Democratic candidate Charlie Crist, left, and Republican Gov. Rick Scott shake hands before their live television debate on Oct. 21, 2014 in Jacksonville, Fla.
Pool photo by Will Dickey/Florida Times-Union/AP

Florida’s Scott on minimum wage: ‘How would I know?’

For the second time in five days, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) faced off in a televised debate against former Gov. Charlie Crist (D), and this time, the incumbent didn’t hide backstage over the use of an electric fan. Then again, given how the debate went, maybe he should have.
The two covered quite a bit of ground over the course of the hour, but one of the more memorable exchanges came on the issue of the minimum wage. Moderator Jake Tapper raised a question of increasing importance in contemporary Republican politics: whether the minimum wage should exist.
TAPPER: Governor Scott, you have said that you oppose raising the minimum wage because you think it would be a job killer. Clarify something for Florida voters, do you support the principle of a minimum wage? Do you support the concept of a minimum wage?
SCOTT: Sure.
TAPPER: What should it be?
SCOTT: How would I know? I mean, the private sector decides wages.
It’s amazing to see this issue trip up so many Republican governors. Just over the last week or so, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) stumbled, saying about the minimum wage, “I don’t think it serves a purpose.” Yesterday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) told powerful corporate allies that he’s annoyed by the debate itself. “I gotta tell you the truth: I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage,” Christie said. “I really am.”
But in Florida, Rick Scott seems more confused than his GOP brethren. Asked if he supports the minimum wage on a conceptual level, the governor said, “Sure.” But asked what that wage should be, Scott says that’s up to the private sector – in the process making the case against minimum wage on a conceptual level.
Given how popular a minimum-wage increase is, and the number of Floridians struggling in low-paying jobs, it’s remarkable the governor and his aides didn’t have a better response prepared for this perfectly sensible question.
The other moment that stood out for me was an incident from last year in which the state of Florida had scheduled the execution of a convicted murderer. The execution was delayed, however, because Rick Scott agreed to let state Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) postpone the sentence so she could attend a campaign fundraiser instead.
Crist reminded Floridians about this last night, making the case that the current governor just doesn’t take his responsibilities seriously enough.
CRIST: Well, let’s look at the facts. He has signed a lot of death warrants. I signed death warrants as well and it is the most solemn act a governor has to do as your governor. Knowing that your name on a piece of paper is going to result in the death of another human being, if that doesn’t make you think seriously about what is happening, nothing will.
But just this past year, an execution here in Florida was delayed by the governor so that the attorney general could go forward and have a political fundraiser.
Now, to me, and my way of thinking, that doesn’t sound like somebody is taking that solemn duty as seriously as they should. I don’t understand that.
Scott talked about praying before Florida executes people, which didn’t exactly answer the question. He then talked about his anguish of victims’ families, which also avoided the question. So Crist pressed on: “Did the attorney general ask you to delay the execution so she could go forward with her political fundraiser?”
Scott replied, “She asked me to delay it because it didn’t work on the dates that she thought it was going to be on.” It led to this exchange:
CRIST: Did you know it was for a political fundraiser?
SCOTT: Charlie, she apologized. She apologized. What would you like her to do?
CRIST: I didn’t ask about her. Did you know it was for a political fundraiser?
SCOTT: She apologized, Charlie. What would you like her to do?
CRIST: He doesn’t answer questions. Pleads the Fifth.
The incumbent might have been better off talking about the fan.