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Red Tide Politics: It’s the environment, stupid.

Candidates in Southwest Florida anticipated lengthy debates about Medicaid expansions, gun rights and maybe charter school funding to dominate political discourse this election.

So it seemed illustrative to state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo when a Naples candidate informed contained not one question about health care came up.

“This year,” she said, “it’s all about the water and our quality of life.”

Welcome to red tide politics.

First blue-green algae coursed along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers following unpopular discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Then red tide struck beaches on Florida’s east and west coasts.

Republican leaders, most especially Gov. Rick Scott, suddenly faced questions over deregulation and the appointment of business leaders instead of scientists on water management district boards in South Florida. The smell of dead fish and the issuance of no-swim advisories turned harmful algal blooms from an academic term to a hot-button issue.

Candidates knocking on doors along both coasts reported the top question, whether politicians ran for the Florida Legislature, county commission or local mosquito board, pertained to red tide.

It seemed quite the shift in conversation after a decade of Tea Party politics in which environmental regulation became anathema to conservative ideology.

Scott’s reported ban on the terms “climate change” and “global warming” seemed suddenly counter-productive. Sen. Marco Rubio, a one-time Tea Party hero, lobbied President Donald Trump’s administration to adjust discharge schedules.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham returned donations from the sugar industry, making Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam the only major candidate running for Florida’s highest office this year to keep money from the environmental boogeyman.

Neither Graham nor Putnam made it out of primary season.

In the general election season, Republicans in once safe seats suddenly faced well-funded opponents. Even when a hurricane seemed to draw red tide back out to sea, Democrats like District 73 House candidate Liv Coleman continued to batter the message home running footage of dead fish just in case voters forgot the sight.

At a Tiger Bay debate in Sarasota, Democrats Tracy Pratt and Tony Mowry hammered Republican opponents Will Robinson and James Buchanan for environmental deregulation under the GOP, even though neither of the conservatives had served in the Legislature and both promised to get tough on polluters.

Republican state Rep. Joe Gruters, a state Senate hopeful this year, held a joint town hall with Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good as both candidates showed their commitment to bipartisan solutions to fixing the environment.

And even in major Republican strongholds like Lee County, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum packed a venue with the promise of taking questions on environmental preservation.

John Capese, Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida’s Southwest Chapter, could be found on the sidelines of that event, excited at the sense of urgency green issues gained during the election cycle.

He wondered if the environment could give life even to longshot Democrats like David Holden, the Democratic challenging U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

It’s unclear whether Rooney lost much sleep at that prospect, and no major political prognosticators paid any heed to the race. But a couple days after the Gillum town hall, Rooney took the stage at a Trump rally, and the message he sent to voters was about recent funding approval for a new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

Scott raised the same matter at Trump rallies in Pensacola and Fort Myers. But Sen. Bill Nelson barraged airwaves with ads that put the onus on “Red Tide Rick.”

Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, though, avoided such attacks by making enemies with Big Sugar years ago. One of his strongest days of the general election season, and one that sent Democrats into convulsions, came as he secured the endorsement of the Everglades Trust.

Seeing an environmental group back the GOP candidate certainly seemed off, but only through the prism of politics in the year 2018.

In the not-so-distant past, GOP leaders like Gov. Jeb Bush championed Florida Forever funding. Gov. Claude Kirk campaigned during and after his political career on the promise of saving and restoring Florida’s waterways.

It used to be a given that Florida politicians, regardless of party, would always champion the environment. That seemed to chip away a decade ago when even Bush entertained opening Florida’s shores to oil drilling, once a third rail of Florida politics.

That didn’t last long. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster turned once-softening public opinion on petroleum exploration into severe backlash on the idea.

Red tide may once again turn a green platform into a regional requirement for political success in Florida, regardless of hostility between national conservatives and the environmental community.

And in some ways how could that not happen eventually? The Everglades remain a crucial part of Florida’s identity, and beach tourism a critical piece of the state economy.

For all the efforts toward diversification in the economy, manufacturing always faces challenges in the Sunshine State thanks to its limited ground access to most of the continental U.S. In a state surrounded by water on three sides, how long could water quality stay out of headlines and political debates?

