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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio's environmental focus has critics asking, Where were you before?

"Indian River Lagoon advocates ask: Where is Rubio?"

That was a TCpalm headline in September 2014, which began, “During this summer’s Indian River Lagoon crisis, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio — Florida’s most notable name on Capitol Hill — was neither vocal nor visible on the issue.”

Today, Rubio makes a visit to the area, a trip in his official capacity but one that serves his re-election campaign. Critics on both sides today called him out.

UPDATE: Rubio did visit the lagoon in June 2014.

“Now that he’s surrounded by campaign photographers, Marco Rubio has suddenly found the time to address the toxic environmental strain that has been choking Florida waterways for years,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Max Steele. “What else could Floridians expect for a part-time Senator who abandoned the challenges facing the Sunshine State to pursue his presidential ambitions?”

GOP primary opponent Carlos Beruff issued a release laced with links to news articles and columns about Rubio’s absence on the water issue.

“From his absence during the lost summer of 2013 to his broken promise to hold regular discussions with stakeholders, Marco Rubio has failed to use his time and position in Washington to solve the problems impacting the Indian River Lagoon,” spokesman Chris Hartline said. “If Treasure Coast residents want a senator who will visit them every year and is committed to using his business experience to solve Florida’s problems, they should vote for Carlos Beruff. If they want more of the same inaction, then No-Show Marco is their man.”

Rubio is to hold a news conference about 11:45 a.m. His office in a news release noted how he wrote a letter urging the Army Corps to “take immediate action, including stopping discharges from Lake Okeechobee, to help Florida’s Treasure Coast.”

Rubio did pay a visit to the area before -- as critics complained he was MIA -- and he had advocated along with Sen. Bill Nelson for the Central Everglades Planning Project. Rubio also pushed Republican colleagues to priortize Everglades restoration.

His office provided a list of water issues he has worked, starting with the CEPP in 2013. He introduced a bill in 2014 to take redirect oversight of the “mismanaged” federal Ten Mile Creek Water Preserve Area restoration to the state. He also held a January 2015 stakeholder conference call on Lake Okeechobee discharges.

But Rubio has also faced criticism for not doing enough. "He has largely abandoned Florida and those who pay his salary," read a TCpalm editorial in 2015. "If he thinks he can run for president and count on Florida supporting him, based on his current record he may be severely disappointed."

That criticism spilled over today, where protesters (no doubt Democrats among them) jeered the senator as he toured the area.

[Last modified: Friday, July 1, 2016 4:38pm]


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