Governor Rick Scott and Democratic Challenger Charlie Crist met Tuesday evening for the third time in a debate leading up to the November Fourth Election. There were no electric fans this time around, but the atmosphere between the two candidates was downright chilly.
The first half of the debate hosted by CNN and WJXT-TV in Jacksonville was characterized by personal attacks as Crist brought up Scott’s former hospital company and a billion-dollar fine it paid for Medicare fraud. Scott was never charged with a crime, but responded to Crist’s attack by saying, “when you have a company like that and something goes wrong, you know you say—I thought about what could I have done better? I could have hired more auditors. That’s what I said in 2010, and I wish I would have done that.”
Meanwhile Scott brought up Crist’s association with the former head of the Florida Republican party who went to prison for embezzlement.
During the second part of the debate, the candidates hit the issues, with Scott and Crist highlighting diverging positions on immigration, medical marijuana and criminal justice issues. One of the biggest differences in responses came during a question whether a travel embargo against Cuba should be lifted. Scott has called the country’s leaders terrorists, and is against traveling. Crist has said he is willing to travel to the country, but would not meet with its leaders.
“The natural launching pad for that redevelopment, if we can move forward, is Florida. That would help Florida’s economy and it would help our hemisphere. And hopefully, bring more freedom to people," Crist said.
The Cuba issue is a sensitive one in Florida which has a large population of Cuban-Americans who emigrated to the U.S. When Fidel Castro took control of the country decades ago.
As the candidates sparred back-and-forth, Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie held his own debate of sorts via webcast on you tube.
Wyllie responded to each question posed to Scott and Crist and seemed to agree, at least in part, with Governor Rick Scott on a question about establishing a $10 minimum wage in Florida. Scott responded to the question by saying he believes in the private sector. Wyllie says when government gets involved, "it always leads to unintended consequences." He says if the minimum wage is raised jobs will be lost.
“We need to get to the root cause of the problem. The root cause of the problem is not the minimum wage itself. The root cause of the problem is that we have people relying on that as a living wage. And part of that is because we don’t have the right kind of education," Wyllie says.
In addition to Scott, Crist and Wyllie vying for the Governor’s mansion, there are two other No Party candidates listed on the November ballot.