Politics & Government

Hispanic buzzwords abound in first televised debate between Charlie Crist, Rick Scott

Few people may watch the first televised debate between the candidates for Florida governor. It airs on a Friday night, and only on Spanish-language Telemundo network affiliates.

But the voters watching -- Hispanic voters, that is -- were sure catered to by Republican incumbent Rick Scott and Democratic opponent Charlie Crist.

Scott's debate strategy appeared to be to mention family, a key issue for Hispanics, and to stress his efforts to keep college tuition affordable.

"Muchas gracias a Telemundo por este debate y a ustedes por escucharnos," Scott said, in Spanish, to launch his first debate intervention. Then he thanked his wife, mother and grandchildren before defending his four years in office.

"We now have the highest funding ever in the history of the state for K-12 and colleges and universities," he said. "I'll focus on your family. Most families are like mine, growing up."

Crist, for his part, has tried to pivot every answer toward issues public-opinion polls show matter to Hispanics: raising the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid coverage and supporting immigration reform. The former Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat governor also threw in a mention to voting lines, which studies show particularly affect minorities.

He hammered Scott for failing to push the Florida Legislature to accept Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act -- and then added, "He wouldn't sign an executive order to reduce the lines for voters" in 2012. Crist signed a similar order in 2008.

Scott ignored the reference and maintained that Florida cannot afford Medicaid expansion.

"Everybody having access to healthcare is important to me. I grew up in a family that didn't have it," he said. "I'm going to make sure that people get jobs. It's the best way for people get healthcare."

Earlier, the two candidates debate on whether so-called DREAMers -- people brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents when they were children -- should be allowed to obtain Florida driver's licenses. Scott vetoed legislation making that allowance last year.

Crist said Friday that position was "wrong." The governor responded the bill wouldn't have "changed anything."