CNN's nationally televised senatorial debate next week between Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida and incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has been postponed after Scott asked for two weeks to focus on the devastation wrought on the state by Hurricane Michael.
The widely anticipated event had been set for Tuesday, Oct. 16. The Senate race is among the closest in the nation, with most recent polls showing Nelson and Scott locked in a virtual dead heat. The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, calls the race a "toss-up."
But in an email Thursday, Scott's campaign manager Jackie Schutz Zeckman said the governor had asked CNN to delay the debate for two weeks because in the immediate future the storm's aftermath requires his undivided attention.
"Due to the catastrophic destruction caused by Hurricane Michael, Governor Scott will be solely focused on response and recovery efforts," Zeckman's email read. "Ensuring Florida’s Panhandle and Big Bend communities can rebuild and return to their homes and jobs is top priority. We are sure Senator Nelson agrees. So, today, the Scott for Florida campaign has asked CNN to postpone the debate between Governor Scott and Senator Nelson for two weeks (originally scheduled for next Tuesday, 10/16).
"We appreciate CNN understanding the dire situation in North Florida," she continued. "Floridians deserve the chance to see candidates debate so they can judge their leadership skills, experience, and differences. Governor Scott looks forward to debating, but will have no time for campaigning in the next few weeks as he focuses exclusively on recovery efforts for the foreseeable future."
A CNN spokesperson said in a written statement that the network worked out a delay in an agreement with both campaigns so the state could give the recovery process a good start.
"Due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Michael in Florida, CNN, in agreement with both campaigns, is postponing the Florida Senate debate between Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott," the spokesperson said. "A date and time for the rescheduled debate will be announced soon."
Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin told The Hill newspaper in an email the senator was busy, too, making sure storm-affected residents receive federal assistance.
"Sen. Bill Nelson is in Florida's Panhandle today and is working with federal authorities to get the maximum amount of resources into the state as soon as possible to help those who have been hardest hit by Hurricane Michael," McLaughlin said in a Thursday email. "Now is not the time to discuss politics."
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