CNN and WJXT-TV in Florida partnered to host the nationally televised debate between gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist (D) and incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R). The debate was moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper and aired on CNN at 7p.m. (ET). WJXT’s anchor and reporter Kent Justice co-moderated the one-hour debate. The debate will re-air on CNN at 11p.m. (ET).
Please credit all usage to CNN and/or CNN’s Jake Tapper
Transcript from Debate:
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the final debate in the Florida governor’s race. One of the closest, most negative, and most important contests of the year. Republican Rick Scott is fighting to keep his job.
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Let’s keep working.
ANNOUNCER: He’s a former Tea Party darling backed by the GOP establishment he once ran against.
CHARLIE CRIST (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDIATE: Governor Scott has delivered to the people of this state.
ANNOUNCER: Democrat Charlie Crist is fighting to reclaim his old job.
CRIST: Let’s go win this thing. Thank you.
ANNOUNCER: He’s a former Republican, backed by the president he once controversially embraced.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: We can get this done, Florida, can’t we?
ANNOUNCER: It is a bitter battle of the governors —
SCOTT: He is a slick politician. All he can do is sling mud.
ANNOUNCER: — in a state that decides presidential elections.
CRIST: Why we would re-elect this guy is beyond me.
ANNOUNCER: And anything can happen.
The last time these candidates faced off, Scott didn’t take the stage at first because Crist broke the rules. It was a flap over a fan, and viewers were blown away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That has it to be the most unique beginning to any debate.
ANNOUNCER: Election Day is almost here. The governor’s office is up for grabs, and it is Florida’s choice.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Live from Jacksonville, Florida, this is Debate Night. We want to welcome viewers from around the Sunshine State and around the county. I’m Jake Tapper from CNN’s THE LEAD. Tonight, I’ll have questions for incumbent governor Rick Scott and for former governor Charlie Crist. I’m joined tonight by WJXT anchor Kent Justice. We’ll be asking questions directly from Floridians via social media.
And can you join this debate in real-time. Go to bing.com/CNN to vote on which candidate’s answers you find the most or the least convincing. Each governor will have one minute to respond to our questions and 30 seconds for rebuttal. I’ll allow for conversation between the candidates. I will also try to press for questions to be answered.
Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Everybody is comfortable here?
CRIST: Thank you, yes.
TAPPER: Everybody is comfortable. Okay. Good.
Let’s start with you, Governor Scott and an issue on the mind of every governor around the country and millions of Americans: Ebola. If tomorrow a patient were to test positive at Memorial Hospital here in Jacksonville, would you transfer that patient to one of the four hospitals outside of the state that has biocontainment units? Or are you completely confident that hospitals in this state could treat that patient without any Florida health care workers getting sick?
SCOTT: So here is what we’ve done so far, and I would feel comfortable that we are doing the right things right here in Florida. When this first came out, here is how I thought about it. We have almost 20 million people in the state. We have about 100 million tourists that come to our state. We have health care workers and we have first responders.
My goal was to make everybody feel comfortable that we were prepared. Just like if there was going to be a hurricane, we would be prepared for it. So the first thing I did is I start asking for things from the CDC. We wanted more testing kits. We’ve asked for 30; we’ve gotten three so far. We asked for more protective gear. We haven’t gotten that from the CDC yet.
We asked for them to do a conference call with all of our health care workers to explain what happened in Atlanta versus what happened in Dallas because I used to be in the hospital business. You try to find best practices. They did that yesterday. So, that was a positive. We have asked if we can use some of the federal funding in our own agencies to buy more equipment. They’ve allowed us to do that. So we are buying with their money and state money protective gear –
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
SCOTT: — so we’re heading in the right direction.
TAPPER: All right. So just to be clear, though, you feel comfortable with the patients staying here?
TAPPER: OK, Governor Crist, let me ask you a question. In the last debate, you gave the governor high marks when it came to his handling of Ebola. On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate the marks President Obama – what marks would you give to President Obama when it comes to his handling of this crisis?
CRIST: I’d probably give it an eight. I think we had a little bit of a slow start. I think everybody kind of recognizes that. But I think they’ve really caught their stride. I think the federal administration is doing a commendable job with a difficult situation.
And I think it is important that the president work with governors throughout the country, make sure we are doing everything possible, everything humanly possible to be prepared and not panic with this issue. I think working with the CDC is important as well, and anybody in the public health arena who has experience with scenarios like this, we need to rely on them most importantly.
TAPPER: All right. Let’s bring in WJXT anchor Ken Justice for the next question. Ken?
KEN JUSTICE, WJXT ANCHOR: Thanks, Jake. Governors, it’s an honor to be a voice for Florida voters tonight. And to that point, Governor Crist, we have a question now from Facebook. Florida voter Andrea Sacha from Ormond Beach asks this: “Why should we trust Charlie Crist? He has flipped parties, views on education, health care and abortion. It seems like he just does what is expedient for Charlie Crist.” Governor, respond to Andrea and the other voters who may have that concern.
CRIST: Sure. Well, what I think is important is you’re true to your core beliefs, to how you’re raised. And that’s what I have done. It’s frankly why I’m not a Republican anymore.
The Republican leadership sadly has gone so hard to the right under the Tea Party kidnapping, if you will, it just wasn’t consistent with how I was raised by my mother and father in St. Petersburg.
On abortion, I’ve always been, you know, personally pro-life, but I never thought that it was right for government to impose its will. I think it’s important for women to be able to make their own choices about their own bodies. And Governor Scott has a different point of view on that.
I’m somebody that you can trust. I am who I have always been. I call it the way I see it. I am for education and I want to protect our environment, women should have the right to choose and we should raise the minimum wage. These are things that I feel strongly about and always have.
