Republican Gov. Rick Scott refuses to take the stage because of a fan placed under Crist’s podium
DAVIE, Florida (CFP) — A gubernatorial debate in Florida took a bizarre turn, when Republican Gov. Rick Scott initially refused to take the stage after a fan was placed under the podium of Democrat Charlie Crist, in apparent violation of the rules of the October 15 debate.
Scott eventually relented and took the stage at Broward College, but not before Crist got into a contretemps with the debate moderator, Elliott Rodriguez, over whether the fan violated the rules.
“Are we really going to debate about a fan?” Crist said.
Asked later in the debate why he wanted to use a fan despite the rules, Crist said, “Why not?”
“Is there anything wrong with being comfortable? I don’t think there is.”
During the debate, Scott continued a line of attack that he has made throughout the campaign that during Crist’s tenure as governor between 2007 and 2011 — when Crist was a Republican — the state lost 832,000 jobs. Scott charged that Crist was so consumed by his ambition for higher office that he didn’t do enough to promote economic development.
“He didn’t want to do the job. He wanted to be vice president and then ran against Marco Rubio for the Senate,” Scott said. “Charlie is a lot of talk. But he’s not a lot of action.”
But Crist responded that he could not be held responsible for jobs lost during the Great Recession.
“The people of Florida know that I didn’t cause the global economic meltdown,” he said. “They are smarter than that.”
Crist also hit Scott for not pushing through the private option expansion of Medicaid that was part of Obamacare in Florida.
“People are hurting, and they are suffering,” he said, adding that “I don’t know why” Scott hasn’t pushed for Medicaid expansion.
But Scott responded that Crist was actually governor when Obamacare was passed.
“Did he go to the legislature to pass this because it’s a great idea? No,” Scott said, adding that “Obamacare is a bad law.”
To a chorus of boos from the audience, Crist also raised a line of attack that he has made throughout the campaign over fraud charges lodged against Scott’s former company, HCA, in 1997.
“The truth hurts sometimes,” Crist said. “You pled the Fifth 75 times.”
Scott was never charged in connection with the HCA fraud, although the company paid a $600 million fine. The same issue was unsuccessfully raised against Scott in 2010 when he was first elected governor.
Scott was also pressed on whether he thought Florida’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, passed by voters in 2008, was discriminatory.
“While I believe in traditional marriage, we have to understand people have different views,” Scott said, noting that the ban is currently being challenged in court.
Pressed further if he thought the ban was discriminatory, Scott said only, “I don’t believe in discrimination.”
Crist came back swinging, saying he supported same-sex marriage, even though in 2008, when he was a Republican governor, he supported that amendment. Scott then pounced on Crist’s inconsistency.
“We don’t know what Charlie believes on this issue because he’s taken every side on this issue,” Scott said.
Polls have shown the race for governor in the Sunshine State is too close to call.
Crist was elected governor as a conservative Republican in 2006. In 2010, he gave up the governorship to pursue a U.S. Senate seat, first as a Republican and then as an independent. He became a Democrat in 2012.