Hurricane Irma rekindles political spat between Scott, Gillum
Jeffrey Schweers, Democrat senior writer
In Florida, nothing gets in the way of a good political spat, not even a hurricane.
Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to run for U.S. Senate in 2018, has been praised for the way he’s handled the state’s coordinated response and disbursed resources in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
That hasn’t stopped him from rekindling the spat he had with Mayor Andrew Gillum last year during last year’s Hurricane Hermine over offers to restore power to Tallahassee’s electric utility customers.
Remember this?: Scott remains vexed by city’s Hermine response
More: The politics of power? Gillum pushes back on critics
More: Scott and Gillum spar over power recovery
In an interview with Politico, retweeted by Saint Petersblog’s Peter Schorsch, Scott said, “I figured out with Hermine that the utility industry didn’t cooperate. And so now we have daily calls — I’ll start them tomorrow, twice a day calls — and so I have a commitment. I have 23,000 people coming down here from the utilities… We’ll start putting out a report tomorrow: How many outages. What everybody is doing. And so people will have a better idea of how long it’s going to take.”
Scott was criticized for using the disaster to stage photo ops clearing road debris.
“So by doing that, if you look at (Hurricane) Matthew, how much faster we got power back everywhere in contrast to Tallahassee. I couldn’t get them (Tallahassee) to take resources or anything. Let me tell you, everyone wants my help now.”
After learning of Scott’s statement, Gillum — who has been at the Leon County Emergency Operations Center since early Sunday — shook his head and at first said he didn’t want to respond.
“We’re in the middle of a natural disaster in Florida. We need to stay focused on how we keep Florida safe and help the state recover,” said Gillum, who is a Democratic candidate for Governor in 2018. “This is no time for political bickering.”
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum on Hurricane Irma (Sept. 10)
Sixty percent of Florida utility customers were without power Monday — including 90 percent of Collier County and 84 percent of Miami-Dade County, Gillum said.
About 40,000 city of Tallahassee utility customers were without power, a number that was expected to grow until wind conditions dropped below 35 mph for crews to safely hit the streets and begin repairs.
Once Tallahassee restores power to all its customers, Gillum said, it will turn to helping other parts of the state where it has mutual aid agreements.
“We’ve got to be in this together,” Gillum said.