TAPPER: Governor Scott, your name was invoked if you would 30 seconds to response.
SCOTT: Sure. Well, one things that should all concern us is Charlie said that he is taking positions for political expediency meaning to get elected —
CRIST: That is not true.
SCOTT: And that is exactly what he said. What is he saying this year that he actually believes, whether it is on taxes or education or abortion or women’s rights, what position is he taking today that he actually is doing just to get elected.
TAPPER: Governor Crist, if you want, you can respond to that.
CRIST: What was interesting, he talked about, you know, how do you know Charlie is telling the truth? How do you know Rick is telling the truth? I mean, let’s remember what we are dealing with here.
This is a man whose company was charged with Medicare fraud and had to end up paying the largest fine for Medicare fraud in the history of the United States of America, $1.7 billion.
And I think you actually worked on the story, Jake, and you did a great job. But when you bring that kind of background into the governor’s office and then have the kind of cronyism that we do in the Scott administration, it makes it hard to believe anything he said.
TAPPER: Governor Scott?
SCOTT: Right there is a big difference between Charlie and me. All right, I built a company from scratch. In nine years, it went from (inaudible) to 285,000 employees, when something went wrong.
I said in 2010 and I’ll say it again today, I’ll take responsibility. There is always something you can do better. But Charlie has never taken responsibility. He says he is not responsible.
Scott Rothstein testified under oath that Charlie was paid to appoint judges. Charlie won’t take responbility. His hand-picked party chairman went to prison. Both these guys raised money while committing fraud. Charlie says he is not responsible. He says when —
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
SCOTT: — jobs were lost.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor. Governor Scott, I have a question for you. Florida —
CRIST: May I respond to that. That was pretty serious.
TAPPER: Sure. Governor Crist.
CRIST: Thank you. You know, the notion that he would put millions of dollars behind a commercial where somebody who is a convicted felon makes a false allegation against me is stunning. That is so irresponsible and that is not being accountable.
And Rick, you talk about being accountable. How were you accountable with HCA at all? You won’t answer questions 75 times under oath, you pled the Fifth Amendment. You paid no fine. You didn’t give any money back. You left with, you know, a couple million dollars when you were kicked out by the board. I don’t call that, you know, being responsible.
TAPPER: If I may, let me ask a direct question of each of you having to do with charges that you have each leveled just now against the other.
Governor Scott, you say you’ve taken responsibility for what happened at Columbia HCA. What specifically are you taking responsibility for? What happened at that firm resulting in a $1.75 billion fine that you say, I was responsible?
SCOTT: What I say is when you have a company like that and something goes wrong, you know, you say, I thought about what could I do better? What could I have done better? I could have hired more auditors. That is what I said in 2010 and I wish I would have done that.
But let’s remember, I have said I took responsibility for that. Charlie is not responsible for 832,000 jobs lost, raising taxes $2.2 million. Raising tuition when he said he was against all of those things.
When we elected him saying he was a Ronald Reagan Republican and then did just the opposite. And again, he won’t respond to the fact that — did he — what charges did — judges did he appoint for the campaign contribution. He won’t respond to that.
SCOTT: What he know that Jim Grew was doing when he is committing fraud, raising money for Charlie? Did Charlie give any of that money back? No. Charlie didn’t give any of money back. He kept all that money even though he said he was a Republican —
CRIST: He gave all of the money back. You’re just wrong.
SCOTT: He didn’t give the money back.
CRIST: We’ll see in the paper tomorrow.
TAPPER: Governor Crist, if you can, you can respond, if you want you can respond to that or I have a question for you.
CRIST: I’m ready for your question. I think we should move on. I mean, it’s obvious that he has his problems and I don’t.
TAPPER: So the question is about the charge that he leveled against you because you leveled one against him that I asked about. There have been a number of close associates of yours that have gone to prison. What does that say about your judgment?
CRIST: Well, you know, I don’t have a crystal ball and you can’t always foresee what people are going to do in their future. Let me give an example. You know, I’ve met people that later took a bad turn. That happens. And it is unfortunate.
It also happened to Jeb Bush. He picked a secretary at the Department of Corrections, who is now in federal prison. I mean, those things happen. You can’t always foresee that somebody might go bad later on and I’m no different than Governor Bush was in that scenario.
TAPPER: Let’s move on. Governor Scott, Florida prides itself on its open right laws. It’s right in the constitution. Reporters investigating your finances have found that federal documents appear to show that you have much more money tied up in family trusts than you have disclosed.
Why not do what the state constitution requires and file a quote, “full and public disclosure” of your financial interests. What I’m looking for here, Governor, is what is the reason for your reluctance to provide this information to the voters of a state that prides itself on open government?
SCOTT: Well, I believe in open government and that is what I’ve done. Let’s look at what I’ve done. In 2010, when I ran, I disclosed the assets. I did exactly what the grand jury suggested under Charlie that I put my assets in a blind trust.
Why do you that so you don’t know what you own if you have any assets so you don’t have a conflict. Jeb Bush did it. Alex Sync did it when she was CFO. I did the same thing.
But on top of that, this year, I disclosed everything in the blind trust when I did my filing and also filed my tax returns, mine and my wife’s. I’ve done all of that, Charlie hasn’t.
Charlie has not released his and his wife’s tax return like Jeb Bush did, like Alex Sync did, like Bill McBride did, like I did. But I have disclosed everything and I will continue to disclose everything.
TAPPER: Governor Crist?
CRIST: I’ve disclosed all of my tax returns. In fact, I think I’ve disclosed them for the last 15 years. Rick Scott has not done that. And he talked about the fact that my wife has not released hers. That is true. We file separately.
And I believe in a woman’s right to choose and I’m going to protect her from that if that is what she wants. I don’t think that is fair for Governor Scott to try to impose my wife — she’s not running for anything. This is an election between you and me, Rick.
