Oil booms that were placed in preparation of the looming oil spill from last week's collapse and oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig are strewn along the shoreline by choppy seas in Port Eads, La. on Thursday, April 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
In politics, you never know when the emergence of an unexpected issue will turn an election on its head.
That's exactly what's happened with the tragic oil spill off the Louisiana coast. The disaster is not only sending 200,000 gallons per day into some of the nation's most important fishing and wildlife areas but has become a huge point of division for California's gubernatorial and U.S. races.
Domestic oil production translates into jobs and badly needed tax revenues.
So it shouldn't be a surprise that with California facing a budget deficit of $20 billion over the next 14 months, some political candidates have been arguing strenuously for drilling off the California coast.
Not all have taken the same approach.
In fact, there is a chasm between Democrats and most Republicans. For example, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown has a long record of opposing offshore oil drilling; Republican opponents Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner favor the activity.
Regarding the U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, has steadfastly opposed offshore drilling even in the face of President Obama's recent conversion.
On the Republican side, Tom Campbell has come out against offshore oil drilling, but opponents Carly Fiorina and Chuck Devore have embraced drilling for a variety of reasons that include jobs, energy independence and tax revenues. Until now.
What happens from this point forward may have significant impacts on the futures of all these candidates and others.
If voters are looking for a way to distinguish the candidates of from one another on the questions of energy and environment, the Louisiana oil spill may provide such a measuring stick.
As for some of the candidates who have taken pro offshore drilling positions to this point, let the posturing and spinning begin!