Negative Florida politics have typically taken a backseat, even in contentious elections, when a major storm approaches.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, however, says his rival did not respect that unwritten rule in his campaign’s decision to continue running negative ads as Floridians evacuated coastal regions of the state this week. Officials have warned that Hurricane Michael could wreak widespread havoc on the Florida panhandle and beyond.
Ron DeSantis, the Republican seeking to serve as the next governor, approved ads taking a shot at Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, over his city’s hurricane preparedness in 2016.
“We can’t recall a time where candidates for statewide office have not pulled down negative ads during hurricane season,” Gillum said in response. “You’ve got a whole region of our state, where folks are fleeing for their lives, anticipating what is a life-threatening event impacting this state. I again would encourage my opponent to just subside with the politics. We’ll have plenty enough room — beyond this storm — to compete between our ideas. What we need now is for the state to come together to reduce our partisanship and to focus on this important storm impacting our state.”
The Florida Republican Party later confirmed it would stop airing the ads ahead of the storm’s expected landfall.
A political action committee working to help elect Democratic U.S. Sen Bill Nelson also came under fire for airing a negative ad aimed at his GOP rival, Gov. Rick Scott. In that case, however, the PAC had no contact with the Nelson campaign, which has publicly disavowed airing negative ads ahead of a natural disaster.