TAPPER: All right, let’s move on to an issue that is foremost among the minds of Florida voters and that is, of course, jobs and the economy. Governor Crist, as you know, and Governor Scott reminds us quite often, more than 800,000 jobs were lost while you were governor.
Now when that is raised, you always say that you were not responsible for the global economic meltdown that occurred during your term, but Florida did have the second highest job loss in the nation, are you saying that you are not to blame for any of the jobs lost while you were governor?
CRIST: No, I don’t think I was and I’ll tell you why. You know, when I came into office, we were starting to experience a real estate meltdown in particular. We’re in Florida. We depend on real estate an awful lot in our state. I know the viewers that are watching tonight get that.
And what Rick Scott doesn’t get is the fact that, you know, even though he talks about creating more than 600,000 jobs, I was not responsible for the global economic meltdown any more than Rick was responsible for the national economic recovery.
And you know, if you are somebody who flies around in a private jet and you live on a mansion on the sea, it is hard to understand what people are suffering from. And this is probably the most important thing I will say tonight.
The real difference in this race is, I understand what you are dealing with. I talk to people that are working two and three jobs every day I’m out there in Florida. I am on your side and unfortunately, Rick Scott is not.
TAPPER: Governor Scott, you want to respond?
SCOTT: Well, first off, Charlie, you grew up with money. I grew up with families that struggled. I don’t know my natural father. I lived in public housing, I have an adopted dad. They struggled for money. I know what it is like to watch a parent lose the only family car we have.
So I know what people — I watched my parents struggle when my brother couldn’t get health care. So Charlie, I didn’t grow up with money you did. You grew up with plenty of money. Charlie, you lost more jobs than any state but one. We have the second highest increase in unemployment in the country.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
SCOTT: A million homes were foreclosed on when you were governor.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor. Let’s go now back —
CRIST: May I respond quick?
TAPPER: Well, we’re staying on the topic.
CRIST: OK, great.
UNIDENTIFIED MODERATOR: Let’s stay on the jobs and economy. And Governor Scott, four years ago running for office in an October 2010 gubernatorial debate, you promised in seven years you would create 700,000 new jobs, quote, “on top of what normal growth would be.”
Economists expected that to be 1 million so you add those together it’s 1.7 million new jobs and so far and as of today, we’ve looked at these number, about 626,000 new jobs have been created, well short of your mark so the question is why aren’t you meeting your own benchmark?
SCOTT: Sure. I ran on a campaign of seven steps to 700,000 jobs over seven years. We have 651,000 private sector jobs so far. We have 261,000 job openings right now. Let’s look at what normal growth was when I took office. The normal growth was under Charlie, you would lose 832,000 jobs. So normal growth would be double that. Normal growth at the time was unemployment going from 3.5 to 11.1 percent. So no more growth under Charlie would be now unemployment at 18 percent.
So if you go back and look at what normal growth was when I look office, he was losing 800,000 jobs over four years. We’ve added 651,000 jobs and 261,000 job openings averaging come from those openings for the top 25 in demand is $27 an hour, or $55,000 annual income and we’re down to a little over 100,000 people on unemployment. So this state is on a roll.
TAPPER: Governor Crist, do you want to respond?
CRIST: Yes. There are 600,000 people that are still unemployed in Florida. Another 700,000 that not on the job rolls anymore because they basically have given up. That is about 1.3 million people in Florida not working today.
What I think is important is to understand their plight, what they are dealing with, their challenges. You have to look at who we defend and who we support and why the two of us are running.
I’m running to defend the middle class. I’m running to give you a chance. I’ve always fought for you as your attorney general and your governor before. Rick Scott is fighting for the big utility companies and the property insurance companies. That is whose side he is on and that is the difference in the race.
SCOTT: Can I respond?
TAPPER: Yes, of course.
SCOTT: I think the truth is, look at our differences. Charlie grew up with money. He’s never had to worry about money his whole life. He didn’t have — look, when you grow up worried about money like my parents like I did growing up, when you start a business, wondering if you can make payroll. Charlie never did these things. He didn’t have parents worrying about putting food on the table or paying for health care.
So what I think about everyday and I ran for governor for this reason. I want this state to be the place where any family from whatever country or zip code, whatever, you can live any dream. The dream is you can get a great job and your children can get a great education so they can live the dream.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor. Governor Crist if you want to respond.
CRIST: Thank you. Yes, appreciate that.
If that is so, then why doesn’t Governor Scott fight for the middle class consumers that I meet every single day that are paying higher utility bills, higher property insurance bills. They go higher and higher every year of his administration. When I was elected as your governor last time within of the first things I did was call an emergency special session to reduce your property insurance bills and we did it. Then I called another one to reduce your property taxes and we got it done. That is somebody looking out for you. That is somebody on your side. He’s on the side of the big utility companies.
TAPPER: Thank you.
SCOTT: Can I respond to that?
TAPPER: If you want, sure.
SCOTT: First off, utility rates went up during Charlie and went down since I have been —
SCOTT: You can go to factsreporter.com. He says things that are not true. With regard to property taxes. You said they would drop like a rock. Charlie, when you were governor, the only thing that dropped like a rock were home prices. They dropped 48 percent when you were governor. Third on property insurance. You put the state at significant risk for each hurricane, the average household would be responsible for $1800 of additional fees because of what you did to citizens.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor. Do you want to respond, Governor Crist?
CRIST: Sure. We haven’t had a hurricane in eight years and your property insurance rates have gone through the roof. No why is that? I’ll tell you why. It is because Rick Scott is not letting the department of insurance regulate insurance. He actually signed a bill last year that said that the department of insurance regulation cannot regulate insurance. Does that make sense to anybody? It certainly doesn’t make sense to the people at home paying higher property insurance rates because of your administration.
