During a heated campaign season, are candidates avoiding the issue of water quality?

With Florida’s reputation surrounding the environment and water, people are now asking why it seems candidates running to lead our state are avoiding the water quality crisis.

On Maryellen Saba’s Cape Coral canal, the smell of blue-green algae is hard to miss. She says, “The smell is so strong that we can no longer go outside.”

Also in Cape Coral, Jim mullins while trying to break up the algae in his backyard said, “My wife, I finally had to send her back to Connecticut. Because she was vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, the nose, the throat, I had to get her out of here.”

With the Florida primary just weeks away, some are questioning why political ads don’t seem to focus on the topic so many are talking about.

The ads currently running on TV from gubernatorial candidates focus on may issues such as ones from Gwen Graham, “Donald Trump is not going to be able to stand in my way“; Ron DeSantis: “Loves playing with the kids.. Build the wall“; and Adam Putnam, “Fighting for faith, family, and freedom“.

Water quality issues are so critical for us because we’re so close to it here in Southwest Florida. But, the closer you go into the center of the state, other issues tend to take precedence.

Experts like FGCU political science professor Dr. Peter Bergerson is not surprised the SWFL water crisis isn’t at the forefront, “Emotional issues is what brings out the voters. So, terrorism, immigration, those are the ones that tend to crowd out the water quality issue.”

“It’s not that they’re ignoring the issues, it’s just that it’s not a high priority issue for primary voters,” Bergerson  explained.

But for homeowners like Jim Mullins, he says it’s left him feeling ignored, “There’s nobody… I don’t think there’s anybody that I’m going after. I mean this is a crisis. This is a man-made disaster we’re going through right now.”

We reached out to 9 candidates running for Florida Governor and US Senate.

We heard back from 5 about how they’re addressing the water quality issue during the campaign and you can read the full responses below.

*Additional responses will be added as candidates reply.

Full responses from the campaigns:

Andrew Gillum for Governor Campaign:

“The Gillum campaign is only running one television ad right now, and it’s a general ad and not dedicated to one single issue. The Mayor has forcefully talked about this crisis, including the July 18 Ft. Myers debate.”

Jeff Greene for Governor Campaign: 

“Jeff Greene has been outspoken about the water crises facing Florida, and has made these issues a focus of his digital advertising. Jeff discusses the algae crisis in particular at every available opportunity — it is a disaster for our environment, our economy, and the health and safety of Floridians.

While it is popular in politics to blame Big Sugar for all of our algae woes, Jeff understands it’s a little more complicated than that — phosphorous (sic) and nitrogen deposits come from agriculture, lawn over-fertilizing, and septic tank leakage. It’s vital that we fully fund CERP and address these three major pollutant factors so we can clean up our precious waterways. As for red tide, oysters may be a starting point, but they can only do so much — we need more research to understand how to swiftly combat this massive problem.”

Chris King for Governor Campaign:

“As Florida’s coasts struggle with steep environmental challenges, Chris has made this a priority and his bold, progressive campaign has led the debate on water quality and moved the rest of the Democratic field to shun Big Sugar.”

Our first ad talked about this very issue. Watch “New Direction“. Another ad talks about Big Sugar corporations’ abuses of Florida’s environment. Watch “Mary Grace

Those two commercials represent 50% of the TV ads the King campaign has run.

Philip Levine for Governor Campaign: 

“We have had 3 ads which have run on TV and were put out digitally on social media.

One focuses on the blue-green algae crisis and was released on the same day that discharges from Lake Okeechobee were set to resume and bring toxic blue-green algae flowing into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. The spot, “Toxic,” highlights Mayor Levine’s commitment to taking action to protect Florida’s waterways and was aired in the Palm Beach media market.

Another spot, “A Leader,” which ran in media markets across Florida, features Mayor Levine on the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers, scooping toxic algae off of the river’s surface. The ad showcases how twenty years of Republican control has left our state worse off and highlights Mayor Levine’s record of accomplishment as well as his commitment to reversing the damage done to Florida’s education, environment, and public safety.

The final ad, “Denial,” highlights Philip Levine’s commitment to standing up to Donald Trump and the oil drillers, and to putting a stop to the threat of off-shore oil drilling in Florida for good. The ad ran across all of Florida’s media markets.

To date we have had 26 ads run on TV, 3 of which have been addressing water quality issues, which makes 11.5%.”

Adam Putnam for Governor Campaign:

At this week’s Republican Gubernatorial debate in Jacksonville, Adam Putnam said: “I am committed to protecting Florida’s water supply. It is our golden goose, protecting our water quality, protecting our water quantity and making sure that we can close the gap on the 100 million gallon a day shortfall that we face by 2030.”

Adam Putnam has been leading the charge on water policy for years and has fought for Florida’s water and land protection and conservation at every turn:

  • Putnam has worked with Governor Scott to push the federal government to expedite repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee. He also believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers need to reevaluate the discharge process.
  • Putnam helped secure more than $1 billion in federal funding for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), a plan to restore, protect and preserve the water resources of Central and South Florida, including the Everglades.
  • Putnam has been a champion for restoring the health and volume of Florida’s water supply, repeatedly saying that “the biggest long-term challenge facing our state is water.”
  • Putnam developed and implemented the most comprehensive water policy Florida has seen in decades. The bill, which not only works to fulfill future water supply needs, also protects and restores Florida’s iconic springs, and helps meet the minimum flows necessary for a healthy and balanced ecosystem. Notably, this effort has earned the praise of many environmental organizations, including the Everglades Foundation, Audubon Florida and The Nature Conservancy.
  • Through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, a public-private partnership that protects land from development while keeping it under private management, Putnam has worked to protect more than 47,000 acres in conservation easements.
Reporter:Brooke Shafer
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