Oct 25, 2022
Ron DeSantis and Charlie Crist have their first and only debate Transcript
Ron DeSantis and Charlie Crist have their first and only debate. Read the transcript here.
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We’ve called it that because all the questions I will be asking tonight came from you, Florida voters. Some will be asked just as you wrote them. Others have been written to reflect concerns shared by many who submitted questions and about issues that matter most to you and your families. The economy, education, immigration, public safety and health, and the environment. Once I have asked a question, the candidates will each have one minute to respond and 30 seconds for a rebuttal. I will alternate who answers the question first and at the end of the hour, each candidate will have 60 seconds for a closing statement. You may notice at home and here in the theater a small fan next to one of the podiums that is there by special request for Congressman Crist. We do ask that everyone here in the theater remain quiet during the debate. We will have time for applause at the end of the night. And right now as we welcome our candidates for governor for the great state of Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis and Congressman Charlie Crist.
All right, here we go. We’re going to start the debate now if everyone can settle down. All right.We need to get going. We have such a short amount of time. Gentlemen, welcome. We’re going, to begin with, a series of questions about the economy. Congressman, you won the coin tossed so you will be answering first, please.
It’s been said that people vote with their feet and their feet are bringing people to the sunshine state by the thousands. That has put unprecedented pressure on housing, it’s driving rents through the roof and forcing individuals and families out of their homes. New housing takes years to approve and to build and workforce housing is needed right now. What solutions do you propose as governor to manage future growth and ensure affordable housing is available to everyone? Congressman, you have one minute to respond.
Charlie Crist (02:42):
Thank You, Liz. And thank you for being here tonight. I want to thank everybody for watching this evening. I wanted to start out by saying that you’re going to see a stark contrast in this debate in this election. It’s a stark contrast between somebody who believes in a woman’s right to choose. I think that’s fundamentally important. Governor DeSantis has signed a bill that would restrict that, right? Even in cases of rape or incest. So get to your question. Housing is an incredible issue as well. We have a housing crisis in our state. Good luck buying a home, good luck renting an apartment. And it’s because Governor DeSantis has taken his eye off the ball. He’s focused on running for president in 2024 and as a result, we have lost things in our state budget. Specifically, a housing trust fund that has hundreds of millions of dollars that he, along with the legislature have cut. I would restore it. I would make sure that we’re doing everything we can to be sure that housing is affordable again. And along with that goes so many other things. The price of gas, the price of utilities, these things are through the roof. We have inflation in Florida that’s unique to any other state. And the problem is our inflation’s too high under-
Congressman, that’s time. Governor, you have one minute.
Ron DeSantis (03:53):
I just want to remind-
Ron DeSantis (03:55):
And thanks everybody for tuning in. Charlie Crist has voted with Joe Biden 100% of the time to give us these inflationary policies and to drive up the cost of everything that we’re doing. And the fact of the matter is, over the last two years, we’ve now have record inflation all across this country at 40 year highs. He supports Biden’s energy policies, which have made gas and utilities more expensive. That is wrong. And I would also say this, you mentioned Liz, that people are flocking to Florida. That would not have happened if Charlie Crist had his way. He wrote me a letter in July of 2020 saying, “You need to shut down the state of Florida.” He said, “You need to force people to shelter in their own homes.” That would’ve destroyed the state of Florida. That would’ve caused our tourism industry to go into the toilet. It would’ve locked out millions of kids from school. I rejected Charlie Crist locked down letter. I kept this state open and I kept this state free. And we now have the biggest budget surplus in the history of Florida. We have a 2.5% unemployment, second lowest on record, and we just did the biggest tax cut in Florida history.
Thank you, Governor, that’s time. Congressman, you have 30 seconds for rebuttal.
Charlie Crist (05:12):
Thank you very much. Well, Ron, that’s rich. You’re the only governor in the history of Florida this ever shut down our schools. You’re the only governor in the history of Florida that shut down our businesses. I never did that as governor. You’re the one who’s the shutdown guy. We need to have somebody who is at the helm that understands it’s important to listen to science, to do what’s right, to utilize common sense. You don’t just shut down at the outset and then when it’s politically convenient for you, you want to open back up to store political terms for your race for president. That’s not right. It’s not what the people deserve.
Governor, you have 30 seconds.
