Dont expect the gubernatorial candidates to hug out their differences. No way, no how. If anything was clear after their first debate Friday, it was that.
Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist arrived at WSCV-Telemundo 51 in Miramar Friday for their first of three televised debates, prepared to rip each other apart on a variety of issues -- and thats exactly what they proceeded to do.
The debate, which will be broadcast at 7 p.m. Friday evening (only on Telemundo), hit a variety of issues and neither candidate seemed to find common ground with the other on much of anything.
The debate was widely reflective of an intensely negative gubernatorial campaign.
"I think what happens in elections is, people talk about what the other person has done, and there's a contrast," said Scott when asked about the negative campaigning. "My opponent is a mudslinger. That's what he does.
Crist called the barrage of attack campaigning unfortunate, but it didnt stop the former governor from ruthlessly criticizing his opponent.
"I have never had to plead the Fifth in my life," said Crist, taking a shot at Scott, who invoked the Fifth Amendment 75 times during a 2000 deposition.
Scott criticized Crist for "sitting on his hands" and "doing nothing" while he was governor as well as making decisions based on "political expediency."
When it came to Medicaid, Crist said hed support its expansion -- a promise he has made repeatedly on the campaign trail. Scott, on the other hand, said hed oppose such an expansion, saying the state couldnt afford it, but vowed he was committed to helping Floridians get jobs -- a step he says is the best way to get health care.
As the debate continued, the two disagreed on other issues, such as raising the minimum wage. When Crist ran for governor in 2006 (as a Republican) he stayed mum on raising the minimum wage, but as a Democrat, hes come out in full support of the issue.
"If more people have more money in their pockets, they have more disposable income, said Crist.
Scott, on the other hand, said he didnt intend to raise the minimum wage.
"I don't support losing those jobs so I don't support losing those jobs and raising the minimum wage, he said.
Crist called the position out of touch.
But both played to Telemundos Hispanic audience in the debate -- Scott focused on key issues like prioritizing education and helping Florida families in need.
"We now have the highest funding ever in the history of the state for K-12 and colleges and universities," he said at the debate. "I'll focus on your family. Most families are like mine, growing up."
Crist honed in on other issues important to Hispanic voters, like long waiting lines to vote and allowing illegal immigrants drivers licenses.
The two will meet again for another debate sponsored by the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida next Wednesday, Oct. 15, at Broward College. Crist and Scott will face off for a third and final time Oct. 21 in Jacksonville for a debate hosted by CNN.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen