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 DeSantisFlorida public schools will be required to provide mental health education for students To win over Midwesterners, Democrats should rethink school choice stance DeSantis wants statue of civil rights activist to replace Confederate figure on Capitol Hill 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 NelsonAl Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups 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.