NEW: Charlie Crist calls Rick Scott to concede Florida race
Democrat Charlie Crist requested polling hours be extended in some places
A judge denied the request and Crist's campaign will not appeal
The race was one of the most expensive and hotly contested races of the the 2014 midterms
Former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat, conceded Florida’s close gubernatorial race against GOP Gov. Rick Scott.
“I called Governor Scott and I congratulated him,” Crist said Tuesday night at his election night headquarters. “And I wish him the best.”
Crist said his campaign made the decision to concede after “the gap got to 100,000” votes.
“Losing is not fun. But what is most important is that we come together as a state,” he said. “This was a tough election, and I understand that. I wish Gov. Scott the best. And his family. But I wish the best also for our state.”
CNN has not projected a winner at this time. Early results showed a neck-and-neck race, raising the possibility of a recount if their margin falls within .5% of less.
“I have two great pieces of news for the people for Florida,” Scott said at his election night party. “First I’m not going to give a long speech. And second, the campaign is over.”
“You know what they say about democracy. It’s messy, but it’s absolutely the best form of government there is,” he continued.
Earlier in the evening, a judge denied a motion to extend voting hours in one Florida county after problems were reported at polling locations. Crist’s campaign filed the emergency motion to move the voting cutoff time from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Broward County.
A spokesperson for the Florida Secretary of State said a judge denied the motion, and Crist’s campaign said they will not appeal.
The contest, which has been well under way since Crist launched a bid for his old job a year ago, has become the marquee gubernatorial race of 2014, largely because of the flood of cash that’s helped saturate the airwaves. At least $83 million has been spent, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The race’s unusual cast of characters also garnered headlines. Crist, who served as governor from 2007 to 2011, has been attacked relentlessly over his party switch, while Scott struggled to improve perceptions about his lackluster personality.
In one of the most bizarre moments of the midterms, Scott came out on stage seven minutes late for a debate because Crist had snuck an electrical fan under his podium, against debate rules. The awkward moment quickly became known as “fangate.”
Neither candidate was popular, according to polls taken in the weeks leading up to the race. More voters had unfavorable than favorable views about the two men, and the race became a heated contest over who could skewer the other the most.
Debates between Scott and Crist reflected the animosity between the two governors. Their final showdown, hosted by CNN and Jackson affiliate WJXT, contained multiple exchanges loaded with personal attacks over wealth.
With Florida being the largest presidential swing state, there were plenty of 2016 undertones in this contest. Political heavyweights—many of whom have White House aspirations—barnstormed the state for their party’s respective candidate. Chris Christie traveled to Florida six times for Scott, while Crist had in-person support from Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Joe Biden.
The Republican Governors Association, which Christie chairs, contributed $19 million in direct donations to Scott’s political committee.
“Governor Rick Scott’s leadership in his first term brought Florida back from the brink, and with four more years to enact his low-tax, pro-jobs, pro-growth agenda, the Sunshine State’s future just gets brighter from here,” Christie said in a statement Tuesday night.
CNN’s Terence Burlij and Joshua Gaynor contributed to this report.