Ron DeSantis (05:49):
Well, so he opposed having kids in school. His supporter sued me to keep the kids out of school in 2020. And how critical was that decision? We just got the nation’s report card, the results from all 50 states, Florida number three in fourth-grade reading, and number four in the country in fourth-grade math. And if you adjust that for demographics, we are number one in the country in both. That would not have happened if we let Charlie Crist and his friends lock our kids out of school like they did in California. And like they did in New York, we did it right in Florida.
Thank you, Governor. We’re going to move on now. Our next question also on the economy. As governor, both of you called special sessions of the legislature to address Florida’s home insurance crisis. Governor DeSantis just announced another will be called by the end of the year. Dave in Ruskin, Florida, wants to know what do you think are the best next steps to address this crisis, which seems to overwhelm every solution we throw at it. Governor, you have a minute.
Ron DeSantis (06:50):
Well, first, I think we have the worst inflation of 40 years. It’s much more expensive to replace a roof today than just three years ago. Thanks to the buying Crist policies that unfortunately is contributing to the increase. We also have the number one… We’re number one in the nation in litigation with respect to homeowners insurance. We have 8% of the policies, but 78% of the litigation cost. Some policy holder will get a $20,000 settlement and the lawyer will get $400,000. So we called a special session, we addressed part of that. We also created a reinsurance backstop that’s serving us well now that hurricane Ian hit and we created a program where Floridians can get grants to make improvements to their homes and then lower rates. I think what we need to do, we need to build off what we did with the reinsurance because that’s a big issue. And we have to address the rising costs of litigation. It’s not about lining the pockets of billboard lawyers. It’s about having a competitive market where people have a shot to make ends meet.
Congressman, we have one minute.
Charlie Crist (07:51):
Ron, the real problem is that according to Forbes Magazine, Florida is the most expensive state in the country to live in. More than California, more than New York. And why is that the case? Because you’ve taken your eye off the ball as I said before, look at utility rates in the state of Florida. Since you’ve been governor, every utility rate increase has been granted for Florida power and light, duke power, [inaudible 00:08:15], you name them, they’ve all gone up and up and up. When I was governor, they went down. Property insurance under you has doubled in the state of Florida, doubled, Ron. That’s not good for the people of this state. And it’s been exacerbated by this horrible hurricane we just came through. Gas prices are up as well, under your lack of leadership. You slipped in something to drop the price of gas, but only in October right before the run-up to the election. That’s so political, it’s disgusting. We need to have a governor who will do what’s right for the people of Florida all the time, all year long. Not just when it’s right before a reelection.
Ron DeSantis (08:59):
Why are fuel and natural gas prices up? Because of the Biden-Crist energy policies. They’re waging war on American energy. They are not producing what we need to do. They’re begging Maduro and OPEC for more oil. That’s why your costs are going up there. But Charlie Crist plan for homeowner’s insurance is to dump chase the private insurers out, dump millions of Floridians on citizen’s property. It’s under-capitalized. Here’s why that matters for you. Citizens has mandatory assessment authority. So there could be a storm that hits Tampa Bay. Maybe you’re renting a place in Miami with a car. They can assess your homeowner’s insurance-
Governor, that’s time.
Ron DeSantis (09:34):
Your Autos insurance and your renter’s insurance. His plan-
Thank you governor.
Ron DeSantis (09:39):
Would end up capsizing the state of Florida, if-
That is time.
Ron DeSantis (09:41):
We had a real storm.
Congressman, you have 30 seconds.
Charlie Crist (09:43):
Thank you Liz. I appreciate your courtesy. I think it’s incredible that we hear this out of Ron DeSantis. He’s talking about our economies, talking about property insurance. And everybody watching tonight knows that your property insurance is up under him. That’s the problem. He could have addressed it in a regular session, he didn’t. He could have addressed it in his first special session, he didn’t. He’s now calling a third special session. I don’t think the third time’s going to be the charm because his focus is not on Florida. It’s not on you. You deserve a governor who has your back. I always did and I always will.
That’s time. I’m going to stop right now and ask that our audience, please stop. We’re not going to get through all the questions and we have a lot of ground to cover, so please, please, that needs to be the end of the applause. We’ll have time for applause at the end.
Our next question. As communities rebuild after Hurricane Ian, a story of destruction and recovery, we cover again and again. Do you believe it’s time for new regulations, restrictions, or limits on where and how we build along the coast? Being on the water is a defining part of the Florida lifestyle, but these homes and businesses are regularly subject to devastating losses, which then cost all of us billions. Does something need to change? Congressman.
