Oil rig digging a relief well in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Eric Gay/AP
(5/6/10) FT. LAUDERDALE, FL – With the gulf oil spill threatening Florida’s panhandle, South Florida’s Rep. Kendrick Meek, running for the U.S. Senate, together with Florida’s Sen. Bill Nelson, brought legislation in their respective houses to block President Obama’s plans to expand oil drilling off Florida’s shores, and is using it as an issue in his campaign.
Despite Obama’s opposition during the presidential campaign to the Republican slogan, “Drill, Baby, Drill!” the President’s recent decision on off-shore drilling seems to be in more line with the conservative Republican position than what Floridian Democrats have long advocated. Governor Charlie Crist, himself now an Independent candidate for the Senate seat, is also going back to his gubernatorial campaign promise to fight off-shore drilling, despite having flip-flopped in favor of it when he was in consideration for being McCain’s VP pick. He was against it; then he was in favor of it; now he’s against it again.
All three candidates are being forced to take a position due to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, now threatening Florida’s panhandle and possibly the west coast of the state. Despite Crist’s flip-flopping, he has returned to the moderate position he became popular for in his quest for the Governor’s Mansion, particularly after viewing the spill and leaving the GOP.
Miami-Dade’s Marco Rubio, however, has found himself in the unique position of being a Republican while supporting the Obama administration’s stance – cautiously supporting expanded oil drilling. Considering the current circumstances, Rubio is in dangerous waters, as even staunch advocates of off-shore drilling have quieted their rhetoric due to the catastrophe in the Gulf.
Rubio’s position is based on the concept of accessing sources of energy. Crist and Meek’s positions seem to be based on safety concerns suddenly emerging from the Gulf oil spill. Quoted by the Miami Herald, Crist said that off-shore oil drilling “is not safe enough, and it sure as heck is not clean enough.” A spokesperson for Meek criticized both opponents as having been in the “Drill, Baby, Drill!” camp in the past, while Meek has been consistently opposed to such hazardous activity.
In a related note, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush, endorsed Marco Rubio for Sentate. Rubio has also received the blessing of one other notorious Republican – former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Democratic North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns officially withdrew from the Senate Race today, and has decided to run for Dan Gelber’s Florida Senate seat, as Gelber seeks the Attorney General’s position in November.