CNN and WJXT-TV in Florida partnered to host the nationally televised debate between gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist, Democrat, and incumbent Gov. Rick Scott, Republican. The debate was moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper and aired on CNN. WJXT anchor and reporter Kent Justice co-moderated the one-hour debate. The debate will re-air on CNN at 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Below, a transcript provided by CNN:
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.
ANNOUNCER: He’s a former Tea Party darling backed by the GOP establishment he once ran against. Democrat Charlie Crist is fighting to reclaim his old job.
Never miss a local story.
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.
CRIST: 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.
SCOTT: 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.