TAPPER: I would like to move on.
SCOTT: That is not true.
SCOTT: That is not true at all.
TAPPER: I would like to move on, if I could. Both of you disagree on raising the minimum wage which is currently in Florida, $7.93 an hour. Governor Crist wants to raise it to $10.10 an hour.
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?
TAPPER: What should it be?
SCOTT: How would I know — I mean, the private sector decides wages. Let’s look at what actually happened. With Charlie said he wants to raise the minimum wage. That according to the congressional budget office would lose 500,000 jobs. Charlie you lost 832,000 jobs when you were governor and how many more jobs can we lose?
And let’s look at what Charlie did. He can do anything he wants with minimum wage but actually under Charlie, the minimum wage was zero. Charlie went 832,000 people went from making money to zero.
Charlie, you should be known as the zero-wage governor. I don’t want to lose any more jobs. Think about where we are, 261,000 job openings, average income for the top 25 in demand is $27 an hour. That is how you get people better wages. You go find companies to move here like Hertz (ph) or Look Heed Martin (ph) or Northrop Grumman (ph). You have to recruit companies which something, Charlie, you never did while you were governor.
TAPPER: Governor Scott, if I could just drill down for a second. You said that you support the concept of a minimum wage but then you said that the private sector sets it. But obviously, the minimum wage is set by the government. Do you support the concept of the government setting a minimum wage.
SCOTT: Sure. But the truth — but the bottom line is just because they set a minimum wage doesn’t mean you get a job. Under Charlie it was $7.93, like it was lower than that, it has gone up since I was governor. When in Charlie, you know, the minimum wage was zero, 832,000 people lost her jobs.
TAPPER: I would like to let Governor Crist respond, if you like.
CRIST: Yes. The facts are pretty clear here. He is against raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. And he said the very idea of it makes him cringe. Why? Why would it make any cringe to have a little bit more money in your pocket. And the statistics are also not what he said, but they are crystal clear that in Seattle and San Francisco where the minimum wage has actually been raised, more jobs are being produced, people have more money in their pocket so you can go to the mom and pop down the street and spend a little bit more and the economy benefited.
TAPPER: Governor Crist, I want to ask you, because economists — some economists do say that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would cost 50,000 jobs in Florida, 500,000 is a projection nationwide and 50,000 in Florida. We spoke with one Orlando’s small business owner named Joan Marge (ph). She tells that she has done the math and the minimum wage goes to $10.10 an hour, she is going to have to lay off one of her 17 employees. What is your message to the one employee who would be laid off? Why is it worth it?
CRIST: Well, the reason I think it is worth it because people deserve it. My wife is a small business woman. And God bless her, she pays her employee at least $10.10 an hour because she knows it is the right thing to do. I mean, how can somebody get by on $7.93 an hour?
As I said before, I talk to people every day that tell me they are having to work two and three jobs just to make ends meet. Now, that is not an economy that is humming along. You know, as I said before, if you are somebody like Rick Scott and you have a private jet and you fly 30,000 feet above people all of the time or you live in an ocean-front mansion, you are out of touch and you are not feeling what people that are watching tonight are feeling at home. And I know they are hurting. And I know they need somebody who is on their side.
I was that governor before. I was the attorney general when I fought the big utility and when I fought the property and insurance companies. And I’ll do it again. And in 14 days you get the opportunity to make that change.
TAPPER: Governor Scott?
SCOTT: Charlie just said it, 50,000 individuals, he doesn’t care. That — Jake, your example, that one employee, Charlie doesn’t care. The reason he doesn’t care is he’s never experienced it. I watched a parent that lose the only family car. I watched a father struggle to buy Christmas presents. I went through that as a child.
Charlie never went through that. Charlie grew up with plenty of money. He’s never had to worry about money. HE has never have to worry about being laid off. Charlie has done fine in life. But what I’m going to fight for every day is what I’ve done the last three years and nine months, I’m going to fight for families like mine growing up.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor. Governor Crist?
CRIST: He talks about that I’ve done fine in life. Listen, when I was a little kid, we lived in a small apartment in Atlanta when my dad was going to medical school and he used to delivered newspapers to make ends meet. So you don’t know me and you can’t tell my story. And I’m not going to tell yours. But I know you are worth about $100 or $200 million today.
And you know, God bless you for that wealth, Rick. But the way you got it was pretty unsavory. And you know, the fact that you just don’t relate to people, real people in Florida today and the struggles they have, and you won’t lower utility rates, you won’t lower property insurance, it is wrong.
SCOTT: Charlie, you raise utility rates.
CRIST: I did not.
SCOTT: They went up. They’ve come down since I’ve been governor. You almost bankrupt our state. You borrowed $900 million, Charlie. Somebody has to pay that off. Charlie, when you took off, a family wanted to buy a prepaid to send their child to university was only $100 a month. Four years later, Charlie, it was $250 a month.
CRIST: He is talking about —
TAPPER: We are going to have lots more on the other end of this. But we do have to take a quick break. When we come back, these governors are not the only one on the ballot, medical marijuana is as well. We’ll get their take on that next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to debate night. We are here in Jacksonville, Florida, for the final debate in the heated Florida governor’s race. We have a lot to cover. So let’s get right back to it.
Gentlemen, as I mentioned before the break, medical marijuana is also on the ballot this November.
Governor Scott, you signed a law allowing a very mild form of marijuana to be used by Floridian suffering from cancer, epilepsy, and ALS. We spoke with Seth Hymen (ph) of Western Florida who says it is almost that brand, that grade of medical marijuana almost certainly will not be enough for his 8-year-old daughter, Rebecca, whose seizures cause her to stop breathing. What is your message to Seth and his daughter, Rebecca? They say that you are — Seth says you are not giving his daughter a real chance?
