Bill Nelson (Florida)

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Bill Nelson
Bill Nelson.jpg
U.S. Senate, Florida
In office
January 3, 2000-Present
Term ends
January 3, 2019
Years in position 15
PredecessorConnie Mack III (R)
Base salary$174,000/year
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 6, 2012
First elected2000
Next generalNovember 2018
Campaign $$41,372,539
Term limitsN/A
Prior offices
Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, Fire Marshall in Florida Cabinet
U.S. House of Representatives
Florida House of Representatives
High schoolMelbourne High School
Bachelor'sUniversity of Florida, Yale University
J.D.University of Virginia
Military service
Service/branchU.S. Army
Years of service1965-1971
Date of birthSeptember 29, 1942
Place of birthMiami, Florida
Net worth$3,432,503
Office website
Campaign website
Clarence William "Bill" Nelson (b. September 29, 1942 in Miami, Florida) is a Democratic member of the U.S. Senate from the state of Florida. Nelson was first elected to the Senate in 2000.

He was re-elected on November 6, 2012.[1]

Nelson previously was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1978 to 1991 and a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 1972 to 1978.[2] Between 1994 and 2000 Nelson served as treasurer, insurance commissioner and fire marshall in the Florida Cabinet.[2]

Based on analysis of multiple outside rankings, Nelson is an average Democratic member of Congress, meaning he will vote with the Democratic Party on the majority of bills.


Nelson was born in Miami and spent his youth in Melbourne, Florida, where he attended Melbourne High School.

Nelson attended the University of Florida before transferring to Yale University. He subsequently received a law degree from the University of Virginia.[3]In 1965, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve; he served on active duty from 1968 to 1970, attaining the rank of captain, and he remained in the Army until 1971. Nelson was admitted to the Florida bar in 1968, and began practicing law in Melbourne in 1970.[4]

In 1986, Nelson became the second sitting member of U.S. Congress (and the first member of the House) to travel into space. He went through NASA training with Senator Jake Garn of Utah. He was a Payload Specialist on Space Shuttle Columbia's STS-61-C mission from January 12 to 18, 1986.


Committee assignments

U.S. Senate


Nelson serves on the following Senate committees[6]:



Political Positions

Gay Marriage

Sen. Bill Nelson previously expressed the opinion that a marriage was between a man and a woman, but supported civil rights efforts for same-sex couples.[8] On April 4, 2013 Nelson reversed his prior opinion on same-sex marriage, speaking out in favor.[9] He became the 51st Senator to speak out in support of same-sex marriage.[9]

In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, Nelson cited his faith as a reason for changing his standing on the issue, saying, "It is generally accepted in American law and U.S. society today... that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I believe that. The civil rights and responsibilities for one must pertain to all. Thus, to discriminate against one class and not another is wrong for me. If we are endowed by our Creator with rights, then why shouldn't those be attainable by Gays and Lesbians? Simply put, if The Lord made homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, why should I discriminate against their civil marriage? I shouldn't, and I won't. So I will add my name to the petition of senators asking the Supreme Court to declare the law that prohibits gay marriage unconstitutional."[10]

Fiscal Cliff

Voted "Yes" Nelson voted for the fiscal cliff compromise bill, which made permanent most of the Bush tax cuts originally passed in 2001 and 2003 while also raising tax rates on the highest income levels. The bill was passed in the Senate by a 89/8 vote on January 1, 2013.[11]



See also: United States Senate elections in Florida, 2012

Nelson ran in the 2012 election for the U.S. Senate, representing Florida. Nelson sought re-election on the Democratic ticket.[12] The signature filing deadline for candidates wishing to run was May 7, 2012. The primary elections were held on August 14, 2012. Bill Fisher Jr., Adam Hasner, George LeMieux, Connie Mack, Mike McCalister, Ron McNeil, Craig Miller, and Marielena Stuart were seeking the Republican nomination. Nelson defeated Glenn Burkett in the Democratic primary on August 14, 2012.[13] He was re-elected on November 6, 2012.[14]

