The most recent three-way debate in the race for U.S. Senate in Florida barely touched energy policy.
Democratic candidate and current Congressman Kendrick Meek led the way for energy talk with a whopping four references to energy policy and one of them is a pretty big stretch. Independent candidate, and current Florida Governor Charlie Crist, devoted a sentence to energy, and Marco Rubio didn’t mention the issue once.
To be fair, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who moderated most of the debate, didn’t ask a single energy or environmental question. The issues tackled (in order) were: Social security, accusations of corruption for both Rubio and Crist, endorsements of the Democratic party, the economic stimulus package, healthcare, the size of government, extending the Bush tax cuts, the Florida state budget, Afghanistan, high-speed rail and gay adoption.
As for those four shout-outs to energy and environmental policy, two came from Meek during his opening remarks. Meek invoked big oil during an attack on the Republican candidate. “If you want a United States senator that’s going to stand with oil companies and the special interests…then you should vote for Marco Rubio,” Meek said.
As Meek went on, he invoked the hot topic of offshore drilling in an attack against both Rubio and Crist. “If you want a candidate and a United States senator that will stand with you against oil companies, not allowing them to drill off the coast of Florida, as I have done, I am the only one that’s sitting at this table who’s done it.”
Like Crist, Rubio made not one mention of offshore drilling, or anything energy related, during his opening statement. In fact, the next mention of anything energy related came when Crist had to defend his support of the stimulus package and tried to shift the subject to political ideologies. “Democrats also have some good ideas about investing in clean energy and technology and doing what’s right,” the former Republican said.
Meek seemed to take issue with Crist’s pandering to Democrats when he proclaimed, “Who’s the pro-environment candidate here? I am. I am 100 percent for protecting against offshore oil drilling.”
Rubio stayed away from that discussion. In fact, the closest the debate came to discussing energy and the environment again was a spar over supporting a federally funded high-speed rail project in Florida. It is a stretch to call that an environmental or energy issue, but for the sake of including more material, I’m including it.
Rubio opposed the rail project saying it wasn’t a priority; Meek supported it saying it was a job creator; Crist supported it saying the rail project was a good middle ground policy for balancing job creation with federal investment.