Algae just helps twist a famous James Carville truism. He helped President Bill Clinton win the White House asking citizens to make a gut check on whether the economy seemed better than when President George W. Bush took office.

It may take more than pictures of dead fish to lead to many Democratic upsets this evening in safe Republican seats. For many GOP candidates who once expected few questions on the environment had to develop a platform darn quick this year.

In Florida, it’s always the environment stupid.

Andrew Gillum tells Fort Myers scientists ‘get your resumes ready’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum had a message for all scientists concerned about water quality. You may be called to serve on a water management district board of trustees in the immediate future.

“Anybody that cares about our environment and has an acumen for science better get their resumes ready,” Gillum said.

Gillum and running mate Chris King held a town hall in deep red Lee County on Tuesday night, just a week ahead of the election.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley also flew into town, wearing a “Make America Green Again” hat and calling the governor’s race one of the most important in the country for those concerned about the environment.

“If we can have a coast-to-coast partnership, we can save America and lead the world,” Merkley said.

So why would Democrats spend vital campaign time in one of the most reliable Republican counties in Florida? Party leaders here say they see greater displeasure with Republican rule than experienced in decades thanks to algal blooms.

The region first suffered explosions of blue-green algae, then took another bunch on the beaches touched by red tide.

Gillum said the environmental disaster could be traced to policies of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, whom the Democrat referenced as “Red Tide Rick” to applause.

King said residents of coastal areas know the algal blooms not only create environmental problems through fish kills, but have led to air pollution and respiratory problems for many Floridians.

It’s also been an economic disaster for many restaurants and hotels on the water.

“I’ve been so incredibly moved to see how this has impacted people’s lives,” King said.

He also stressed Gillum would appoint knowledgeable stakeholders to water management districts around Florida. “He will appoint people who get it, and who will stand up to those who don’t get it.”

And Gillum stressed he considered poor water management district leadership a statewide problem, not something confined to the South Florida Water Management District.

Perhaps more importantly, Gillum said the issue could be one that moved voters on both sides of the aisle.

When asked what residents of the region could do to help with algae problems besides voting for Gillum-King, which somehow remained the top suggestion of the campaign, Gillum said contacting lawmakers would be the best way to help.

“After we win, it may be the case the Republicans still control the House of Representatives,” he said, “but when it comes to our environment, that’s not a red or blue issue. Republicans and Democrats know what it felt like to go fishing in all kinds of water.”

Worth noting, nobody believes Democrats will retake the Florida House of Representatives. MCI Maps analyst Matt Isbell write in a left-leaning analysis, “Democrats cannot win the chamber, but they can make gains.”

Gillum figures with a hostile House, some pols will arrive in Tallahassee with knives sharpened should he become Florida’s first Democratic governor in 20 years.

“Some will say, what can we do to undermine these guys, to make them a radical failure,” Gillum said.

But the environment will be one of those issues where a coalition from voters on both sides of the aisle may form.

“But we’ve got to show up in the district offices of members, including Republican and Democratic members, to demand accountability on their votes,” he said.

Lindsay Cross ad: ‘Put a scientist in the Senate’

Lindsay Cross launched a new television ad this past weekend highlighting her experience as an “environmental scientist and problem solver, not a politician.”

Cross is running against incumbent Jeff Brandes for the Senate District 24 seat covering parts of St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park and St. Pete Beach.

“As executive director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, I fought for our water supply and our environment. Now I’m ready to fight for you to make sure we have great public schools, access to affordable health care a clean environment and a strong economy because what we don’t need is more red tide and empty promises,” the 30-second ad says.

It ends with Cross’s catchphrase: “It’s time to put a scientist in the Senate.”

The ad comes with a little more than two weeks before the Nov. 6 election, and as Floridians are already returning vote-by-mail ballots.

Despite a giant fundraising gap between Cross and Brandes, the campaigning in that race has been hot.

The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee launched a website and accompanying television ad blasting Cross for her “radical progressive agenda” and tying her to U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.

