Rick Scott
Florida Gov. Rick Scott won re-election Tuesday in a close race against his predecessor, Charlie Crist. Reuters

Florida Gov. Rick Scott beat back a tough election challenge from Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist in one of the most expensive and contentious gubernatorial races of the 2014 midterms, according to preliminary results from the Associated Press. The Scott-Crist race was always expected to be a tight election, with recent polling suggesting Crist had an average lead of .4 percentage points in the final days of the campaign. Scott didn’t lead in any public polls in the last month of the race.

The Crist campaign unsuccessfully argued in court for voting hours to be extended in Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale and is a Democratic stronghold, amid reports of voting irregularities. The campaign said there were "several individual and systemic breakdowns,” according to Fox News.

Both parties brought out their big guns for the race, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush campaigning for Scott and former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden stumping for Crist in the Sunshine State.

Nearly two-thirds of Floridians said they believed the country was “seriously off the wrong track,” according to NBC News exit polling. These voters strongly supporter Scott over Crist, 64 percent to 30 percent. Scott also had a large advantage among the 73 percent of voters who said they were either very or somewhat concerned about the economy in the next year, winning over these voters 57 percent to Crist’s 37 percent.

More than $150 million was spent in the race. Crist served as governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011 as a Republican.

An automatic recount would be triggered if the final margin of victory is one half of 1 percent or less. Such a scenario would evoke memories of the long-fought 2000 presidential election between then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore, which hinged on Florida and stirred controversy after a U.S. Supreme Court decision ultimately decided the race for Bush.