Bill Nelson Shifts Focus to Campaign: I’ve ‘Done Everything I Can Do’ to Help Floridians Affected by Hurricane

Sen. Bill Nelson / Getty Images

Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) says he has done all he can to help victims of Hurricane Michael and will focus on campaigning in the coming days and weeks.

"I'm going to campaign," Nelson said. "I've spent the last week in the Panhandle in those storm ravaged counties, and have done everything I can do and they know to call me if they are getting any hiccups. But in the meantime, I'm going to continue to make my case to the people."

Nelson met with scientists and gulf businesses in St. Petersburg in his first appearance outside the Florida Panhandle since the storm hit last week, the Tampa Bay Times reports. During his appearance in St. Petersburg, Nelson criticized the environmental record of his Republican opponent, Gov. Rick Scott.

Unlike Nelson, Scott has stayed in North Florida to oversee recovery efforts.

"I'm going to say this. We've got to let folks know that this man helped us," Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young said of the Republican candidate.

A heavily Democratic county northwest of Tallahassee, Gadsden lost at least two people to the hurricane. Rep. Al Lawson (D., Fla.) expressed appreciation for Scott's focus on hurricane recovery.

"People really appreciate him coming in," Lawson said. "His concern is not so much about a campaign but about their well-being."

Earlier this week, former Nelson spokesman and current campaign adviser Dan McLaughlin criticized Scott for being absent on the campaign trail and "hid[ing] from voters" while attending to hurricane relief efforts.

While the governor has focused on recovery, his wife Ann has taken his place as a surrogate on the campaign trail. McLaughlin called this a "cynical" ploy to avoid voters and protesters.

Nelson's campaign also pushed back on a request from Scott to postpone a CNN sponsored debate, which was initially scheduled for Oct. 16. CNN proposed Oct. 25 as a new date, which Scott's campaign accepted.

The Democrat's campaign, however, called the new date "very late in the election."

The RealClearPolitics polling average shows Florida's Senate race is currently a tie, with Scott leading by 2 points in the most recent poll.