SCOTT: Well first off, I want everybody gets the medical health they need. Anybody that hasn’t build in illness. I have been in the health care business, I want to make sure you get. We did that — we started this year with Charlotte’s web (ph). I was pass the legislation. I signed that. And I think the right thing to do is continue to go back through the legislative process to find treatments that work and let’s make sure we get those two individuals all around our state, and let’s make sure they are things that are safe for your family. We are going through the charlotte’s web discussion this year and I wanted to make sure it was safe for everybody.
TAPPER: Governor Crist?
CRIST: I support the medical marijuana amendment. And the reason I do is I think it is the compassionate thing to do. My law partner John Morgan has worked very hard to get it on the ballot and I commend him for that. I think it is important to have done so because he did it out of compassion. Compassion for his brother, compassion for his father. I happen to have a sister that a little over a year was diagnosed with brain cancer. Thank God she’s doing well. Hello, Margaret. God bless you.
But, you know, if people like her would be get into pain or multiple sclerosis and they needed something plus powerful Than oxycontin, it is a good alternative.
TAPPER: Thank you, governor.
TAPPER: Governor Crist, I want to ask you. There are a lot of questions raised recently about the Florida state university football team, specifically that some FSU players have gotten away with crimes ranging from car theft to alleged rape, almost as if they are as protective class.
You are proud FSU alumnus, do you think this is a serious problem with FSU or as some FSU booster would have it is just immediate taking cheap shots?
CRIST: Well, you know, I think it is a serious problem. You know, whenever you have an allegation of the types that we have seen, you’ve got to take it seriously. I used to be the attorney general and I understand what justice means. You’ve got to approach it in a fairway. I mean, you know, you’ve got to make sure that there is balance, just like there are on the scales of justice.
But this isn’t just an issue at Florida State University. It’s an issue across our country. And we’ve seen a lot of focus on it and I think that’s a good thing. We’ve seen the stories out of the NFL.
This is a problem that America has, and we have to address it in a serious way. And we have to have law enforcement that acts appropriately, and we have to have, you know, state attorneys or whoever might bring those charges, do thorough investigations, get all the facts and then move forward appropriately.
TAPPER: Governor Scott, does FSU have a serious problem?
SCOTT: Well, first off, I think every athlete, every student needs to be held to the highest standards. So, I think that if there’s allegations, they need to be reviewed. There shouldn’t be different standards for anybody. Anybody involved, whether it’s going through the schools or through the state attorneys, everybody has to be held to the highest standard.
TAPPER: Are they being held to the highest standard?
SCOTT: Well, what’s going on in particular with the FSU issue is the state attorney reviewed it, Willie Mays reviewed it, and decided not to proceed. But it’s going back through again now the process at FSU, and they’ll — you know, they’ll go through that process and they’ll review it through the normal channels. But my goal is that every athlete, every student be held to the highest standards and the same standards.
TAPPER: Governor Scott, during your term as governor, Florida became second only to Texas in the number of executions. Governor Crist has said, in reference to you, quote, “This governor signs a lot of death warrants for whatever reason. I did not sign a lot of them because I took it very, very seriously,” unquote.
Governor Crist seems to be suggesting that you do not take this process seriously. What’s your response?
SCOTT: Sure. Look, the death penalty is a solemn — is a solemn duty. It’s something very difficult to do. But these individuals have done heinous crimes. I think about the families. I think about the victims and I review the cases, and I’m very cautious in that case.
But they have done heinous crimes. I have met with the victims’ families, and it gives those families some, you know, conclusion to what’s going on. I see them sometimes around the state. And what I think about all of the time is the victims.
TAPPER: Governor Crist, do you really think Governor Scott doesn’t take it seriously?
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.
And I don’t know what all of the facts were. The only facts I do know is an execution was delayed because the attorney general of Florida wanted to hold a political fundraiser and that can’t be delayed without the governor’s consent.
TAPPER: Governor Scott?
SCOTT: You know, Charlie said it. He doesn’t know all of the facts. He doesn’t know what I go through, what I — or how I think. The prayers, you know, I do, because it’s a solemn duty.
CRIST: Well, did the attorney general ask you to delay it?
SCOTT: Charlie, will you please wait while I’m talking?
What I think about is those victims. If you read the cases at what these individuals have done to those victims, you won’t feel good about doing it, but it’s my duty to do it as governor and I’ll continue to do it.
TAPPER: Governor Crist?
CRIST: Well, he won’t answer the question. I asked him a simple question. Did the attorney general ask you to delay the execution so she could go forward with her political fundraiser?
TAPPER: You can answer that governor, Scott.
SCOTT: It was — she asked me to delay it because it didn’t work on the dates that she thought it was going to be on.
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.
TAPPER: Governor Crist, earlier this year, in discussing why you left the Republican Party, you said the following, quote, “I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs and stay with the party that was so unfriendly for the African-American president. I’ll just go there. I saw a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing. It was intolerable to me”, unquote.
So, clarify if you would for Florida voters — are you saying there are so many racists in the Republican Party you couldn’t remain a Republican?
CRIST: No. I’m saying that that element exists.
Listen, my mother and father are Republicans. I love them to death and they don’t have a racial bone in their body, racist bone in their body. What is at work here is a pretty simple thing, and if you remember back with me to 2008 and some of the e-mails that were distributed about the president by some members, not all, of the Republican Party, they weren’t exactly flattering. And I think you probably can research and find out what I’m talking about. But it wasn’t right.
And I can tell you that the reaction I had gotten from some in the Republican Party, leadership, wasn’t tolerable to me, you know?
