HOOD RIVER, Ore. – Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) does not plan to visit Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley because he's concerned his campaign entourage could distract from recovery efforts, he said Saturday.
President Bush (search) plans a Sunday tour of areas hit by the hurricane. Bush declared a state of emergency at the request of his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (search), and Kerry said he supports their efforts.
Kerry said he has instructed his Florida campaign staff to provide food, clothing, shelter or other assistance to people whose lives have been disrupted by the hurricane.
"For the moment, our focus is on all of the police and response personnel necessary not being diverted from a visitor and really focusing on the recovery itself," Kerry said.
"Teresa and I are really thinking about those folks and our prayers and our thoughts are with them in the next hours," he said. "And we hope very, very much that the recovery can proceed as rapidly as possible and lives can be put back together."
Kerry spoke from the banks of the Columbia River 60 miles east of Portland, where he had planned to either kite surf or windsurf. But he said there was not enough wind for him to get on the water.
On Friday, Kerry ended a two-week coast-to-coast campaign trip with a rally in Portland, the largest city in the presidential battleground of Oregon.
Kerry left Hood River to continue on his vacation at his family home in Ketchum, Idaho. He told a group that gathered to watch him that he would return to Oregon Monday or Tuesday.
"Promise me some wind on Monday or Tuesday," Kerry said, standing on a low concrete wall overlooking the people on the banks. "More importantly, promise me some votes in November."