The website and ad, which have the same imagery, say the “radicals” support open borders, higher taxes and government-run health care.

Cross has not released specifics on how to implement or fund improved health care access, but it is one of her campaign priorities. She also has not weighed in on the idea of “sanctuary cities,” what the GOP calls municipalities that don’t directly enforce federal immigration laws.

The GOP senatorial committee ad also does not offer a citation for its higher taxes claim, but notes it would be $1 billion. Cross supports Gillum, who proposed a $1 billion education package to improve public education and increase new teacher pay to $50,000 a year by raising corporate income taxes.

Meanwhile, Cross is asking voters to support other Democratic state candidates with science backgrounds this election:

Annisa Karim, a wildlife ecologist running in Senate District 28; 

Melissa ‘Mel’ Martin, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who majored in ocean engineering running in Senate District 14; 

Jennifer Boddicker, a microbiologist campaigning for House District 80; and

Parisima Taeb, a physician running for the House District 78 seat.

In a news release, Cross said the coalition “will craft legislation to reinstate rigorous monitoring and enforcement of evidence-based standards to fight red tide [and] blue-green algae blooms that threaten Florida’s coasts and waterways.”

“Let’s bring science back to state government,” Cross said. “For too long, Gov. Rick Scott and Republican lawmakers have ignored basic scientific principles, and now Florida is paying for it. It’s time to elect leaders who know what they’re doing.”

Democrats are campaigning heavily this election cycle on creating policies and funding priorities to mitigate red tide and blue-green algae blooms as red tide continues to plague Florida’s Gulf Coast, including Pinellas County beaches.

Republicans reject claims that the bloom is their fault, correctly noting red tide is a natural phenomenon that happens nearly every year and has been documented as far back as the 1840s.

Scientists agree red tide is naturally occurring, but also say it might be intensified by bad environmental policy and related runoff.

Scott’s office defends his environmental policies and points to millions of dollars directed at research and mitigation and relief funding to combat red tide.

Scientists to study red tide impact on humans

Scientists are studying whether red tide exposure impacts human health.

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute are taking take nasal swabs, blood and urine looking for traces of the toxic blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) that’s been plaguing Florida beaches.

They’re studying possible links between algae toxins and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and potentially liver failure. The study is being funded though social media crowdsourcing.

The News-Press reports toxins from cyanobacteria produces health effects in humans and animals ranging from mild cold-like symptoms to neurodegenerative diseases, but they’re often unreported or misdiagnosed by public health authorities.

Harbor Branch researchers say there’s no data about human and animal exposure to the blooms. The state health department is not studying potential impacts of exposure.

The study will be peer-reviewed after it’s completed. It could take six months to a year.

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Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Red zone: Andrew Gillum draws hundreds to environmental discussion in conservative territory

The issues affecting Florida vary, but they’re all “interwoven” and dependent on the actions of elected officials up and down the ballot, according to the Democrat running for the top spot on Election Day.

Candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum rolled out his environmental plan on Tuesday, promising a series of changes to preserve the state’s natural resources and actions that he believes would curb issues currently in the fore, like harmful blue-green algal blooms and red tide.

But in part, those changes are conditional. Floridians must send “a whole slate to the Cabinet, and our House and our Senate members all back to Tallahassee,” Gillum said during a waterfront news conference in Siesta Key, which has suffered toxic red tide fish kills this year. In the historically conservative Sarasota town, hundreds of Floridians showed up to listen.

Gillum was joined at the conference by state Rep. Margaret Good, who won a special election in February that’s been heralded as a signal for a Democratic ‘blue wave’ in November. Good’s district went for President Donald Trump in 2016.

Alongside the once-longshot Democratic candidate and in front of calm coastal waters, Gillum pitched to a large crowd that his party had the answer to Florida’s environmental issues.

Good introduced Gillum as “the change” to poor water quality that she blamed on “20 years of Republican rule.”

When Gillum addressed the audience, he spoke of the “intersectionality” between Florida’s issues, suggesting the environment is inextricably linked to the economy, even health care.