And it was pretty clear to me. It wasn’t just because I was willing to work across the aisle with a Democrat to get the recovery funds to come to Florida. It was also pretty apparent to me because it was the first African-American president.
Listen, I don’t enjoy saying that. It’s not what — you know, it’s fun to say, but I’m going to tell the truth and those are the facts.
TAPPER: Governor Scott?
SCOTT: Charlie, you are divider. You are a mudslinger. You’re a divider. The entire time you’ve been in politics, what you’ve done is just —
CRIST: You have spent millions and millions.
TAPPER: If you could.
SCOTT: You are a divider.
Look at what we have. We live in a — we live in a wonderful state. We are the best melting pot in the world. We have so many wonderful people here that have come from all over the world and you want to try to divide people.
I want everybody — I want everybody — I want everybody to have the same shot I had to live the American dream.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
CRIST: Yes. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. You know, I reached across the aisle when I was your governor. I worked with the president to get recovery funds.
This governor, Governor Rick Scott, won’t work with the president even to get high-speed rail, which is so important to Central Florida, eventually the whole state, would have been $2.4 billion to Florida, some say 60,000 jobs.
He will not lift a finger to get Medicaid expansion done. And as a result, a million Floridians watching tonight aren’t getting health care again today as a result of that inaction on Rick Scott’s part. Plus, it would bring 120,000 jobs.
SCOTT: First off, Charlie, your high speed — first off, you left me with a $3.6 million budget deficit. You borrowed $9 billion. You borrowed everything you could and then you left a project on the table that would cost us billions of dollars, right?
And then you want to talk about Medicaid. You were governor when it passed. Why didn’t you get it passed right then? Why didn’t you expand it right then?
I actually have worked with the federal government, worked as an example, something you wouldn’t do, we settled a decades old lawsuit over the Everglades. You wouldn’t lift a finger to try to settle that.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
CRIST: Well, Governor Scott doesn’t work with the administration. It’s pretty clear. You know, he asked for their help when we maybe have a crisis like Ebola and that’s the right thing to do.
But, you know, when we are offered, you know, 60,000 jobs for high-speed rail and 120,000 jobs with Medicaid expansion, Governor Rick Scott just says no, you know? I mean, he’s all talk and no action, and as a result, those tens of thousands of Floridians that would have a job today in our stalled economy, Rick, aren’t getting the employment that they need.
And that’s just not right. You’re not on their side. I am.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
SCOTT: Charlie, you are the last person that ought to be talking about jobs. You lost 832,000 jobs.
Charlie, government doesn’t create jobs. You can talk all you want. But you didn’t take action to help create jobs.
You wouldn’t call on a company. You wouldn’t work with economic development. We’ve won 400 competitive projects to get companies like Hertz and Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to either move or expand here. Charlie, you would never even make any of those phone calls.
CRIST: Let’s talk about a jobs program. What Governor Scott has done is say, I will guarantee $266 million for big corporations outside of Florida to come to Florida for jobs that are promised. Well, “The Tampa Bay Times” and “Miami Herald” did a great piece and found that only 4 percent of the jobs promised actually were created. That’s a 96 percent failure on your jobs program.
Now, what would I do? Because you deserve to know tonight, because in two weeks, you’ve got to decide.
I would take that money and invest it in small businesses right here in Florida. Go to FairshotFlorida.com, our Web site, that talks about our plan.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
SCOTT: Can we expand that?
TAPPER: I’d like to move on, if I could. I want to ask you a question about the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin —
SCOTT: Can I explain that he doesn’t actually know how economy development works?
We just got — G.E. just said they’re going to add 500 jobs. So, we did a project with them. It was a competitive bid and we won.
Now, Charlie, they don’t add the jobs in one day and we don’t give them the money until they add the jobs. So, we’re not out the money until then.
And, Charlie, you had this job, why didn’t you do all of these great things you are talking about, because you’re pure talk and you take no action. That’s why you lost 832,000 jobs.
CRIST: May I respond to that, Jake?
Thank you very much.
I was serving during the global economic meltdown. And we did the very best we could to get Florida through it and we did.
And the economy in Florida was starting to come back when you came into office because of the policies I had, like accepting the recovery money from the president. That kept us from having to fire 20,000 school teachers. Those are real jobs, Rick. And it matters to them.
So, I’m action. And I got things done. And I’ll do it again. And I’ll work with anybody, Republican, Democrat, or independent that will help bring jobs here and you won’t.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
I’d like to move on if I could Governor Scott, I want to talk about the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, which put a spotlight on issues of race and justice and self-defense in this country, issues that we’ve seen time and time again, perhaps most recently and notably in Ferguson, Missouri.
And here is the larger issue that I see coming up in all these issues, Governor Scott, and it’s a yes-or-no question.
Do you believe that African-Americans, especially young African-American men, do you think that they get a fair shake in the criminal justice system?
SCOTT: My goal is that they do. I — let me — I can tell you about the Trayvon Martin case.
TAPPER: I’d rather actually have you focused on just — you said your goal is they do. But do they? And what are you doing to get them there, if you want them to be there?
SCOTT: Sure. All right. Here’s the things we’ve done. First, in the Trayvon Martin case, I sat down with the family, with Sybrina the mom and Tracy the dad. I introduced them directly to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that would do the investigation. I told them in person that I was going to bring in a special prosecutor to make sure that justice was served.
So, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure in any case like that, the right thing happens.
Now, here is what we’ve done. We have completely changed how we do juvenile justice. We’ve had a dramatic drop in the number of arrests since I got elected. We have the lowest recidivism out of our prison system because we put in reentry programs and we’ve helped try to make sure that if you get out of prison, you actually get a job and can you get a job today unlike under Charlie when you couldn’t get a job.
So, are we making progress? Yes. Is there more work to do? Absolutely.
