Hurricane Hermine, a category one storm that hit the Tallahassee area two years ago, is blowing up a minor political storm in Florida’s gubernatorial contest.
The Republican Party of Florida released two new political ads (see below) on Thursday called “Unfit to Lead,” which call into question Andrew Gillum’s leadership qualities and his response to Hermine.
The :30 second spots are intended to expose what the RPOF says is “Gillum’s systemic failure when Hurricane Hermine caused massive power outages in Tallahassee in 2016.”
The ads feature two Tallahassee women who tell of their experiences with having their power restored after Hermine hit the Capital City two years ago, knocking out power to 75,000 customers.
“After the Hurricane, we had no electricity for over a week,” said a woman identified only as Kathryn. “Utility companies lined up trucks to restore power. But as mayor, Andrew Gillum refused help from workers. The trucks just sat, while people suffered. Incompetence, or extreme politics, I don’t know.
“But leaders are supposed to help people in tough times,” Kathryn says in the spot. “And Andrew Gillum, he didn’t help us. He failed us.”
The second spot features a woman whose name is Allison.
“My son was diagnosed with complex autism,” she said. “High temperatures typically cause health complications for children like him, that require special licensed facilities.
After the hurricane, they lost power, and should have been first-restored. ecretarThey begged Mayor Andrew Gillum for help, but Gillum turned away workers who could have restored our power. It was devastating.
The ads accuse Gillum of refusing to speed up the process for restoring power after the storm and of putting politics ahead of the needs of residents. The issue turned into a political squabble between Gillum and Gov. Rick Scott. Scott accused Gillum of slowing down the restoration of power after the storm by turning away assistance from power crews from other areas. Gillum said crews had to wait until the main power lines into the city were repaired before crews could focus on restoring power to neighborhoods and that there were safety issues that related to visiting crews who did not have knowledge of the Tallahassee area.
On Friday, the Gillum campaign responded with a video release from Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil. McNeil, the former police chief of Tallahassee, defended Gillum’s actions during Hermine.
“I’m disappointed that Ron DeSantis is lying about Mayor Andrew Gillum and I’m appalled he’s using hurricanes to score political points,” McNeil charged. “When Tallahasse was struck by its first hurricane in thirty years, Mayor Gillum led our city courageously. We had no loss of life, restored power quickly and our city came together. That’s leadership.”
Gillum’s campaign made note that DeSantis has previously voted against disaster relief bills in Congress to help other areas recover from natural disaster based on ideological grounds.