By Kevin DarbySunshine State News

As the new year begins, Florida looks set to keep its status as one of the nation’s perennial political battlegrounds.

All eyes will be on the U.S. Senate race as the GOP looks to keep control of that chamber. Democrat Bill Nelson is expected to run for a fourth term in 2018 but he faces a major challenger in Rick Scott, who is term limited after eight years as governor.

Scott’s a far tougher challenge than Nelson’s previous opponents and the governor is riding high after his handling of Hurricane Irma. Still, this will be a competitive race and, if there is a Democratic wave, that could be bad news for Scott who barely won in 2010 and 2014, both good years for the GOP. Nelson has challenges of his own, though, and a large segment of voters aren’t sure what they think about him, even though he has been on the Florida political stage for more than four decades. This is rightfully one of the most closely watched races in the nation and will garner a great deal of attention at the state and national levels.

The other political main event in Florida will be the gubernatorial race. Adam Putnam has a head start over his fellow Republicans and he is a proven winner with two statewide victories under his belt. But he is open on the right, something Ron DeSantis looks to exploit. In recent days, DeSantis has been praised by Donald Trump on Twitter and has rounded up some prominent conservatives to back a gubernatorial campaign. That’s some impressive support, especially since DeSantis never really quite caught fire in his brief Senate bid back in 2016 though he wasn’t helped by Marco Rubio opening the door to eventually running for another term.

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