Environment a neglected issue in Florida governor’s race

1000 Friends of Florida, a group focusing on growth management issues statewide, sent a questionnaire last month to the eight major party candidates in the state Cabinet races.

The number of responses: Zero, said Charles Pattison, the group’s president.

That may be telling about the importance that growth and environmental issues are playing in this year’s governor’s race. With less than four weeks until the election, neither candidate in the governor’s race has said much publicly about those issues.

Voters are telling pollsters that the economy and jobs are the top issue, with the environment and other social issues ranking very low, said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc.

There is some mention of jobs in the governor’s race, but the environment is not alone among the issues being ignored, Coker said.

“The governor’s race has become nothing more than a food fight,” he said. “Nobody is talking about any issues.”

Democrat Alex Sink last week quietly released her environmental platform to select groups. Republican Rick Scott has said little about the environment while championing “energy independence” including more nuclear power. And he supports offshore drilling, in contrast to Sink and most environmental groups.

The Sierra Club announced Friday it was endorsing Sink. Even voters who are most concerned about the economy should be able to tell from the BP oil spill how important Florida’s environment is to its economy, said Cecilia Height, Sierra Club Florida’s political chair.

“You can see how the environment and the economy are intricately linked in that scenario,” Height said. “Those [Florida Panhandle residents affected by the oil spill] are still hurting and will be hurting for many, many years to come.”

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Scott, with chamber chairman Steve Halverson saying that Scott’s experience in creating jobs “is the type of leadership that Florida’s economy needs.”

People are wanting jobs, not the “latest and greatest environmental regulation,” said Adam Babington, the Chamber’s vice president for governmental affairs.

Scott has on a few lines on the environmental issues section of his Web site. Regarding the economy, he says he is against “job killing regulations.” That kind of talk doesn’t provide comfort to growth management supporters, said Pattison, of 1000 Friends of Florida.

The group is concerned about the Florida Department of Community Affairs, whose future was left in question this year when the Legislature refused to reauthorize the agency as part of the “sunset review” process. Sink says she will support the agency, but Scott said in a St. Petersburg Times report on Friday that he favors getting rid of the agency.

“The reason we keep plugging away at it [growth management] is we think there will be a recovery at some point,” Pattison said. “We don’t want to see mistakes made again that we didn’t learn from in the current situation.”

To learn more about both candidates’ positions on the environment and to find links to their campaign literature on the topic, go to, see “Sink quietly releases environmental Plan to Key Groups” by the Florida Tribune.

(Story provided by the Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting brucebritchie@gmail.com.)