Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is making his first campaign stop in Pinellas County since his surprise victory in the Democratic primary for Governor.
Gillum and incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson are featured speakers at the Pinellas County ‘Democrats’ Wave to Victory’ dinner this Saturday at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon.
The event is the party’s biggest fundraiser benefiting Pinellas County Democratic candidates.
While the hotel is nowhere near Pinellas beaches, red tide will likely be a topic of conversation. Gillum is considering touring some of the devastation this weekend, according to campaign sources.
The giant bacteria bloom, known as red tide for discoloring water to a rust-like color, is covering Florida’s Gulf Coast from southwest Florida all the way north to Clearwater.
Mounds of dead fish have been piling up on beaches. The foul odor and even respiratory distress caused from bacteria in the air has pushed visitors away from the beach, leaving popular spots like John’s Pass looking like ghost towns.
The issue has become a talking point, particularly in Nelson’s campaign. His opponent, term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott, was booed out of a Cuban restaurant in Venice this week by critics.
While the campaign and the Governor’s Office continue to emphasize red tide is a naturally occurring event that has been ongoing since the 1840s, Democrats and other critics fire back that his environmental policies have exacerbated the situation.
A Real Clear Politics poll released this week found 32 percent of respondents believed the state government was to blame for the outbreak.
Nelson’s race is one of the most important Senate races in the nation this year. While Democrats hope to overtake a majority in the Senate by unseating incumbent Republicans, they also must protect incumbent Democrats.
Polls show Nelson faces a credible risk of losing to Scott, and the Real Clear Politics poll put the two neck-and-neck this November.
Other guests at the Wave to Victory Dinner include Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw, CFO candidate Jeremy Ring, and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried.
Congressman Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman are also attending. The event includes a cocktail hour from 6-7 p.m. and dinner and program from 7-10 p.m.