Election '18

Disaster Politics: GOP Pushes Crass Attack Ads in Florida's Hurricane Strike Zone Despite Longstanding Taboo — and Common Decency

It is customary in Florida to suspend negative campaigning during a hurricane.

Photo Credit: City of Tallahassee

As Hurricane Michael bears down on the Florida Panhandle, destroying structures and turning roads into rivers, politics is likely the last thing on most of the affected population's minds. But GOP gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ron DeSantis and the state Republican Party kept blasting negative ads over the airwaves anyway.

Florida Republicans are still airing two ads in the hurricane strike zone, both of which attack Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor. Making it even crasser, both of the ads proclaim Gillum "unfit to lead" because of the way he handled the aftermath of another hurricane.

According to Marc Caputo of Politico, "It had once been considered taboo in Florida to run negative campaign attack ads as a hurricane batters the state. But no more."

Attack ads against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott, who are battling each other in a close race for Senate, also continued to air in the strike zone. However, these ads were released by independent super PACs that do not, legally, coordinate with candidates. The anti-Gillum ads were approved by the DeSantis campaign and the state party.

Facing criticism over their decision to still be broadcasting attack ads into the homes of people in mortal danger, the Florida Republican Party eventually backed down and agreed to suspend the ads.

Gillum, whose city lies in the path of the hurricane, has spent his time looking after his constituents and coordinating with Scott:

However, Gillum also had some critical words for the partisan politics of the situation on MSNBC.

"We can't recall a time where candidates for statewide office have not pulled down negative ads during hurricane season," he said. "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."

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.