MIAMI (Reuters) - Republican Rick Scott won Florida’s closely fought governor’s race on Wednesday after Democrat Alex Sink conceded in a bruising fight that flooded the airwaves with attack advertisements.
With more than 99 percent of precincts reporting, official results showed Scott with just over a 1 percentage point lead for the governorship in one of the United States’ key electoral swing states.
“There is no path to victory for us,” Sink told reporters at her campaign headquarters in Tampa.
Vote counting continued early Wednesday as preliminary official results showed Scott holding a narrow lead. He claimed victory earlier Wednesday but Sink told her supporters the race was too close to call.
Scott, a 57-year-old former hospital executive, will replace current Governor Charlie Crist, a former Republican turned independent who made an unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat up for grabs in Tuesday’s mid-term elections.
With more than 5 million ballots counted, the difference between Scott and Sink stood at 68,277 votes.
“After such a close election, he will need to work very hard to bring our state together,” Sink said of Scott.
Scott poured more than $72 million of the fortune he amassed when he led the Columbia/HCA hospital chain into his bid for governor. He sought to paint Sink as a liberal close to President Barack Obama who also oversaw large losses in Florida’s pension fund.
Sink tried to keep the spotlight on Scott’s leadership of Columbia/HCA, which paid $1.7 billion in fines to settle the largest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history in the late 1990s.
Medicare is the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled.
Scott was never charged in the Medicare case and contends he did not know about the fraud during his stewardship of Columbia/HCA as chief executive. He resigned from the company in 1997 and has been a critic of healthcare reform under Obama.
Scott’s personal spending on his first run for office made it the most expensive gubernatorial race in Florida’s history, state election authorities said.
Scott has been short on specifics about his plans for bringing down Florida’s unemployment rate, which ranks fourth highest in the country at 11.9 percent. He has also said little about possible ways of rescuing the recession-hit state from the mortgage foreclosure crisis.
Additional reporting by Kevin Gray, Editing by Tim Dobbyn