Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist debated Tuesday night
The debate quickly became personal
Crist to Scott: "You don't know me and you can't tell my story"
The third and final debate between Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist was dominated by personal attacks in one of the closest governors races in the country.
In the debate, hosted by CNN and affiliate WJXT in Jacksonville, the two candidates took aim at each other in a showdown that covered a wide range of topics, including economic policies, the death penalty, and voting rights for felons.
A heated moment came when Crist accused Scott of delaying an execution so that his attorney general could attend a political fundraiser.
“She asked me to delay it because it didn’t work on the dates that she thought it was going to be on,” Scott said in response. “She apologized.”
In September 2013, Pam Bondi apologized for delaying the planned execution of Marshall Lee Gore, a notorious rapist and murderer, because it conflicted with a fundraiser.
Scott denied at the time that he knew the reason for the delay.
“Did you know it was for a political fundraiser?” Crist pressed.
“What would you like her to do?” Scott asked.
Crist went on to blast Scott for not answering questions.
No fangate repeat
The night got off to a breezy start, this time with no fan on stage for Crist and no protest from Scott.
“Everybody’s comfortable here?” asked CNN’s Jake Tapper, who co-moderated the debate with WJXT’s Kent Justice. His question was a subtle reference to last week’s seven minute standoff.
The debate quickly transitioned into a testy exchange with personal attacks over wealth.
Scott blamed Crist for the loss of more than 800,000 jobs while he was governor from 2007-2011, saying Crist is out of touch with average Florida voters because he grew up with wealth.
“I grew up with families that struggled. I don’t know my natural father. I lived in public housing. I have an adopted dad,” Scott said. “I didn’t grow up with money. You did. You grew up with plenty of money. Charlie, you lost more jobs than any state but one.”
Hammering back, Crist argued he was not responsible for the “economic meltdown” that occurred nationally during his tenure. He returned the attack against wealth, blasting Scott for being the one who’s out of touch.
“You don’t know me and you can’t tell my story,” Crist said. “But I know you are worth about $100 million or $200 million today and God bless you for that wealth, but the way you got it was pretty unsavory.”
Scott, a former health care CEO, ran into controversy when his company, Columbia/HCA, was fined $1.7 billion for alleged Medicare fraud last decade.
Restoring rights for felons
Scott took a jab at Crist for bringing voting rights back to felons who had completed their sentences for nonviolent convictions.
“Here is Charlie’s plan: You commit a heinous crime, as soon as you get out of jail, you get to vote. Stalk, you get to vote. You have intentional permanent disfigurement of a child and you walk out of jail and you get to vote,” Scott said.
Crist fired back, accusing Scott of “lying” and saying the restoration law only applied to nonviolent criminals.
Asked whether Scott supports the idea of a minimum wage, the governor appeared unclear as to how exactly that policy would take place.
“Sure,” he said. Pressed on what the minimum wage should be, Scott added: “How would I know – I mean, the private sector decides wages.”
He went on to deflect and attack Crist on the loss of jobs during his governorship, calling him a “zero-wage governor.”
Asked to clarify if he supports the idea of the government setting a minimum wage, Scott answered: “Just because they set a minimum wage doesn’t mean you get a job.”
Crist, who supports raising the minimum wage to $10.10, said he still stands by it, saying people “deserve” a higher wage even if it means some companies might have to lay people off as a consequence.
Tapper asked Crist how he would rate, on a scale of 1-10, President Obama’s handling of the Ebola virus in the United States.
“I’d probably give him an eight. I think we had a little bit of a slow start, and I think everybody kinda recognizes that. But I think they’ve really caught their stride,” said Crist.
Asked if Scott feels confident that an Ebola patient could be treated in Florida, Scott said, “absolutely.”
One of the nurses who contracted Ebola flew on a plane earlier this month the day after she went to the hospital with symptoms. The plane first stopped in Dallas, where she de-boarded, then flew to Ft. Lauderdale in Florida.
Scott’s administration pressed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to contact the passengers who flew on the Dallas to Ft. Lauderdale flight.
He’s also repurposing $7 million in federal grant money to spend on Ebola prevention efforts, and he ordered the Florida National Guard to set up two rapid response teams in case Ebola is diagnosed in the state.