TAPPER: OK. We’re going to take another quick break. When we come back, the one issue that experts say the next governor of Florida must deal with before it’s too late. That’s coming up.
TAPPER: Welcome back to debate night. We’re here in Jacksonville, Florida, just two weeks from election tonight. This is the final debate in the race for governor.
This is being broadcast on CNN, on stations throughout Florida, and on CNN en Espanol. And remember, you can go to Bing.com/CNN in real time to vote on what candidate’s answers you find the most, or alternatively the least convincing.
Let’s get back to the debate.
Governor Crist, you wanted to weigh in on the question I ask Governor Scott on whether or not African-Americans, specifically young African-American males, get a fair shake from the criminal justice system. I’ll give you 30 seconds.
CRIST: I don’t believe they do. I think it’s sad. I think it’s very important that everybody is treated equally and get the justice they deserve. As I’ve said earlier tonight, I used to serve as the attorney general and we filed civil rights cases to make sure that all people were being treated fairly. One in particular dealt with a hotel in Perry, Florida, call the southern inn where they were discriminating against the African-American children swimming in the pool.
But the more important issue here is restoration of rights. When I was governor, I brought restoration of rights back for nonviolent felons so they can have a change to get a job. Sadly under Rick Scott, it’s gone and it’s gone for at least five years, you can’t even apply.
SCOTT: Can I respond to that?
SCOTT: Here’s Charlie’s plan. You commit a heinous crime, as soon as you get out of jail, you get to vote. Stalk, you get to vote as soon as you walk out. You have intentional permanent disfigurement of a child, you walk out of jail, you immediately get to vote.
That’s wrong, Charlie.
CRIST: That is fundamentally unfair. I said nonviolent criminals. You are lying again.
SCOTT: No, that’s not true. Go to FactsforFlorida.com, Charlie. You want to look at yourself, you can look it up. That’s exactly what you did. And I completely disagree with that.
TAPPER: Governor Crist?
CRIST: It’s very unfair. Go to his site if you want to, but I would recommend that you go to FairShotFlorida.com instead, and you’ll find out the truth. What he just said is absolutely false.
TAPPER: Governor Crist, you support lifting the embargo against Cuba. You’ve said you’d like to travel there after the election if the opportunity presents itself. Governor Scott calls the Castro terrorists.
Would you be willing to meet with Raul Castro when you are in Cuba?
CRIST: I would not, no. I think that the embargo — let’s talk about it in the broader sense for a moment. The embargo has been in place for over 50 years, it has not worked. The intent of the embargo was to get rid of the Castro brothers. They’re still there.
So, that is a flawed program. It hasn’t worked. The people on the island are still suffering and that’s what concerns me. I have compassion and I care about people and I don’t want to see them suffer. And we are the state closest to Cuba, only 90 miles away.
In addition, if we were able to open up relations with the island of Cuba and the Cuban people, learn from the dissidents, get better insight into what they are having to deal with — God bless you, Jake.
TAPPER: Thank you.
CRIST: But in addition have the opportunity to have some redevelopment in the island, the natural launching pad for all of that redevelopment if we can move forward is the state of Florida and that would help Florida’s economy and it would help our hemisphere, and hopefully bring more freedom to Cuba.
TAPPER: Governor Scott, I want to ask you a question —
SCOTT: Can I respond on Cuba?
TAPPER: Sure, if you’d like to.
SCOTT: So, the only thing that’s changed with regard to the Castro brothers is Charlie’s position. They’re terrorists. They are — there’s no democracy there. There’s human rights violations.
They’re part of the (INAUDIBLE) in Venezuela with the Maduro regime, where they’re killing peaceful protesters. I wouldn’t be going to Cuba. I wouldn’t be meeting with the Castro brothers. We need to stand with individuals there in Cuba, (INAUDIBLE) say do not end the embargo, it’s the right thing for long-term to have democracy.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
Let’s go back to WJXT’s Kent Justice for our next question — Kent.
KENT JUSTICE, MODERATOR: We want to take a question from Facebook, regarding immigration and specifically driver’s licenses.
Governor Crist, I’m going to start with you. Karla De Anda from North Miami Beach Florida asked, “Do you support giving driver’s licenses regardless of legal status, not just the DREAMers?” Governor Crist?
CRIST: I think we need to have it for all of them. I think it’s important — you got to understand, I’m a grandson of a Greek immigrant. My grandfather Adam Christodoulou came to this country when he was 14 years old and he didn’t have any money. He had a dream of coming to a place called America, a dream, that would give him a chance.
He fought in World War I, he was honorably discharged and he gained his citizenship. And he was able to get a driver’s license.
And these young people today should be able to get a driver’s license. My running mate, Annette Taddeo, is an immigrant herself from Colombia.
We are a nation of immigrants. And Florida is the shining example of how promising that diversity can be. We need to do everything we can to move immigration — comprehensive immigration reform forward. And if elected governor, I would encourage our members of Congress, our senators, to work the administration to get that done.
JUSTICE: Thank you, Governor Crist.
SCOTT: Here’s why we’re having this conversation. The president has failed us. He has not worked to get immigration reform done. He hasn’t secured our borders. Now, we have a humanitarian crisis on our border, where we have unaccompanied minors coming across the border because of the president’s actions.
We need to have comprehensive immigration reform. We need to have immigration reform where we have — we know how to legally immigrate in this country. And we know — if you want to come to this country, you know how to immigrate, and if you’re here, you know what the rules are.
But the reason why you’re having these conversations is because the president has failed us. The president needs to secure our borders and have a policy that works.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
Let me ask you, let me just — to follow up —
CRIST: Can I just respond to that?
TAPPER: I’d like to follow — I’m staying on the same subject of immigration reform. You praised Senator Rubio for his efforts in immigration reform.
