Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist will have to wait a little longer to debate.
The pair’s only planned debate has been postponed due to ongoing recovery efforts in Southwest Florida due to Hurricane Ian. The debate, hosted by CBC West Palm Beach affiliate WPEC-TV, was scheduled for Oct. 12 in Fort Pierce. Debate planners are working with both campaigns to secure a new debate date, expected sometime this month.
“We are working with the event host and Gov. DeSantis’ team to reschedule the debate as soon as possible,” Crist Campaign Manager Austin Durrer said. “We’re the third largest state, and a purple one at that. Voters deserve to see both candidates on stage, with a statewide audience, discussing their records and vision for moving Florida forward. I think we’ll have good news to report shortly.”
The postponement was issued in order to ensure all Floridians affected by the storm are able to adequately recover and be able to view the debate.
As of Wednesday morning, 320,000 Floridians remained without power, most in Charlotte, DeSoto and Lee counties in Southwest Florida, according to PowerOutage.US.
Crist, a former Republican Governor and recent Democratic U.S. Congressman, is challenging DeSantis in this year’s Nov. 8 General Election.
The hurricane will likely become an election issue as DeSantis faces mounting criticism for his hurricane response, including perceived delays in issuing evacuation orders in Lee County that, in some cases, gave residents just 24 hours to make evacuation arrangements.
Of the 109 deaths reported from the hurricane so far, 105 were in Florida and the highest concentration, 55, were in hard-hit Lee County. DeSantis has defended the evacuation orders noting the unpredictability of the storm’s projected path as it approached Florida, which for a time, put Lee County outside of the projected landfall cone.
He also faced criticism over an appearance in Southwest Florida, which caused some volunteers to temporarily delay aid missions providing supplies to those in need. DeSantis also defended those accusations, calling them lies.
Crist took to Facebook Tuesday to join in the critique, writing that it was “disgusting to see Ron DeSantis blame anyone and everyone … rather than own up to his failure of leadership.”
Both candidates have been in Southwest Florida offering aid. Crist and members of his campaign made “wellness calls” to those in impacted areas Tuesday. DeSantis was also in the area Tuesday serving food to residents in Port Charlotte.
DeSantis is set to meet with President Joe Biden Wednesday to discuss hurricane relief.
Crist had originally agreed to three debates with his opponent, but only one was agreed upon.