Energy is at the heart of Florida election

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Energy policy is a pivotal issue in the impending gubernatorial election in Florida, the U.S.’ biggest swing state in November’s mid-term elections.

There is little doubt which of the two main candidates the state utilities are backing, according to a recent report by Reuters which states the Florida Republican party, and incumbent governor Rick Scott, have banked $3.55 million in donations from the three biggest power companies.

The news agency reports the state’s biggest power supplier, Florida Power and Light, has handed over $1.2 million to state Republicans and Scott’s campaign, a figure matched by fellow utility Duke Energy Florida with Tampa Electric Company donating a further $1.15 million. The $500,000 given to the state’s Democratic party by the same donors is far short of an enthusiastic hedge on the outcome of the November 4 election.

Rise of the Tea Party

Renewable energy advocates have thrown in their lot with ex-governor Charlie Crist, himself a former Republican who fell victim to the rise of the extremist Tea Party movement when he left the Florida post to run unsuccessfully as a Republican nominee for the Senate against Marco Rubio in 2010.

Crist – who has banked an estimated $21 million in campaign contributions since November, against Scott’s $28 million, according to Reuters figures – switched allegiance to the Democrats in December 2012 and has criticized his opponent’s record in office of supporting energy bill rises to finance nuclear plants, natural gas pipelines and power lines for his utility backers. Scott’s campaign has been quick to point out Crist also supported an expansion of nuclear when he was governor, from 2007-11.

The Reuters report adds non-partisan watchdog Integrity Florida this year criticized the state’s energy companies for being among the biggest donors to state-level political campaigns, contributing an estimated $18 million between 2004 and 2012, two-thirds of which has gone to the Republican party and candidates.

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