There’s one clarification I think the voters of Florida would appreciate. Do you support the part of Senator Rubio’s bill that would provide a path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants in this country, specifically that part?
SCOTT: What I said is I appreciate what Senator Rubio tried. I appreciate the fact that he pushed, tried to get comprehensive immigration reform done.
But I don’t think you can talk about this in pieces. You have to take the whole package and the president has failed us. He hasn’t done it. He hasn’t worked with Congress. He hasn’t secured our borders.
And by not securing our borders, it makes it very difficult to get anything done, because Americans want — the first thing they want is, with regard to immigration, they want secure borders and then they want a comprehensive policy out of the president, and he won’t do it.
TAPPER: But do you support the citizenship part of the bill?
SCOTT: I — here’s what I said, is I support the process, but I want a comprehensive package done.
TAPPER: But do you support that if it’s part of a comprehensive plan?
SCOTT: I’d have to see the whole thing.
TAPPER: You got to see the legislation.
CRIST: Yes, I support it. And I think what’s happened is, it’s not that the administration hasn’t tried to move forward on this issue. You know, there’s a lot of components to government, there’s three branches as a matter of fact, and the congress, particularly the House of Representatives, has not been particularly helpful in helping the administration try to move forward.
So, to blame it all on the administration is disingenuous. It’s just not true.
But let’s talk about where Rick Scott was on immigration, when he ran for governor last time. He wanted to bring about an Arizona-style law in Florida, where law enforcement officers were able to pull people over because of — you know, maybe they looked wrong. But that’s not right. Not the right policy.
SCOTT: Can I respond?
First of all, I believe in legal immigration. I believe in the rule of law.
But let’s look at what I did do what Charlie said was the wrong thing to do. I said, if you were in our state, you should get the same in-state tuition as your peers. Charlie said, when the legislature didn’t pass it before, that they did the right thing. So, Charlie was against that.
But we did the right thing, because whatever country you grow up in, if you live in Florida, you ought to have the same right in-state tuition as your peers.
CRIST: But now, you won’t get them a driver’s license, Rick?
SCOTT: They have that right right now.
TAPPER: Governor Scott, I want to move on to one other job, that scientists in the state are very concerned about — people who live near the beach are very concerned about climate change. Whenever you’re asked about whether or not climate change is caused by men in part or in whole, you say you’re not a scientist.
But you are a governor. Doctors advise you on Ebola. Economists advise you on the economy.
Why are you so reluctant to believe the overwhelming majority of scientists who say that man contributes to climate change?
CRIST: So, what I mean is the solutions. So, the — so, here’s what we’ve done. I’m gong to tell you what we’ve done.
We have spent $350 million to deal with sea level rise down in the Keys. We spent — or down in the Miami Area. We spent hundreds of millions dollars to deal with corral reefs. We did an historic settlement with the federal government over the Everglades. We’ve done — we put historic money into our springs.
So, we’re going piece by piece in solving the problems. That’s the right way to do this.
Charlie is going to talk — look, he’ll climate change, global warming conferences and then do nothing. He didn’t put money into dealing with sea level rise. He didn’t lift a finger to settle the lawsuit over the Everglades. He didn’t put a dime in to corral reefs. He didn’t put money to make sure our springs were protected.
But he’ll have a nice conference. They’ll talk a big game. But under Charlie, nothing will happen.
TAPPER: Governor Crist?
CRIST: Well, I believe in climate change. I believe in global warming, and I think that man is a significant part in that.
We did have conferences but I signed executive orders, Rick, the nature of which you would never sign, to cut emissions.
Now, why do I believe it’s important to do that? Because I believe in renewable energy, I believe in clean energy, like solar, wind. These are the kind of things that I think are important, instead of continuing to be addicted to gasoline at the pump.
Now, that’s who helps fund your campaign, I guess. But those aren’t the people that I’m looking out for. I’m looking out for people at home. We ought to have more electric cars. We ought to have more solar energy and lower cost (ph).
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
I’m afraid we have to take a break.
When we come back, a question from a voter and it’s one I have never heard these candidates answer. Back after this.
TAPPER: Welcome back to the final debate in the race for governor of Florida.
We only have a little time left. So, let me proceed right to this final question. It’s from Facebook. It’s from Susan McLane-Maxwell, from Orman by the Sea, Florida.
She writes, “I would like each of the candidates to tell us what one thing they wish Florida would give them a ‘do-over’ on.”
Governor Scott, we’ll start with you. What do you want a do-over on from the voters of Florida?
SCOTT: Oh, gosh. You know, the biggest thing and I just wish there was more time. I mean, I have called on companies for almost four years now, and I just wish there was more hours in a day. And I love traveling the state. My wife has been to every county. We both love to get around state, but it’s just really time (ph).
TAPPER: Governor Crist, a do-over? What would you like to do-over on?
CRIST: For me, it’s pretty obvious. The opportunity to serve you again as your governor, I love Florida. And I want to make sure that we have a Florida where we look out for the middle class, where we support small business growth, the moms around the state, where we protect our environment, make sure we’re doing the kinds of things that Floridians want, need, and deserve, better education, not cutting our education budget but adding to it — the way it was when I was your governor before.
Two weeks from now, you’ll make that vote. I hope to earn your vote.
TAPPER: All right. Thank you, Governor.
We had over 170,000 online votes tonight, and the results can be seen at Bing.com/CNN.
Governor Scott, Governor Crist, thank you both so much. I appreciate it.
Thank you, of course, to WJXT and to anchor Kent Justice — I really appreciate it. And our CNN affiliates all across Florida.
I’m Jake Tapper. I hope to see you again for election night in America on CNN in two weeks.
Have a great night. And, of course, remember to vote.