With Tropical Storm Issac potentially churning towards SW Florida at the same time as our state’s largest media market and prepares to host the 2012 Republican National Convention, it’s worth looking back at how previous tropical systems have impacted Florida in an election year.
1928 Okeechobee Hurricane
Officially the second deadliest storm in American History, the storm exacerbated racial tensions and became a national political issue. Herbert Hoover who won the Presidency less than two months after the great Lake Okeechobee flood caused by this storm, immediately pushed the idea of a protective dike around the Lake. This Hoover Dike was built but needed to be strengthened when the 1947 Great Fort Lauderdale Hurricane almost breached its walls. Pam Beach Post writer Elliot Kleinberg’s book, “Black Cloud: The Great Florida Storm of 1928“ is highly recommended regarding this storm.
1950 Hurricane King
The Smathers-Pepper primary had just been decided when up and down the FEC line where Smathers was most successful got hit badly by Hurricane King, an October storm. With so few contested general elections in the Florida of this era, turnout which was severely affected in November by the continued clean up and recovery was largely meaningless.
1960 Hurricane Donna
The 1960 Gubernatorial campaign was abruptly halted in early-September when Donna hit. The responses to Donna became campaign issues in the southern portion of the state not only in the Governor’s race but also in legislative races.
1964 Hurricanes Cleo and Dora
Cleo slammed into south Florida affecting turnout for the Democratic Primary just after Labor Day and delaying the opening of Florida Atlantic University. Dora hit the First Coast (becoming the first storm to directly hit St Augustine in recorded history) right after the primary and recovery from the storm lasted several weeks. Still, Haydon Burns was able to overcome this and win the runoff against the liberal Robert King High.
1992 Hurricane Andrew
Democratic nominees were routed south of Orlando in the 1980, 1984 and 1988 Presidential elections. 1992 was shaping up to different thanks to demographic changes in Broward and Palm Beach counties but Miami-Dade and even SW Florida saw a pick up of support for Bill Clinton (and Ross Perot) thanks to the Bush Administration’s inept handling of the recovery from the Category 5 storm. Bush’s bungled reaction to this storm hurt him in Louisiana as well.
1998 Hurricane Georges
The runoff election was delayed for a week in Monroe County due to this storm, which hit Key West before heading into the Gulf of Mexico. The remnants of Georges (which had made landfall in Mississippi) moved over Panhandle on the day of the runoff and affected turnout.
2004 Hurricane Season
The granddaddy of them all. Hurricane Charley affected much of the state just week’s before the September Primary, and Frances hit the Treasure Coast just days after the primary, and subsequently made two more Florida landfalls. Frances completely disrupted campaigning throughout much of the state. Hurricane Ivan then hit the western Panhandle days after Frances pushed left, and the reminents of this storm eventually affected southern Florida. in an odd occurrence of tropical weather moving south. Just two weeks later, when campaigns were beginning to return to normal, Hurricane Jeanne struck and made campaigning impossible in much of the state for another week. While voter turnout did not suffer due to this record season, campaigning did throughout the state.