bid for state representative with 40 percent of the vote for the Soil and Water Conservation position.
Tuesday marked the close of a bitter election cycle that cost an estimated $345 million and lasted over a year.
“Things were so intense and nasty,” MacManus said. “It was the longest, most oversaturated campaign that I’ve ever covered as an analyst.”