PENSACOLA , Fla. — The candidates running for Governor of Florida — Bill McCullom, Rick Scott and Alex Sink — as well as the candidates running for the open U.S. Senate seat — Kendrick Meek, Marco Rubio, Jeff Greene and Gov. Charlie Crist — have a new campaign platform to contend with. The BP oil spill has now washed upon the shores of the beautiful white-powdered sandy beaches in the Panhandle of northwestern Florida.
Could it be the tip of the iceberg for Florida? What is going to happen during these crucial months? What will these candidates have to say about it? One candidate is at an advantage since he is the Governor who is presently handling the crisis. Not only is it giving these candidates more exposure state-wide, but also giving them a bigger stage nationally.
A majority of the candidates have either visited the Panhandle to see for themselves the tar balls and oil-slick sand or they have spoken out about the crisis in the Gulf. Attorney General Bill McCullom’s campaign has become revived due to his position by sending out a number of officials to help Florida businesses file legal claims against BP. The New York Times quoted him as “I’m frustrated, the overall impact is going to continue for a long time.” This was expressed while holding up a jar of brown slimy tar on why the Obama administration has not hired a Florida company specializing in oil-eating microbes or not getting available boats to help out with the clean-up. In a recent quote to the Miami Herald McCullom has visited the Panhandle several times by saying “Why is the Coast Guard waiting? Why is President Obama waiting? Why is BP waiting?” McCollum asked during a news conference.
McCullom’s primary opponent Rick Scott is the only candidate for Governor who supports drilling off Florida’s east and west coasts. He has declined interviews focusing instead on his outsider status and enforcement of immigration laws. Democrat Alex Sink, the current Chief Financial Officer for the state of Florida, has visited the Panhandle meeting with small business owners promising to push BP to compensate for lost incomes. Sink has lobbied Gov. Crist, Attorney General McCullom and Senator Nelson for oil skimming boats, along with a BP chief operating officer promising more boats. She told the Miami Herald “We’ll get to the bottom of this. BP needs to start writing some big checks.”
Kendrick Meek, the Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, has been stuck in Washington casting votes. He has to his credit issued news releases and participated in conference calls. Even though he has not visited the Panhandle yet, he spoke at a liberal activist event in Washington D.C. where he clearly stated he opposes oil drilling. Other candidates who are not in office cannot do much about the BP oil spill. Jeff Greene, a billionaire real estate magnate, is the primary opponent for Rep. Meek. He visited the Panhandle and met with some business owners. Greene felt very strongly the oil spill is indeed a political issue, because the oil companies help pocket the elected officials. Gov. Charlie Christ has by far been the most active of all the candidates in the Panhandle. Crist has initiated a Florida oil spill ad campaign to soothe the worries of visitors and residents alike on the misconceptions.
However, the bottom line is BP and the federal government is handling the blowout and spill in the deep waters of the Gulf. All the other politicians and candidates for the Florida race for Governor and the U.S. Senate visit the Panhandle disaster areas in the meantime. Also, they can encourage vacationers to keep their plans and continue putting pressure on BP and the federal government. Sooner or later this campaign issue will grow even bigger for Florida and possibly the nation before November 2nd.
Damien Cave, “Spill is Election Issue Far Beyond Gulf”, The New York Times
Patricia Mazzei (Miami Herald), “Oil spill gives Florida politicians an election-year platform”, TampaBay.com-St. Petersburg Times
Associated Press, Crist announces Florida oil spill ad campaign (PHOTO GALLERY), NWF Daily News