“The future of this state very much so depends on what we do to our great environment it depends on the businesses that have sprung up all around this area that depend on the tourism and the ecotourism that helps to power the state of Florida,” Gillum told the crowd. 

The environment weighs on the “well-being” and “health of the people,” he added.  

Shortly after the conference, Gillum rolled out an environmental policy plan. It largely focuses on measures that he believes would mitigate future problems with the toxic red tide and blue-green algal blooms. He advocates for upgrading wastewater treatment processes. He also promotes policies that would require septic-to-sewer conversions.

That concept would likely find support across the partisan aisle, as researchers sponsored by the Florida Chamber of Commerce recently pointed excess nitrogen from older septic tanks as a potential culprit of algal blooms. The Chamber is backing Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis and Gillum also appear to agree on proposed environmental measures. DeSantis unveiled his environmental plan earlier this month, proposing bans on fracking and offshore drilling. Gillum suggests doing the same. Both candidates also recommended similar Everglades protections, including working with the federal government to fully fund the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

DeSantis also would convene a task force to “deal with Florida’s red tide crisis,” according to Stephen Lawson, DeSantis’ communications director.

“Beginning on day one, Ron DeSantis will protect our environment by fighting for the completion of the southern reservoir, stopping the toxic algae discharges, and finding solutions to the red tide,” Lawson added. 

But DeSantis’ record on the environment was attacked by groups like Florida Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club when he unveiled his plan — in part because of his apprehension to address climate change at the state level.

That’s where he and Gillum contrast. In Siesta Key, Gillum called for climate change resiliency efforts to combat rising sea levels. And he targets climate change in his policy plan.

“Sea level rise poses a catastrophic threat to our state — and one we’re wholly unprepared to face,” Gillum’s plan reads. It also proposes that the state reconvene climate change summits started under former Gov. Charlie Crist, and “transition our energy production towards clean, renewable sources like solar and wave/tidal.”

Complementing Gillum’s environmental plan is a new television ad released by his campaign on Tuesday, titled “Protection.” In it, he targets “special interests” and corporations for the state’s environmental issues.

Andrew Gillum

Blame game: Andrew Gillum targets corporations, special interests in environmental ad

A new television ad out from the Andrew Gillum campaign zeroes in on Florida’s environment, specifically the harmful algal blooms wreaking havoc in the state’s coastal waterways.

The culprit: “special interests” and “corporate profit,” according to the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

“The toxic air, red tide and algae blooms around Florida are an economic and environmental disaster,” Gillum says at the beginning of the 30-second spot. “No corporate profit is worth sacrificing our clean air and water.”

Gillum then suggests that the environmental problems in the fore currently won’t be curbed until “we take back our state government from special interests who are only interested in short-term profits, not our health or our jobs.”

In July, the growing presence of harmful blue-green algal blooms in several southeastern counties prompted Gov. Rick Scott to issue a state of emergency.

In August, Scott issued another state of emergency in southwestern counties affected by a different type of algae, colloquially known as red tide.

On the campaign trail, Gillum’s Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, has made a point of addressing blue-green algae.

Gillum on Tuesday also joined Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good in Siesta Key to publicly discuss red tide. He also unveiled a formal environmental plan.

To view the full ad, click on the image below.

Humans and hurricanes created ‘perfect storm’ for algae blooms

According to new research from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the state will need 20 percent more water by 2030, and that water, of course, needs to be clean.

With the dueling water crises currently affecting Florida’s waterways – the blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee and the late-season red tide on the Gulf Coast – Florida Atlantic University professor Brian Lapointe said it’s time to start looking at the science and accepting that human activity caused these problems.

“Irma brought torrential rainfall and flooding across the state. And that’s when the brown tide started coming,” he said.

That massive amount of water overloaded Lake O, stirring up the nutrients in the lake bed serving as a catalyst and creating the “perfect storm” for an algal bloom.

But, Lapointe said, Irma shouldn’t shoulder 100 percent of the blame.

“It’s not the hurricane, it’s actually the nutrients we people bring to the state,” he said. “It’s the Sunshine State, we’ve got the light and temperature [for algal blooms].”

