In yet another of many recent examples of fever pitch partisanship begetting uncharitable and unseemly behavior as the new normal in partisan discourse, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), the Republican candidate for governor in Florida this year, ran attack ads during Hurricane Michael, breaking an unwritten rule of politics in Florida, where hurricanes are a regular and devastating hazard.
The death toll from Hurricane Michael’s destruction rose to 11 last night, as commentators note that the Category 4 storm was the third most powerful to make landfall on the mainland United States since meteorologists began keeping records in the 1950s.
As Hurricane Michael tore a path of destruction through the Florida panhandle this week, and eyes were glued to the screen in Florida for more information about the hurricane, the DeSantis campaign ran attack ads bashing the congressman’s Democratic rival, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, over his city’s response to a hurricane in 2016.
Here’s the ad:
“I know a lot people up there are obviously glued to their TV sets, looking for the most recent and up-to-date information… and the idea that a political candidate like Mr. DeSantis would air these false, insulting and frankly contemptuously partisan ads at this moment…. is despicable,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, “It’s not a time to be opportunistic. It’s a time to care.”
In a partisan race to the bottom, Democrats in the state returned the favor in their own break with decorum. A Democratic Super PAC supporting Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) ran an attack ad in strike-zone areas during the hurricane, calling his opponent, Gov. Rick Scott a dishonest “shady millionaire who doesn’t look out for you.”
The attack ads during a hurricane, a supreme test of true leadership for Florida politicians, is another unfortunate break with customary propriety, the latest escalation in an arms race of indecency between the hyper-polarized Republican and Democratic Parties.
“We can’t recall a time where candidates for statewide office have not pulled down negative ads during hurricane season,” Gillum said on MSNBC, “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.”
“You run your campaign the way you run your campaign. It is what it is,” DeSantis said in Tampa. “We’ve had all this planned out long before and we’re going to stick with our plan so people will see that unfold in the next day or two.”
The Republican Party of Florida decided to pull the ads after Craig Fugate, the Florida Director for Emergency Management, called upon all candidates in the state to pull these kind of ads at this time.