The University of Virginia's Center for Politics published an article called Sabato's Crystal Ball on March 22, 2012 detailing the 8 races in the Senate in 2012 that will decide the political fate of which party will end up with control in 2013.[15] The Senate seat in Florida is the toss up state ranked second in likelihood of ending up Democratic, behind New Mexico's Senate seat.[15] Incumbent Nelson's mediocre approval rating is the reasoning behind the "toss-up" classification of the Senate seat, but Nelson is expected to gain Democratic support in time for the election.[15] Nelson is expected to face significant opposition from Connie Mack in the general election on November 6, 2012.[15]


Former Governor Charlie Crist confirmed his support for Nelson’s re-election bid against Republican Representative [[Connie Mack|Connie Mack IV] on August 1, 2012.[16] Not only did Crist announce that he planned to to donate to Nelson, but he said he'd also appear at an August 1 fundraiser for the incumbent, headlined by former President Bill Clinton.[16]

Full history

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Nelson is available dating back to 2000. Based on available campaign finance records, Nelson raised a total of $41,372,539 during that time period. This information was last updated on April 3, 2013.[19]

Bill Nelson (Florida)'s Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 U.S. Senate (Florida) Won $16,803,512
2006 U.S. Senate (Florida) Won $18,031,681
2000 U.S. Senate (Florida) Won $6,537,346
Grand Total Raised $41,372,539


Breakdown of the source of Nelson's campaign funds before the 2012 election.

Nelson won re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2012. During that election cycle, Nelson's campaign committee raised a total of $16,803,512 and spent $17,125,413.[20]


Breakdown of the source of Nelson's campaign funds before the 2006 election.

Nelson won re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2006. During that re-election cycle, Nelson's campaign committee raised a total of $18,031,681 and spent $16,718,881.[21]



General Election candidates for U.S. Senate seat
Poll Bill Nelson Connie MackOther candidateUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Rasmussen Reports
(August 15, 2012)
Quinnipiac University
(August 15-21, 2012)
Rasmussen Reports
(September 16, 2012)
Mason-Dixon Polling
(September 19, 2012)
Quinnipiac University
(September 26, 2012)
Rasmussen Reports
(October 8, 2012)
Rasmussen Reports
(October 15, 2012)
Sunshine State News
(October 22-24, 2012)
Rasmussen Reports
(October 25, 2012)
Public Policy Polling
(October 26-28, 2012)
AVERAGES 49.1% 41.8% 1.7% 7.6% +/-4.09 767.5
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to


Ideology and leadership

See also: GovTrack's Political Spectrum & Legislative Leadership ranking

Based on an analysis of bill sponsorship by GovTrack, Nelson is a "rank-and-file Democrat," as of June 20, 2013.[22]

Lifetime voting record

See also: Lifetime voting records of United States Senators and Representatives

According to the website GovTrack, Nelson missed 56 of 3,884 roll call votes from Jan 2001 to Mar 2013. This amounts to 1.4%, which is better than the median of 1.7% among currently serving senators as of March 2013.[23]

Congressional staff salaries

See also: Staff salaries of United States Senators and Representatives

The website Legistorm compiles staff salary information for members of Congress. Nelson paid his congressional staff a total of $3,454,635 in 2011. He ranks 3rd on the list of the highest paid Democratic Senatorial Staff Salaries and he ranks 98th overall of the lowest paid Senatorial Staff Salaries in 2011. Overall, Florida ranks 2nd in average salary for senatorial staff. The average U.S. Senate congressional staff was paid $2,529,141.70 in fiscal year 2011.[24]