There has been a long debate about who is responsible for the nutrients, specifically nitrogen, in Lake O and other bodies of water. Agriculture played a major role years ago, and non-agricultural fertilizer use was a factor as well, but that’s not really the case anymore according to Lapointe.

“Where reducing fertilizers tremendously in the Sunshine State, so where are the nutrients coming from?” he asked. “All you have to do is read the headlines.”

Those headlines, and Lapointe’s research, put the onus on the tens of thousands of septic tanks near water bodies as well the state’s aging and inadequate wastewater infrastructure. Those tanks and sewers are leaching human waste into the water supply.

“Septic tanks are the major source of nitrogen. Around the Tallahassee area, 50 percent of nitrogen is from septic tanks and only 8 percent is from agricultural sources,” he said.

Fixing those problems will be costly – the infrastructure alone will take $18 billion to fix – but ignoring the problem could be even costlier.

Human fecal coliform killed off part of the coral reef around the Florida Keys, and that’s not even accounting for the human health implications. Residents and tourists have had trouble even breathing the air in the areas most affected by the dual blooms.

“If we do not protect environmental health, in this case water quality, it will have disastrous impacts on human health,” a video played by Lapointe said.

Lapointe closed out his presentation, delivered as part of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Future of Florida Forum, by making calling on business leaders and politicians to pay attention to scientific research before pulling the trigger on new policies.

Activists brave red tide to send Rick Scott a message

A group of local environmentalists and community activists are asking Gov. Rick Scott to accept responsibility for what they describe as his poor environmental record they say worsened the ongoing red tide crisis plaguing Florida’s Gulf coast.

“Our elected leaders have not only done nothing to help us, but they are making the problem worse,” said Susan Glickman, Florida Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Action Fund.

“Warmer weather is making the problem worse. But we have a governor who has denied climate change. He reduced monitoring, he reduced water standards, he reduced enforcement, and we’re all bearing the burden.”

Red tide began in Southwest Florida this summer and has since made its way to Pinellas County beaches where dead fish and toxic air continue to drive locals and visitors away from the beaches and leave businesses belly up.

Activists with the Suncoast Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club rallied at Clearwater Beach’s Pier 60 Thursday condemning Scott for accepting top dollar donations from industries representing polluters.

Activists claim Scott, who is running against incumbent Bill Nelson for the U.S. Senate, is avoiding the topic, pointing to an event in Venice at a Cuban restaurant in which he left through a back door after being booed by voters angry with his environmental policies.

That includes, they say, cutting spending for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Scott’s decision to place nutrient testing in waterways in the hands of the state rather than the more strict federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The administration says the state’s nutrient testing wasn’t watered down. Florida was developing its own, more comprehensive standards for our lakes, rivers, streams, springs and estuaries and the EPA approved those standards, Scott’s office said.

On Florida DEP funding, the budget under Scott’s administration actually increased $300 million, Scott’s office said.

“We don’t need more of Governor Scott’s leadership in the Senate, and we don’t need his style of leadership in the Governor’s house. Both Scott and DeSantis (Republican gubernatorial candidate) value corporate profits over citizens’ health and our environment. We need leadership that will protect our environment and think about citizens of the future,” said David Harbeitner with the Suncoast Sierra Club.

For his part, Scott is repeatedly including the descriptor “naturally-occurring” in any announcements related to red tide. The outbreaks, fueled by an excess of the nutrient K. Brevis, is naturally occurring, but scientists note it can be exacerbated by increases in pollution and blue green algae. Discharges heavy in blue green algae have become prevalent in Lake Okeechobee.

Scott has announced a host of funding measures and policy recommendations to mitigate effects and prevent future outbreaks. He’s committed $14 million in state funds so far for things like research, fishery rehabilitation and possible treatments like pumping ozone into affected waterways to kill red tide and a new form of treatment using specialized clay.

He also asked the state to create a special group to study red tide and called on the Florida Legislature to include funding in next year’s budget for additional research.

Late Thursday, Scott’s administration announced another $3 million specifically for Pinellas County’s red tide clean up efforts.

