Despite the best efforts of some to keep politics out of the tragedy unfolding in Surfside, the task is proving all but impossible. The aftermath of the Surfside collapse will soon usher in major changes requiring cooperation across the political spectrum. From local ordinances and building code enforcement to insurance companies looking to shore up potential liability exposure, all levels of government will have a role to play in the months ahead, and political leaders will have to put aside partisan differences to make progress and ensure a similar disaster doesn’t happen again.
On Monday, Florida Senator Jason Pizzo (D-Miami-Dade) seemed to realize that and took to Twitter to call for a cease-fire in the partisan bickering beginning to emerge in the wake of the horrific collapse of the high-rise condominium near Miami.
“There’s no room or reason to politicize #Surfside – building issues likely stem from years of neglect, which must be addressed. Most city, county, state, federal officials trying to work together for victims now, and (we’ll insist) for the future. Focus on the families, please.”
His effort might have made some think twice. But it wasn’t enough to stop a pair of high-profile Democrats from using the tragedy as a tool to criticize the actions of Governor Ron DeSantis and his response to the crisis. And Republicans quickly came to DeSantis’s defense and fired back. Both the Democrat challengers for the governor’s mansion in 2022 took shots at the governor for going to Pensacola on Friday morning to see off Florida law enforcement officers deploying to the Texas border to assist with the immigration crisis.
Democrat U.S. Representative Charlie Crist, who recently launched his campaign for governor against DeSantis tweeted, “It’s shameful that Governor DeSantis left the scene of a terrible crisis to hold a partisan press conference.”
Yet Crist’s next tweet was about the merchandise he has on sale to support his run for governor.
Crist’s rival for the Democrat gubernatorial nomination, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, wasn’t any better. She, like Crist, blasted DeSantis for the same reason.
“I just can’t. There is a real emergency in Florida but Ron is so thirsty for @FoxNews air time that this is what he’s doing today.”
Fried was referring to an interview DeSantis gave on Friday from Pensacola in which he talked about the deployment of Florida Law Enforcement to Texas, and of course, about the building collapse in Surfside.
But Republican operatives then pointed out that Fried, like Crist, has been campaigning non-stop since the Surfside disaster. Just after 4:30pm on Monday, The Capitolist obtained a purported text message from Fried’s campaign blasting DeSantis and thanking supporters for being on her team:
Fried did later send out another tweet in which she thanked the governor for the state’s response to the disaster site.
“The families of the #SurfsideBuildingCollapse feel the love and support. Thank you @POTUS, @GovRonDeSantis, @LevineCava, @MiamiDadeFire, @MiamiDadePD, @IDF (a search and rescue team from Israel) for coming together.”
Despite the criticisms from some corners, DeSantis spent most, though not all, of the weekend meeting with officials and survivors and families of the victims of the collapse. But the cooperation and public comments from both DeSantis and President Joe Biden’s Administration have remained focused solidly on the disaster, with both clearly cooperating with the other.
Other Democrats have been similarly cordial with DeSantis. Danielle Levine Cava, the Democrat Mayor of Miami, has said many times over the last few days how thankful she is for the assistance coming from the state and federal government.
Cava told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press Sunday, “We are very grateful, not only has the state of Florida been here in force but the President on the morning of the disaster called to offer all possible assistance. By the end of that day, we had FEMA approval. We’ve not lacked for any support.”
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett made it clear that the problems they’ve faced aren’t related to shortages of equipment or manpower, but to bad breaks, including weather and small fires associated with the collapse.
“We don’t have a resource problem, we have a luck problem,” Burkett said.