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Hurricanes and confusion: The week in Florida politics

October 6, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s 2018 midterm election is one of the most important in years. The governor’s office and all three Cabinet seats are on the ballot; Republican Gov. Rick Scott is challenging three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson; several congressional seats will be competitive; and Floridians will vote on several proposed constitutional amendments. The following are items of political interest from the past week:

POWER SQUABBLE REVISITED:

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Gov. Rick Scott feuded two years ago amid the aftermath of the first hurricane to strike Florida in more than a decade.

Tens of thousands of people were plunged into darkness after Hurricane Hermine hit the city and knocked down branches, trees and power lines. The anger over power outages spilled out into social media. In the days after the Category 1 storm hit, Scott faulted Gillum over the pace of restoring power in the state capital. He did this even though Gillum does not have direct control over the city electric department. At the time Gillum contended the city was doing everything it could to restore power.

Now that Gillum is running for governor Republicans have taken aim at the mayor over the issue. The Republican Party of Florida has begun to air two television ads that said the Democratic nominee “failed” Tallahassee residents.

Gillum’s campaign contends the ads are not true and put out a video from a local sheriff criticizing Republicans and GOP nominee Ron DeSantis for “using hurricanes to score political points.”

VOTING HAS BEGUN

Elections supervisors have already shipped out nearly 2.6 million vote-by-mail ballots and they’re starting to tickle back in.

As of Friday morning, 6,134 people had already cast votes in the Nov. 6 election.

The breakdown on who has requested to vote by mail: Democrats, 1,055,161; Republicans, 1,025,237; no party affiliation, 509,758.

While Democrats have only the slightest advantage in ballots requested, the party declared that it was a sign of enthusiasm, saying they’ve never before topped Republicans in vote-by-mail ballots requested.

Perhaps in a general election. During the Aug. 28 primary, slightly more Democrats requested vote-by-mail ballots. But more Republicans sent them back. In the primary, 63 percent of Republican ballots were returned, compared to 53 percent of Democratic ballots.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE APPROACHES

Floridians who aren’t registered to vote need to do so by Tuesday if they want to cast ballots in the Nov. 6 election.

As of Aug. 31, Florida had nearly 4.9 million Democrats, more than 4.6 million Republicans and 3.5 million voters with no party affiliation.

How those numbers increase after Tuesday’s deadline could be an indication of which party is building more enthusiasm ahead of the general election.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SAY NELSON IS ‘CONFUSED?’

As the election between Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has heated up over the summer, there’s one word that the Scott campaign has used again and again.

Confused.

In press releases and campaign commercials and during this week’s debate, the 76-year-old Nelson has been called “confused” by Scott and his campaign staff.

And campaign manager Jackie Schutz Zeckman went even further.

Moments after the South Florida debate wrapped up, Zeckman slammed how Nelson did. She called it a “rambling, incoherent, confused, disjointed performance from a desperate career politician who is trying to hold onto his job. Bill Nelson laid out no vision for Florida and is barely hanging on.”

When Nelson was asked back in August whether or not he thought the Scott campaign was suggesting he was too old, the three-term incumbent brushed it aside and said he could beat the 65-year-old Scott in a push-up contest.

But one group, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, said this week that the recent comments were “ageist.”

“Those statements are offensive and patently untrue and suggest that Rick Scott has a deep seated bias against older Floridians,” said Bill Sauers, president of the group that has been critical of Scott and Republicans.

Chris Hartline, a spokesman for the Scott campaign, responded to the group on Twitter: “It’s his ideas that are old, which is why we need term limits.”

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