Governor: Another $3M available to battle red tide

Gov. Rick Scott announced on Friday an additional $3 million in grant funding for communities impacted by red tide.

Over the past few months, Scott and the Department of Environmental Protection have rolled out algae-targeting grants in $3 million batches. The grand total to date: $9 million. That sum includes the $3 million announced in July to target blue-green algae outbreaks, along with $3 million announced last week for Gulf coast counties to battle red tide, a near-annual toxic species that has garnered national attention this season.

“We are using every resource available to support our communities impacted by red tide,” Scott said. “This $9 million in grant funding that DEP is providing to Southwest Florida counties will help get businesses and families back to work as they continue to recover from this year’s red tide.”

The money behind the red tide grants was unlocked after Scott declared a state of emergency over the issue earlier this month. The order enlists state assistance for Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

The breakdown of money in each county so far, according to Scott’s office: $750,000 for Manatee County; more than $190,000 for Collier; $1.1 million for Sarasota; $3.17 million for Lee; and $700,000 for Martin.

Amid worry that this year’s algae outbreaks — both blue-green and red tide — could affect small businesses, Scott also approved an emergency loan program overseen by the Department of Economic Opportunity. Enterprises in areas plagued by blue-green algae have until Sept. 7 to apply for the loans. Those affected by red tide have until Oct. 12.

Water mattered Tuesday, but not in the way clean water activist groups wanted

There is no question; right now water is one of the most important issues in Florida.

With red tide on the west coast, blue-green algae in South and Southwest Florida, voters Tuesday made a statement that candidates in Florida must address the ongoing water crises impacting waterways across the state.

All Floridians deserve access to clean water. But groups like Bullsugar, which has been accused of stirring up trouble online instead of focusing on solutions to these crises, may have done Floridians a disservice by politicizing the issue to the point where the focus has been put on blame and not the actual problem itself.

The group’s record at the polls Tuesday was checkered, with some of its most high-profile candidates going down in flames.

For example, Bullsugar went all in for Chris King for Governor. The group’s leaders even appeared with him at a Treasure Coast news conference this summer.

But King, who was the most anti-sugar candidate in the 2018 field, received less than 3 percent of the vote Tuesday. He received 37,400 votes in an election where 1 million votes were cast — getting less than 5 percent of the vote in Bullsugar’s home county of Martin. Their endorsed candidate for Governor didn’t win a single Florida county — in fact, he didn’t finish higher than fifth in any Florida county.

Bullsugar made it a point to state plainly: “We did not favor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. He was the weakest.”

Well, Gillum won in spectacular fashion.

Bullsugar’s endorsed candidate for Attorney General, Ryan Torrens, lost by 47 percent.

Bullsugar supported, but did not endorse, Denise Grimsley; she lost by 8 percent in her race for Agriculture Commissioner. In that race, Republican winner Matt Caldwell actually called out Bullsugar for its questionnaire. He deemed the organization a “hate group.”

Caldwell won Tuesday in convincing fashion.

The closest any of their endorsed statewide candidates (King) came to winning — lost by 33 percent.

No Bullsugar-endorsed candidate won any single county in Florida — they were 0 for 201 (3 candidates — 67 counties — 201 chances).

No Bullsugar-endorsed candidate won the Bullsugar home county of Martin — none even came close.

Bullsugar did NOT endorse Ron DeSantis for Governor. And while DeSantis, to make clean water a campaign issue, publicly attacked the sugar industry, by all accounts, Donald Trump was the No. 1 factor in that race.

As a matter of fact, Bullsugar did not endorse a single Republican candidate for statewide office.

(Note on the below: 2 checkmarks = endorsed by Bullsugar)

Why is this important? Because in elections, issues that matter most to voters matter the most in the end. Water certainly matters, but it might be a loser in a statewide race. Tuesday’s results prove it.

When issues like water are oversold in a statewide race, voters might feel like they are “forced to care.” When candidates take time away from talking about the issues that matter the most to voters, it can backfire.

For some candidates, it may have on Tuesday.

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