ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson won a third term Tuesday as his moderate image and folksy style easily withstood a challenge from Republican Rep. Connie Mack IV, who claimed the incumbent was nothing but a liberal in disguise.
Nelson vowed to continue working to break through Washington's partisan divide.
"What I will try to continue to do as I have through my entire elected public life is to try reach across the aisle and bring people together and reach consensus so we can govern this country," Nelson said in his victory speech.
Mack, the great-grandson of the Hall of Fame baseball manager who was trying to claim the seat his father held before retiring in 2001, said he is sure Nelson will live up to the high standards set for him. But he added he will not stop fighting for the conservative values he campaigned on.
"I am very proud of the campaign that we ran," he said. "We did the right things. We talked about patriotism, we talked about dreams, we talked about freedom, we talked about the future of America."
While Florida voters were nearly evenly split on President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, Nelson was a clear favorite despite a campaign that was relatively less active. Part of Mack's challenge was trying to break through the focus on the presidential race. He struggled for an audience that would listen and wasn't able to successfully make the case that Romney needed a Senate that would support his agenda.
With nearly 7.7 million votes counted, Nelson had more than 55 percent of the vote compared with Mack's 42 percent.
Independent voter Milly Herrera was one of those that supported Romney and still cast a ballot for Nelson.
"There are some issues where I support the Democrats and then there some issues, like small business and the economy, where I would support the Republicans," she said.
High turnout was expected in Florida, where more than 4.5 million people — about 38 percent of the electorate — had already voted in before Election Day.
Mack, 45, represents southwest Florida in Congress but for now, his political career is on hold.
Mack consistently beat the theme that Nelson supported Obama with nearly every vote, including the president's health care overhaul and the $787 billion federal stimulus.