In the midst of the GOP Primaries, lots of hot issues come up. But, you know I’m always listening to what they’re saying about the beloved Gulf region. After all, what could possibly be more politically polarizing than that dirty ‘ol black gold? Talk of digging, drilling and piping oil has been a constant in the Republican primary debates. Let's dig a little deeper.
- Mitt Romney is not afraid of aggressive domestic energy exploration. He plans to expand domestic exploration and drilling in areas where it has been previously approved. Former GOP candidate, Rick Perry went as far as saying that drilling for more oil is the key to America's economic future. Both Romney and Perry have championed shifting the oversight responsibilities from the EPA to the 50 states. Newt Gingrich is also on board with this plan.
- The GOP candidates’ position on drilling is clear – keep drilling, keep expanding. Not only do the GOP candidates wish to expand drilling in authorized locations, most wish to expand into territories that are currently blocked, such as Western shale oil deposits and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Nevertheless, Republican candidates’ opinions on regulation and green energy appear to range the entire spectrum.
- Even in this extremely volatile political environment, there is at least one issue that people of all political persuasions seem to agree on. I know this might sound crazy…but it’s true! A recent poll shows that 84% of Florida voters support a Senate bill – the RESTORE Act -- that would ensure that 80% of BP fines resulting from the spill are ultimately spent on Gulf restoration. While Florida is a state that was directly affected by the oil spill, it's still shocking to hear that “this is a case where … there’s kind of a common sense agreement that crosses party lines.” Also in Florida, 73% of Republican primary voters say they are more likely to vote for a Republican candidate who supports the RESTORE Act.
- Despite an apparent increase in voter morale among residents of the Gulf states, some are afraid that, because the oil can no longer be seen from the surface or on the beaches, it will also fade from the minds of the voters outside of the Gulf region. Enid Sisskin, director of Gulf Coast Environmental Defense, believes that drilling “will not be on the radar screen of most voters at all.”
- Hopefully these issues will be on the minds of voters as the primaries make their way to the Gulf Coast. Florida will be the first state in the region to vote for the upcoming Republican nominee when they hold their primary on January 31. Alabama and Mississippi will be next, with their primaries set for March 13. Lousiana and Texas will then follow with primaries on March 24 and April 3, respectively.
Let’s make sure this isn’t the case by continuing to stay informed on Gulf Coast issues. Do what you can to make the candidates pay attention. And don’t forget to check back with HeadCount for the latest on elections, music, and activisim!