Coronavirus pandemic presents obstacles for campaigning an during election year

District 53, in southern Brevard County, has been held by Rep. Randy Fine since 2016.  He and his two main challengers are trying to connect with voters, but the coronavirus presents new hurdles that politicians have never encountered.

At the beginning of June, Rep. Fine partnered with a Brevard County company, giving out more than 1,000 gallons of hand and surface sanitizer.  As all the cities and towns in Brevard County canceled their Fourth of July fireworks shows because of COVID-19, Fine began trying to put together an event of his own. 

Fine says the coronavirus is not preventing him from being visible in the community. 

"No, it hasn’t been a challenge for me, because it’s an opportunity for me to do my job," Fine said.  "I worked hard to put on six food drives, and that $20,000 hand sanitizer giveaway, and we work so hard, every day, helping people with their constituency issues."

Fine’s rival for the Republican nomination is a doctor of economics who lives on a farm. Marcie Adkins. 

Adkins told FOX 35 News, she doesn't like the term that has popped up everywhere during the coronavirus.

"I call it 'physical distancing.' I like that better than 'social distancing.' I don’t want to be socially distant. I do want physical distance."

Adkins said she’s done a good bit of doorknocking, but before someone answers, she’ll step 10 paces back. She said two of her campaign volunteers ended up in the ICU with COVID-19. The pandemic has been a kind of political quicksand. 

"I certainly would’ve had a fundraiser [if not for COVID]. I had a fundraiser scheduled for last Tuesday night, at Frogbones, but we had to cancel it." Adkins said. "With the uptick in COVID, I just felt like having it would be irresponsible."

Adkins is a runner and every day goes to a different precinct in District 53.

When she’s not on foot, she’s got a vehicle that helps her stand out to the voters.  An old hummer.  She calls it the "Marcie Mobile." 

"I feel encouraged by the honks that I get...the waves across town... that's nice,." Adkins said.

At an office in Melbourne, FOX 35 News interviewed the Democrat in District 53 race.

Phil Moore is a medical device training expert and has a second job in a dentist's office. He said he supported the mask mandate for the county that failed to pass earlier this week.

"The coronavirus here in Brevard County has been on an upswing. Overall, it’s been difficult as candidates reaching out to people. And understandably elections right now are not the top priority, the coronavirus is top priority, and what the effects of the coronavirus are...people have been unemployed." Moore said.

Moore ran for the seat when Randy Fine ran for reelection in 2018. He said this time could be different. Voters might be nervous about going to the polls because of the virus. He predicts voting by mail could be people’s preference in November which could give him an edge as he tries to flip the seat from red to blue.

"I think if you have the opportunity to get a mail-in ballot you should," Moore said.

There is a fourth candidate, Thomas Unger. He entered the race as a write-in and he declined to be interviewed for this story.

The Florida Primary is August 19.