Hurricane Michael was the most powerful storm to ever rip into the Florida Panhandle but even a tropical cyclone can’t stop midterm election politics.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott, vying to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, has forgone campaign appearances while he focuses on duties with his stricken constituents in Florida’s northwestern corner. The senator, meanwhile, has been hopping around to various coastal towns that were ravaged by the storm.
But when Mr. Scott cut an advertisement portraying his actions as a steady hand in a crisis a selling point he had stressed previously after Hurricane Irma smashed into southern Florida in 2017 the Nelson campaign accused him of politicking off disaster.
“Turns out…Rick Scott literally was shooting a political ad while he was touring hurricane-ravaged areas as governor this past weekend,” Nelson campaign spokesman Dan McLaughlin said.
In response, the Scott campaign pointed out Mr. Nelson himself cut an ad in his 1998 race for insurance commissioner boasting of his work helping Florida recover from Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Mr. Scott has avoided campaign events in the wake of Michael, leaving appearances to his wife, Ann, and other surrogates.
A second debate was scheduled for next week on CNN but the network postponed it in light of the storm.
The Scott campaign said Mr. Nelson was trying to change the rules after a somewhat wooden appearance during an earlier debate.
Mr. Nelson’s team said they now prefer a town hall rather than a debate.
“Regarding debates, we agreed to two, the latter being canceled right after the storm,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “Rather than face-off in a CNN studio very late in the election, why not now have a town-hall format like the one hosted by CNN earlier this year?”
He suggested Mr. Scott’s fealty to post-hurricane duties was an attempt to dodge Florida voters.
In fact, the governor was “meeting with local officials in the Panhandle to assess hurricane damage and help residents begin to recover,” according to the campaign, which also chided Mr. Nelson’s long stretch of alleged invisibility.
“Senator Nelson was nowhere to be found,” the Scott camp wrote.
Source: The Associated Press