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CNN to air Florida governor debate

From Jill Harding, CNN
  • The debate will air live during a special edition of "John King, USA"
  • The race is one of the most hotly contested of the midterm election
  • Scott is a billionaire executive who shocked the GOP to win nomination
  • Sink is the state's chief financial officer

(CNN) -- Democrat Alex Sink will debate Republican Rick Scott on Monday, setting up a nationally televised showdown between the two Florida governor hopefuls on CNN.

The debate, co-sponsored by CNN, the St. Petersburg Times and the University of South Florida will be moderated by CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. It will air live at 7 p.m. ET during a special edition of "John King, USA."

The Florida governor's race is considered to be one of the most hotly contested contests of the midterm election cycle.

It pits Sink, the state's chief financial officer, against Scott, a billionaire health executive who shocked the GOP establishment to win his party's nomination.

During their last debate on Wednesday, the two did not shy away from personal attacks or sharp-tongued remarks.

Scott attempted to capitalize on the election season's anti-incumbent fever when he referred to Sink as a "Tallahassee insider."

Sink returned fire when she referred to Scott as a "corporate raider," and questioned his business dealings.

But the gloves really came off when the candidates got down to business, answering - and in some cases, not answering - specific questions about their positions on policy and how they would govern if elected.

Scott threw a major jab when he attacked Sink's plans to deal with the state's budget problems.

"We're walking into a two-plus billion-dollar deficit," Scott said. "We know we have to save money. Obama math doesn't work here."

Sink shot back, "I don't know what Obama math is. What I do know is I was a 4.0 math major at Wake Forest University and I know how to add numbers."

Sink called Scott's charge that she planned to raise taxes a "fairytale fabrication" and accused the Republican candidate of running a smear campaign.

"Rick, we can't trust anything you say," Sink said. "You have been throwing mud and negative advertisements since the Republican primary and your charges have been outlandish."

Continuing a theme he has used throughout the campaign, Scott tied Sink's views on policy to those of President Barack Obama.

"If you believe Obama's plan is the right plan for the country, vote for my opponent," Scott said. "Obamacare is a disaster, his stimulus is a disaster, and on top of that, she believes his economic policies are the right solution. They're not."

But Scott had to defend his own positions when the panel asking questions raised the issue of Scott's stewardship of the hospital chain Columbia/HCA. During Scott's tenure, the company was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud.

Scott characterized the experience as a teachable moment: "In business, if something goes wrong, you focus on it, you get better at it, and that's what I've done," Scott said.

On social issues, Scott did not give a direct answer when asked if he believed homosexuality was immoral; instead, he pledged his opposition to gay marriage and gay adoption.

Sink was quick to point out Scott's evasion and state her position on gay adoption, saying that judges and social workers should decide what is in the best interest of the child.

In the most recent CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation poll, Scott and Sink were locked in a near tie among likely voters.

CNN's Mark Preston contributed to this report