Politics

Hurricane Michael sidelines campaigning in Florida

Governor 'focused on response and recovery'

(CNN) - Hurricane Michael has come and gone, but the recovery effort to deal with the damage it left behind has upended the highly competitive campaigns for U.S. Senate and governor.

Three of the four major party candidates in those races are in roles directly related to the management and recovery from the storm. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican nominee for Senate; his opponent, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson; and the Democratic nominee for governor, Mayor Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee have all left the campaign trail and have spent the last week exclusively focused on storm-related issues.

On Monday, Scott's campaign announced that his responsibilities as governor may make it impossible for him to do any campaigning between now and Election Day. Scott already asked for a CNN debate to be postponed and now plans on deploying surrogates throughout Florida to campaign on his behalf. His wife Ann Scott, the current first lady of Florida, will be his primary replacement on the campaign trail.

"Governor Scott will be focused on response and recovery from the devastating hurricane that hit the Panhandle for the foreseeable future. It's unclear, at this point, whether he will hold any campaign events before the November 6th election, though it is still possible closer to election day," said Chris Hartline, a Scott campaign spokesman. "Florida's wonderful First Lady, Ann Scott, will be taking over his campaign schedule for the next few weeks. There is no better advocate for Governor Scott and his agenda to make Washington work than the First Lady."

Scott appeared with President Donald Trump on Monday as he arrived in Florida to check out the damage for himself. Scott has been careful to manage his connection to Trump and has yet to appear with him in a political setting since becoming the GOP nominee for Senate.

Nelson has made himself very visible on the Florida coast. He has toured many of the devastated areas and has teamed up with his Republican colleague, Sen. Marco Rubio, to secure federal money to aid in the hurricane recovery. His campaign did not give an estimate as to when he might get back on the campaign trail.

Gillum has been the target of a tough ad from the Florida Republican Party critical of his management in prior storms. That ad was still running on TV stations in the storm's path as Hurricane Michael made landfall. Gillum has responded by focusing on Tallahassee's recovery. He took to the streets with a chainsaw to kickstart the recovery and has been using social media to regularly update his constituents about the latest on power outages and street closures.

Gillum is likely to stay off the campaign trail for several more days, although his calculation is a bit different than Scott's. While Tallahassee was hit pretty hard, it was not nearly the level of devastation seen in other parts of the panhandle. It is possible he can begin campaigning much sooner, and said in a Facebook Live post that he may visit some of the harder-hit areas to help deliver some supplies in the near future.

His Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, resigned from Congress and has no official role in the recovery. He turned a few campaign events into relief drives and helped to personally deliver those supplies to areas hardest hit in the panhandle.


Editor Notes

This Just In