MIAMI (CBSMiami) – On a soundstage at the Telemundo studios in Miramar Friday, Republican Governor Rick Scott and Democratic challenger stood at podiums far apart, and were far apart on every issue.
The debate, the first of three televised bouts, was taped for broadcast tonight on Spanish language stations in Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Tallahassee.READ MORE: Florida Begins Buying Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Doses Directly
At the outset, the two candidates attacked each other for what has been at attack campaign.
“This campaign has been very negative and it began with my opponent,” declared Crist, saying Scott began waging a war of negative ads beginning in March.
“There’s clearly a contrast,” Scott said in defending criticism leveled at Crist. “My opponent is a mudslinger. That’s what he does.”
The candidates differed on a laundry list of issues.
On legalizing medical marijuana, Crist said he’s for it. It would offer a preferable alternative for patients now being prescribed powerful pain medication.
“I think it would be much better and humane to have medical marijuana available to these people,” Crist said.
Scott said he fears the medical marijuana measure, if approved by voters, could lead to pervasive pot use in the state.
“I’ve watched family members deal with drug abuse, and it’s scares the daylights out of me,” Scott said.
On gay marriage, Scott repeated his opposition to it and said the state will not retreat from fighting it in court.
It’s going to go through the court system, the courts are eventually going to decide,” Scott said, adding that his administration will abide with what the courts ultimately rule.
Crist, who opposed same sex marriage when he ran for Governor in 2006, said he has “grown” in his thinking on it, and now supports allowing gays to wed.
“Who are we to tell people who to love?” Crist said.
Crist also defended his defection from the Republican Party, saying it has fallen off a conservative cliff. In a familiar refrain, Crist said, “I didn’t leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me.”
Crist and Scott differed on the economic embargo against Cuba.
“I believe in the embargo. Here’s why: The Castro brothers are terrorists,” Scott said. Scott said Crist has only recently opposed the embargo because opinion polls show it has lost support, and that Crist is doing what the polls tell him.
“It’s clear the embargo hasn’t changed things,” Crist countered. “The Castro brothers are still in place.” He called the embargo a policy that has failed to work, despite being in place for half a century.
“The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result,” Crist said.
Crist said he supports increasing the minimum wage.
“I will fight every way I possibly can to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, it’s the right thing to do,” Crist said.
Scott opposes raising the minimum wage, arguing it will force employers to lay off workers.
“If we raise the minimum wage the way Charlie wants to do, it will cost 500,000 jobs,” Scott asserted.READ MORE: Florida Appeals Court Refuses To Fast-Track Student Mask Mandate Case To State Supreme Court
Crist skewered Scott for rejecting billions of federal Medicaid dollars.
“A million of our fellow Floridians need health care and they would get health care if the governor would act to expand Medicaid,” Crist said, glancing at Scott.
Scott says he has rejected the increased Medicaid funding, because it is part of a failed health care reform.
“We got Obamacare. It’s been a disaster for our state. Charlie says it’s great,” Scott said.
Crist supports drivers licenses for so called Dreamers. Scott, however, vetoed licenses for the undocumented immigrants.
Outside the television studio was the odd man out, third party candidate Adrian Wyllie who is suing to be in included in the debates and have his Libertarian platform heard: “Keep government out of your wallet, out of your body, out of your bedroom and out of your business,” Wyllie said.
Wyllie said there is no difference between Scott and Crist, that they are political business as usual. Debate organizers have said Wyllie can participate only if a legitimate poll gives him support among 15% of the voters. He has not reached that threshold.
Wyllie’s suit names the Florida Press Association, Leadership Florida and Broward College where the October 15th debate will be held. CBS4 is hosting the event which will be televised across the state. If there is an issue you you like the candidates to address ‘d like to submit a question for the candidates, go to CBSMiami’s Facebook page and submit your question. CBS4 anchor Eliott Rodriguez may ask it during the debate.
While Wylle’s poll numbers have climbed, they fell just short of the threshold required by the debate organizers. A new poll shows him gaining, at 13%, just two spots shy of the 15% benchmark. His suit claims his equal protection rights have been violated by exclusion from the debate.
Wyllie says the organizers have changed their criteria in order to preserve the two party system.
Dean Ridings, President & CEO, Florida Press Association, released a statement which countered Wyllie’s claim.
“Since 2010, the partnership of Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association have conducted four statewide debates with a requirement that participating candidates have at least 15% polling support, including the benefit of the poll’s margin of error. There are currently ten candidates who have qualified to run for governor. In a 60 minute debate, there is no feasible way for all ten to express their views, and most of the candidates have no reasonable chance of winning the election. Therefore, we had to have criteria that would include any candidate with a viable chance of winning. We believe our 15% threshold achieves that goal, and the people of Florida will have an opportunity to hear from the candidates who have a real chance of winning the election.”
So how do the front running candidates feel about Wyllie’s exclusion?
Rick Scott’s spokesperson says it’s up to the debate organizers who participate. The Crist campaign told us they don’t have a position on the matter.
Wyllie says he hopes the judge will rule within the next few days.
The third and final debate between the two major candidates takes place October 21st in Jacksonville.
In the debate Friday, Crist promised to the be little guy’s guy in Tallahassee.
“I look forward to being governor again, to fight for the middle class, to give them a fair shot,” Crist said.
Scott pounded away with what has been his mantra in his bid for re-election. Job creation.
“We’ve already added 634,000 jobs,” Scott said.
The blond-haired, blue-eyed governor delivered portions of his summation in Spanish.
“Peedo su voto,” – I’m asking for your vote – Scott said in one of several lines delivered in Spanish, perhaps for good reason: A highly regarded poll just out shows Crist leading Scott among Hispanic voters by a more than two to one margin. If those voters turn out, they could decide the election.
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)MORE NEWS: Man's Head Slashed In Unprovoked Attack At Miramar Plaza
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