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Gillum to miss first debate against DeSantis due to storm recovery efforts

Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum (D) announced Saturday that he will miss the first of three scheduled debates against former Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisLewandowski, Florida state senators tussle over Trump's influence on midterms: report Can the climate movement survive populism? Lessons from 'yellow vest' protests Andrew Gillum met with Obama during DC visit: report MORE (R) as he directs storm cleanup efforts in Tallahassee.

Gillum, who is the mayor of Tallahassee, told the Tampa Bay Times in a statement that he would miss Tuesday's planned debate in Orlando, Fla., and would return to the campaign trail on Thursday.

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"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," he told the Times.

"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," he added.

Gillum confirmed his plans to remain off the campaign trail through Wednesday in a Facebook video posted to his campaign's account on Saturday afternoon.

A CNN debate originally scheduled for Tuesday between Florida Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonManchin’s likely senior role on key energy panel rankles progressives Rick Scott delays Senate swearing-in ceremony Races Dems narrowly lost show party needs to return to Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy MORE (D) and his opponent GOP Gov. Rick Scott was also postponed.

Florida is a top battleground state this November, with Republicans and Democrats closely watching its Senate and gubernatorial races. 

Scott is in the middle of a tight Senate race against Nelson, who is facing a crucial test of his leadership as he spearheads rescue and recovery efforts.

Gillum and DeSantis are also locked in a heated race for the state's governorship. RealClearPolitics has ranked the race a "toss-up" with an average of polling giving Gillum a slight edge.