Scott Nelson

That didn’t take long.

Seven days after a category 4 hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle, Senator Bill Nelson’s campaign is accusing Governor Rick Scott of using the disaster to “hide from voters.” 

In an email sent to political reporters, Nelson campaign advisor Dan McLaughlin accused Scott’s campaign of using the hurricane to avoid campaigning across the state. First Lady Ann Scott is now campaigning on behalf of her husband.

Scott “is using the aftermath of this storm because he can’t campaign around the state without protesters; he can’t risk having to answer people’s questions directly; he can’t campaign across a state that’s plagued with red tide and green algae; he can’t campaign and answer questions on how he’s enriched himself in public office,” said McLaughlin. 

McLaughlin went on to accuse Scott of “concocting this campaign scheme.” 

As expected, Scott’s campaign fired back at Nelson’s allegations. “If Senator Nelson wants to use devastation in huge swaths of the Panhandle and the deaths of Floridians as an opportunity to score cheap political points, that’s his prerogative,” said Scott campaign spokeswoman Kerri Wyland. “Governor Scott has more important things to do – like help the Panhandle rebuild and getting people back in their homes and jobs.”

In the week since the hurricane, Scott appears to be exclusively focused on the aftermath of the devastating storm. His daily schedule shows visits to impacted areas and conference calls with local, state and national partners. Monday he toured Panama City with President Donald Trump. 

While Scott works on the recovery, his campaign is actively running campaign commercials across the state. Politico Florida reported Monday that Scott has added another $18 million of his own money to his campaign, bringing his overall personal contribution to $40 million. 

The hurricane has already forced postponement of a debate between Nelson and Scott. On Monday, Scott accepted CNN’s invitation for an October 25 debate, twelve days before the November General Election. Nelson’s team has yet to accept that offer, something the Scott team made light of on social media. 


In the same email sent to reporters, Nelson’s campaign suggested changing the format that both sides earlier agreed to from a debate to a town hall. 

Public polling continues to show the Senate race between Scott and Nelson remains tight, but private polling suggests that Scott has have taken a lead in the week since the hurricane. That may explain why Nelson’s campaign has taken the risk of criticizing Governor Scott for doing his his current job. 

David Bishop is a native Floridian, husband and father. During his 30 year career, David has been a journalist, political operative and communications consultant.