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Fangate Flap Stirs a Chill Wind in Charlie Crist-Rick Scott Debate

October 14, 2014 - 6:00pm

It started with a fan.

The rules of the debate that I was shown by the Scott campaign say that there should be no fan, said CBS4 anchor Eliott Rodriguez to the crowd. Somehow there is a fan there. And for that reason, ladies and gentlemen, I am being told that Gov. Scott will not join us for this debate.

Charlie Crists fan, already infamous for traveling with him pretty much everywhere (and even having its own Twitter account), became a star in a span of minutes.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, former Gov. Charlie Crist stood on the stage at Broward College in Davie, ready for the Florida Press Association-Leadership Florida debate to begin.

For seven minutes, Crist was alone, his fan whirring at the podium below him, waiting and wondering if Scott would show.

Are we really gonna debate about a fan? Crist asked. Or are we going to talk about education, and the environment and the future of our state?

Scott eventually relented, and joined his opponent on stage.

Bizarre opening aside, the second of three debates went a lot like the first, held last Friday, with both candidates sticking to their standard talking points while taking every chance they were given to attack each other.

Scott and Crist didnt agree on much of anything -- when it came to minimum wage, Crist said he supports raising it from $7.93 to $10.10.

"It's very hard for people to get by on what minimum wage is today in Florida," said Crist when asked about the issue.

Scott stood firm against raising the minimum wage, saying it would cause the state to lose even more jobs, leaving many without the means to provide for themselves and their families.

It was also an opportunity to take a shot at Crist.

Charlie is the zero-wage governor, he said.

The two sparred on other issues -- gay marriage, for example. Scott said he believes in traditional marriage, while Crist is in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry.

The governor conceded, however, that the issue of gay marriage would ultimately be decided by the courts.

On education issues, Scott defended the fight against high-stakes testing, vowing to travel throughout the state to assess Floridas new education standards and make sure Florida had the right standards for its students.

Crist offered no action plan to combat high-stakes testing, instead using the topic as ammunition against Scott.

There's way too much testing in our schools today, the former governor said before taking a shot at Scott for increasing testing in Florida schools.

The debate touched on other hot topics like Stand Your Ground (Crist would try to change the law, Scott wants to keep it) and Medicaid expansion in the Sunshine State (Crist wants to expand Medicaid, Scott does not).

Nearly an hour of verbal punches later, the debate was over and the two candidates called it a day.

In an ending only fitting for possibly one of the strangest debates in Florida history -- already being dubbed Fangate -- the battle of words ended the way it began: with a fan.

Said Crist:

"Is there anything wrong with being comfortable?"

Melissa Sellers, campaign manager for Rick Scott for Florida, said in a written statement after the debate, Charlie Crist can bring his fan, microwave, and toaster to debates -- none of that will cover up how sad his record as governor was compared to the success of Rick Scott. Crist should buy a fan for the 832,000 Floridians who lost their jobs while he was governor.

The third and final debate between Scott and Crist, held by CNN. will take place Oct. 21 in Jacksonville.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen via email at or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen

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