Governor Rick Scott and Democratic Gubernatorial Challenger Charlie Crist clashed Wednesday evening during the second of three debates ahead of the November 4th election. The candidates agreed on very little, and took jabs at one another--including a brief spat over a fan.
The debate got off to an awkward start when former Governor Charlie Crist took the stage—and Governor Rick Scott did not. Eliot Rodriguez, CBS4 anchor and debate host, tried to explain:
“The rules of the debate I was shown by the Scott campaign show there should be no fan, Somehow, there is a fan and for that reason, I am being told Gov. Scott will not join us for that debate," Rodriguez said.
Scott’s refusal to come on stage was due to the presence of an electric fan for Crist, who is known for having a fan with him during public appearances. Later in the debate, when asked about the issue, Scott responded this way.
“I waited to figure if he would show up…he said he was going to come to the debate. So why come out until he’s ready?”
What’s now being called “fan-gate” on social media dictated the rest of the tone for the evening as Scott and Crist clashed over their records on education, the environment and the economy. Scott, who has made job creation a priority since taking office bashed Crist’s handling of the recession.
“He raised regulations. If you think about building a business, I want to build those businesses to be in Florida. Lower taxes, less regulation. Streamline the permitting process. That’s why we lost 832,000 jobs in Florida. Crist responded with, "everyone knows I didn’t cause the global economic meltdown.”
The hour-long debate at loss of seven minutes at the start of the event due to the fan conflict, left little time to delve deeper into the issues, and both candidates stuck largely to their scripts and talking points. But a few issues did stand out. When asked about same-sex marriage and whether its discrimination, Scott answered this way.
“We shouldn’t have ill will when people have different views. But we have to remember all this was started when Charlie was governor." That didn't satisfy the moderators, who repeated the question to Scott. The governor replied, "I don’t believe in discrimination. I believe in traditional marriage," and went on to say the state will abide by the decision made by the Florida Supreme Court, which could take up the challenge to the state's gay marriage ban.
Meanwhile, Charlie Crist got hung up on an answer to a question on whether the state should have a role in directing family life and teaching people to be better parents.
“I think we have to do as I said at the outset--reinvest in education because of the dramatic cuts Rick Scott has brought about." But as the moderator noted, Crist didn't answer the question.
"Well, I think the best way to do that is to try to lead by example," Crist said.
Absent from the debate was Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Adrian Wyllie. Wyllie tried unsuccessfully to get into the debate but a judge ruled he failed to meet the 15-percent support threshold in a poll that was mandated by debate organizers. The final debate between the candidates is set for October 21st.
Listen to the full debate below.