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Citing Hurricane Michael, Gillum says he will return to campaign trail Thursday, missing first debate

The city of Tallahassee, where Gillum is mayor, was affected by the powerful Category 4 storm that plowed through the Panhandle mid-week.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaks to a local reporter on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, while workers from Kissimmee repair a power pole damaged from Hurricane Michael. (Lawrence Mower / Tampa Bay Times)
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaks to a local reporter on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, while workers from Kissimmee repair a power pole damaged from Hurricane Michael. (Lawrence Mower / Tampa Bay Times)

Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum will remain off the campaign trail until Thursday and miss the first scheduled debate against his Republican rival Ron DeSantis, he announced Saturday night.

The Tallahassee mayor, citing the fallout in his city from the unprecedented Category 4 storm that hit the Panhandle Wednesday, said that he would remain focused on his city duties through Wednesday's city commission meeting, meaning he would not participate in the debate scheduled Tuesday in Orlando.

"In times like these, campaigning has to take a backseat to governing. My job is to keep our community safe and ensure Tallahassee recovers as quickly and fully as possible," Gillum said in a statement.

"Over the past several days I have been unable to participate in dozens of campaign events, and this week that will include our participation in the debate sponsored by Telemundo 31 Orlando. I deeply appreciate the organizers' understanding of the situation in Tallahassee. We will work diligently to ensure Telemundo and its audience are represented in the two scheduled debates and other possible forums."

The hour-long debate would have been broadcast 7 p.m. online and on Telemundo stations in Fort Myers, Miami, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach. Another debate is scheduled Oct. 21 on CNN, and a third is scheduled at Broward College Oct. 24.

The city of Tallahassee reported that 70 percent of customers had regained power Saturday, and that it aimed to have power restored to 90 percent by the end of the weekend. Criticism of power restoration during Hurricane Hermine, the last storm to hit the capital city in 2016, had taken center stage in the last week of the campaign.

Tuesday's gubernatorial debate is not the first to be changed because of the storm — CNN delayed the Oct. 16 debate scheduled between U.S. Senate candidates Gov. Rick Scott and incumbent Bill Nelson Thursday.

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