The gubernatorial debate on Tuesday night between Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott and Democratic candidate Charlie Crist may have lacked the “fanfare” of the previous event, but the two continued to brawl in their third and final face-off before election day.
In one of the more heated exchanges of the evening, Crist accused Scott of delaying the execution of a rapist and murderer on death row so that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi 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 conceded to Crist. “She apologized.”
But Crist, who previously served as Florida’s Republican governor before switching parties, continued to hammer Scott for playing politics with the execution, pressing him further and asking whether he knew her request to reschedule was related to fundraising.
“She apologized, Charlie,” Scott responded. “What would you like her to do?”
Crist shot back that his opponent “doesn’t answer questions — pleads the Fifth.”
The debate also veered into personal attacks as well, turning nasty over issues of character. Scott said that Crist can’t be trusted because he takes positions that are politically expedient in order to get elected. Scott also accused Crist of playing dirty politics: “Charlie, you are a mudslinger and you’re a divider,” he said.
Crist questioned Scott’s role as CEO of a hospital chain that was found guilty of Medicare fraud worth more than a billion dollars. The Democrat also depicted his Republican rival as an out-of-touch multimillionaire who lives in an oceanfront mansion and flies in a private jet.
“This is the most important thing that I’m going to say tonight: The real difference in this race is that I know what you’re dealing with and Rick Scott does not,” Crist said in an attempt to paint himself as an everyman.
Scott defended the personal wealth that he amassed during his time in the private sector, referencing his humble upbringing before claiming Crist comes from a privileged, wealthy background. “Charlie, I didn’t grow up with money, you grew up with money.” Scott said. “He’s never had to worry about money his whole life.”
Crist fired back: “God bless you for that wealth, Rick, but the way you got it is pretty unsavory.”
The former governor went on to defend his exit from the Republican Party. He blamed the switch on a “tea party kidnapping” that forced the GOP leadership too far to the right.
Recent polls have shown Crist and Scott to be neck and neck in what has become one of the tightest contests of the 2014 midterm cycle.