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Florida living up to reputation as battleground state in Senate, governor races

Posted: 6:27 PM, Nov 05, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-05 23:51:33Z

Only a few percentage points separate the candidates in Florida's gubernatorial and Senate races going into Election Day. Peter Bergerson, a political science professor with Florida Gulf Coast University, said Florida is considered a battleground state for a reason. 

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"Florida went twice for Obama, and last time went for Trump," Bergerson said Monday. "So the turnout tomorrow will be very critical. And then whoever wins will be very critical for the party's future."

He said that with current Governor Rick Scott challenging long-term Democratic Senator Bill Nelson for his seat in Washington - not to mention an African-American candidate, Andrew Gillum, competing with U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis for governor - Florida's races have attracted national attention.

"Even the local TV stations in Chicago have focused on the race down here in Florida," said Bergerson, who spent the weekend in Chicago. "This is going to be a crossroads election."

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He said that one major issue both parties agree on most is the need for clean water, and a solution to mitigate the discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee that cause harmful algae blooms in Southwest Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Tourism and water quality is so critical," Bergerson said. "It affects the housing values, the entertainment values, the beach. Those are the qualities of life that bring people here."

He said that historically, mid-term elections only bring out between 35 to 40 percent of registered voters to the polls. But he thinks the too-close-to-call, high profile races this year could boost voter turnout to around fifty percent.

"That, I think, is inspiring," Bergerson said. "It's a solid reflection of people's interest in the government, interest in participation."

He said that another tight statewide race - between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell for Commissioner of Agriculture - will most likely be decided by straight-ticket voters who turn out for the gubernatorial and Senate races.