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New ad: Florida Gov. Scott is the one helping Puerto Rico

June 6, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott says in a new campaign ad he is the one politician who is helping hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, but his aides are quick to add he is not taking shots at his fellow Republican and good friend President Donald Trump.

Scott is challenging Democratic incumbent U.S. Bill Nelson this fall and on Wednesday his campaign launched a new online ad that sharply criticizes Nelson. It also defends Scott’s efforts to help Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria.

The ad comes just six days after Scott’s most recent trip to the U.S. territory. During a news conference there, Scott said he didn’t know what the federal government could have done differently after last year’s devastating storm.

Nelson and Democrats pounced on Scott’s comments with Nelson tweeting out that “nine months after the hurricane and people still do not have electricity, water, and jobs! Rick Scott does not understand that people are hurting and in need.”

In the new 60-second digital ad the Scott campaign contends that Nelson is “exploiting” the tragedy for political gain.

“Now Nelson is attacking the one public official who has actually helped the people of Puerto Rico,” states the ad, which notes that the Florida governor has visited the island six times and that he “pushed” federal emergency crews to respond more quickly to the disaster. The ad in the end says that “Bill Nelson is the federal government.”

Ryan Patmintra, a spokesman for the Scott campaign, said the governor is not suggesting the administration of Trump did not help those harmed by the storm.

“What he is pointing out is that the only thing Bill Nelson has done to ‘help’ Puerto Rico is write letters, deliver floor speeches, and use their plight for political attacks,” said Patmintra in an emailed response.

Scott, who knew Trump before he ran for president, was a strong supporter of his campaign after he won the Florida GOP primary. But as he has mounted his campaign to oust Nelson, Scott has shown signs of distancing himself from Trump. He has not mentioned Trump during some of his recent political appearances - and he remained quiet on many of Trump’s initiatives. While President Barack Obama was in office, Scott regularly criticized and complained about him.

The new online ad criticizing Nelson is the ninth one launched by Scott’s campaign since he jumped into the race back in April.

Carlie Waibel, a spokeswoman for Nelson’s campaign, pushed backed against the digital ad and pointed out that earlier this week, former Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Rosselló endorsed Nelson. He called Nelson a “tireless advocate” for Puerto Rico who pushed for supplemental disaster funding for the territory even though “the Trump administration turned their back on Puerto Rico.”

Both Nelson and Scott have ramped up their outreach to Puerto Rican voters in the months since the storm.

In the aftermath, Scott ordered the opening of disaster relief centers to help those who came to Florida following Hurricane Maria. State and local governments have spent more than $4 million to assist displaced Puerto Ricans. And on Wednesday, Scott announced the state was sending 25 used Florida Highway Patrol trooper cars to the police in Puerto Rico.

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