It’s hurricane politics as candidates storm state

Jan 22, 2008

It’s hurricane politics as candidates storm state

By DAVID DeCAMP, Times Staff Writer
Published January 22, 2008

On the first full day that presidential candidates could focus on Florida a rift emerged among Republican contenders over a deeply parochial issue with national implications: a national catastrophic fund.

Even before the other candidates had arrived, Rudy Giuliani had declared himself the strongest and best advocate for creating a federal program to spread the risk of hurricane loss in Florida by establishing a risk pool across the country.

It’s an idea that has gained little traction in Washington.

On Monday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee joined the Giuliani side. Speaking outside Signature Flight Service in Orlando, Huckabee edged from “sympathetic” to the insurance difficulties of Floridians, as he had said before, to a full-on supporter of a national catastrophe fund.

“If there could be a national approach where there could be sort of a shared burden (or) responsibility,” Huckabee said, “I think this makes a lot of sense.”

Huckabee cited the flow of displaced people into Arkansas after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He said 75,000 people came to the state in five days, creating burdens in a place untouched by hurricanes. One side effect for the noncoastal communities is the economic troubles that are spawned by damage storms do.

“We do have tornadoes, ice storms and floods. Anybody who’s been through repeated major natural disasters can understand and appreciate the incredible burden that can be created in the aftermath of a natural disaster,” Huckabee said.

On the same day, fellow Republican candidate John McCain made clear that he would not support such a move. In an interview with the editorial board of the St. Petersburg Times on Monday afternoon, McCain said state governments should be the ones to deal with insurance market reforms.

“I believe the role of the federal government is to step in in the event of a natural disaster and to help the citizens who have been harmed,” he said.

Times staff writer Scott Montgomery contributed to this report.