Florida Gubernatorial Candidates Debate About Debates

By: Kevin Derby and Allison Nielsen | Posted: May 23, 2014 3:55 AM
Rick Scott and Charlie Crist

Rick Scott and Charlie Crist

As Floridians turn their attention to the Memorial Day weekend and the start of summer, the gubernatorial candidates spent this week debating over debates.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott, accepted an invitation from the Florida Press Association and the Florida Society of News Editors to appear at a gubernatorial forum in July, according to an email from the Crist campaign sent out on Wednesday. The forum will be held July 10 at the Biltmore in Coral Gables. According to the email from the Crist campaign, the camp has been informed by organizers that this is the time and date for both Crist and Scott only.

But Scott said on Wednesday he won't be attending the forum with his team, insisting they have no interest in a debate with Crist since he hasn't won the Democratic primary yet. Crist has said repeatedly that he will not debate primary rival former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich and will instead focus on Scott, much to the criticism of Republicans across the state. Crist is new to the Democratic ranks, having joined at the end of 2012 after leaving the GOP to unsucessfully run for the U.S. Senate with no party affiliation.

Despite being in his party for a year and a half, refusing to debate Rich and not facing the primary until August, Crist continued to expect Scott to treat him like the actual Democratic nominee with a debate in July.

"For those keeping score, Rick Scott is willing to spend $11+ mil on TV smearing @CharlieCrist, but not willing to attend a moderated forum," tweeted Crist spokesman Kevin Cate.

But Scott’s team struck back on Thursday with a new website, counting the days since Crist refused to debate Rich. They called for Crist to debate Rich, adding the governor will debate whoever wins the Democratic primary in the fall.

"The governor will debate the Democratic nominee in the fall,” said Melissa Sellers, Scott’s campaign manager. “Charlie Crist should stop playing games and stop hiding from Nan Rich. What is he scared of?"

For her part, Rich, who accepted an invitation back in April to attend the forum, continued to press Crist for a debate.

“Last week, Charlie Crist again refused a primary debate, but his explanation isn't cutting it,” Rich insisted on Wednesday. “He doesn't want to be accountable for his conservative record. But he should be accountable.

“Crist keeps touting his conservative accomplishments,” Rich continued. “He’s proud of cutting taxes for businesses even though it meant devastating cuts to important programs. He’s proud that he expanded Florida’s private school-voucher program which takes millions out of public schools. And he’s still proud of how he earned the nickname ‘Chain-gang Charlie.’ But if we want your votes, we owe you a debate.”

As the other gubernatorial candidates accept and decline attending, the Libertarian nominee Adrian Wyllie said on Wednesday he would attend it if he’s invited.

“As the Libertarian candidate for governor, I am willing to debate Rick Scott, Charlie Crist, and Nan Rich at any time, with no preconditions,” Wyllie insisted. “I would be happy to participate in the July 10th event in Coral Gables; however, I have not yet received an invitation from either the FPA or FSNE.

“I find it amusing -- and somewhat pathetic -- that Gov. Scott and former Gov. Crist seem terrified to even appear in the same room with their opponents,” Wyllie added. “What does this say about their policies and records, when they lack the fortitude to stand up and publicly defend them?”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

Comments (3)

Jim Burkiewicz
3:29AM MAY 24TH 2014
Both Crist and Scott are corrupt Republican Governors, Vote Adrian Wyllie for Governor!
Paul Henry
2:26PM MAY 23RD 2014
Both Crist and Scott continue to take in millions in campaign dollars so as to smear each other.

My vote is for Adrian Wyllie, who will govern FOR the people. Once enough people realize their is someone to vote FOR instead of AGAINST or the lesser of two evils, some of those millions will be used to attack Mr. Wyllie.
9:23AM MAY 23RD 2014
Rick Scott has truly jumped the shark. He has now blatantly lied about Common Core Standards and Florida's compliance to Race To The Top mandates. This is likely to cost him the election.

see thereportcard dot org

The Governor knows full well that all the mandates of Race To The Top were passed into Florida law by the Legislature in 2011 under SB2120. He knows full well that the entirety of the Common Core exists in his Florida Next Generation State Standards. They just renamed them and added the cursive writing and calculaus standards on top. It is sad that a Governor who had won his seat promising real committment to conservative principles and a had shown true independence has now devolved to the level of a Jeb Bush cultist. He should fire Hollingsworth today.

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