Net worth

See also: Net Worth of United States Senators and Representatives


Based on congressional financial disclosure forms and calculations made available by - The Center for Responsive Politics, Nelson's net worth as of 2011 was estimated between $1,265,006 and $5,600,000. That averages to $3,432,503, which is lower than the average net worth of Democratic Senators in 2011 of $20,795,450. His average net worth decreased by 8.84% from 2010.[25]


Based on congressional financial disclosure forms and calculations made available by - The Center for Responsive Politics, Nelson's net worth as of 2010 was estimated between $1,480,007 and $6,051,000. That averages to $3,765,503.50, which is lower than the average net worth of Democratic Senators in 2010 of $19,383,524.[26]

National Journal vote ratings

See also: National Journal vote ratings


Each year National Journal publishes an analysis of how liberally or conservatively each member of congress voted in the previous year. Nelson ranked 28th in the liberal rankings in 2012.[27]


Each year National Journal publishes an analysis of how liberally or conservatively each member of congress voted in the previous year. Nelson ranked 46th in the liberal rankings among U.S. Senators.[28]

Voting with party


Bill Nelson voted with the Democratic Party 95.9% of the time, which ranked 18th among the 52 Senate Democratic members as of June 2013.[29]


In 1972, Nelson married Grace Cavert. The couple has two adult children: Bill Nelson, Jr., and Nan Ellen Nelson.[5]

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term Bill + Nelson + Florida + Senate

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

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External links


  1. ABC News "2012 General Election Results"
  2. 2.0 2.1 Project Votesmart "Biography" Accessed June 20, 2013
  3. Bill Nelson: (D-FL) "Path to Power" Accessed October 13, 2011
  4. Bill Nelson: (D-FL) "Path to Power" Accessed October 13, 2011
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Bill Nelson, U.S. Senator from Florida "Biography" Accessed October 13, 2011]
  6. Congressional Quarterly "Senate Committee List" Accessed January 22, 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Bill Nelson: U.S. Senator from Florida "Committee Assignments" Accessed October 13, 2011
  8. "Gay Marriage Rights: The 10 Democratic Senators Who Still Say No" March 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 Metro Weekly "Bill Nelson becomes 51st senator to support same-sex marriage" Accessed April 5, 2013
  10. Tampa Bay Times " Bill Nelson reverses opposition to gay marriage" Accessed April 5, 2013
  11. U.S. Senate "Roll Call Vote on the Fiscal Cliff" Accessed January 4, 2013.
  12. Washington Post Blog "The Fix" "Florida Sen. Bill Nelson in same spot as Obama," Accessed January 5, 2012
  13. AP Results "Election Results" Accessed August 14, 2012
  14. ABC News "2012 General Election Results"
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Center for Politics "Tilting the Toss Ups – the Eight Races That Will Decide the Senate" Accessed April 9, 2012
  16. 16.0 16.1 Tampa Bay Online "Charlie Crist backing Bill Nelson in Senate race" Accessed August 3, 2012
  17. U.S. Congress House Clerk, "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 7, 2006," accessed March 28, 2013
  18. U.S. Congress House Clerk, "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 7, 2000," accessed March 28, 2013
  19. Open Secrets "Bill Nelson" Accessed April 3, 2013
  20. Open Secrets "Bill Nelson 2012 Election Cycle," Accessed February 19, 2013
  21. Open Secrets "Bill Nelson 2006 Election Cycle," Accessed November 7, 2011
  22. Gov Track "Bill Nelson," Accessed June 20, 2013
  23. GovTrack, "Bill Nelson," Accessed March 29, 2013
  24. LegiStorm "Bill Nelson"
  25., "Bill Nelson, (D-FL), 2011"
  26., "Nelson, (D-FL), 2010"
  27. National Journal, "2012 Congressional Vote Ratings," February 28, 2013
  28. National Journal, "Searchable Vote Ratings Tables: Senate," February 23, 2012
  29. OpenCongress, "Voting With Party," accessed July 2014
Political offices
Preceded by
Connie Mack III
U.S. Senate - Florida
Succeeded by