Charlie Crist (11:11):
Hurricane Ian was a disaster storm, a nightmare, frankly. We had the structure go up for all of the buildings in Florida right after Hurricane Andrew, years ago. And thank God that happened. And in this part of the state where the storm hit right after Hurricane Charlie, even more so, so I think we’ve addressed that. What needs to be addressed is how we treat a storm before it makes landfall. And unfortunately, Governor DeSantis failed on this. What happened is this storm was approaching Florida, one of the biggest storms in the history of our state. The most deadly storm in the modern history of Florida. And what was Governor DeSantis doing? The Friday night before it made landfall, he went to a football game. He was AWOL for almost 24 hours. Didn’t encourage Lee County to evacuate and as a result, a hundred people lose their lives. That’s not a good record and that’s not good leadership, and Florida deserves better. We have to be prepared when the storms are coming in. He had access to all the modern technology you could have, all the modern radar available and he still failed to have them evacuate.
Thank you, Congressman.
Charlie Crist (12:15):
You have one minute.
Ron DeSantis (12:17):
Look, I’m proud that we had 42,000 linemen stage ready to go, unprecedented array of first responders. We were able to get in record time, effectuate thousands of rescues, get the power back on for millions of people in record time. And when the bridges got wiped out in Pine Island and in Sanibel, people thought those islands were going to be severed from the mainland for six months to a year. We did the Pine Island restoration in three days and we did the sandal Causeway restoration in two weeks. Now those islands have the ability to recover. And Charlie Crist is sitting there, you know what he was doing during this? He was in hiding out in Puerto Rico. He wasn’t helping his community here. And then when he got back, what did he do? And then when he got back, what did he do? His campaign was soliciting campaign contributions from storm victims. That is unacceptable. And that’s not what a leader would do in a time of despair.
Congressman, you have 30 seconds.
Charlie Crist (13:20):
Governor, that’s not true and you know it. Let’s face what the facts are in this situation. So whether it comes to COVID or comes to the hurricane, Ron ignored science. He doesn’t think that they know what’s right to apply to. And he thinks he knows better than everybody. Look at any issue that we’re facing in the state of Florida. He thinks he’s the only one that has the right answer. Whether it’s you [inaudible 00:13:43] your local school board, whether it’s doing anything else in education, banning books, for example. I mean, it’s unbelievable what has happened.
Charlie Crist (13:51):
So you have to apply science to do-
Congressman, that’s time.
Charlie Crist (13:53):
What’s right for the people and protect them.
Ron DeSantis (13:56):
Yeah. And I reject my opponent’s attempt to politicize this because these local communities did mobilize. And if you looked at that track, everyone was focused…
Ron DeSantis (14:00):
… communities did mobilize, and if you looked at that track, everyone was focusing on Tampa Bay the Monday night before the storm. We woke up Tuesday morning, The models had shifted into Sarasota. All the folks in southwest Florida were activated. Lee County did issue evacuations. You had a number of residents have been through a lot of hurricanes and it looked like it may be going a little north. So people were following that very intently. Those folks did a good job. The governor, our message was, listen to your locals. It’s ultimately a local decision. They do the shelters, but I stand governor by every one of our local counties. They stood up work and they made the best decisions they could with the information that they had.
Thank you governor. That’s time. Our final question on the economy. John in Gainesville asked, What are your plans to reduce the effects of inflation on Floridians if the federal government cannot come up with a viable solution? Governor?
Ron DeSantis (14:56):
Well, we know that these are the effects of the Biden/Crist policies, the worst inflation in 40 years. And Charlie Crist votes with Biden 100% of the time and he says that Biden is the best president he’s ever seen. So he’s locked together with these policies that have hurt so many people throughout our state and our country. Here’s what we’re going to do. One, we have the fifth lowest gas prices in the country right now because we did do a gas tax holiday. We’re proud of that. What we’re going to do, for Floridians who commute, we’re going to reduce tolls by 50% statewide for all commuters in the state of Florida. We are going to make all baby items, diapers, cribs, wipes, you name it, tax free permanently in the state of Florida so you can raise kids and get by.
We have a five and a four and a two year old. Our two oldest are out of diapers. My wife asked me, “Why didn’t you propose that your first year in office?” Well you live and you learn. And we’re also going to say that pet food is going to be tax free in the state of Florida. So this is going to be the largest tax relief plan in the history of the State of Florida. You’re able to do that when you have a strong economy in the largest budget surplus in the history, which we have right now.
Thank you governor. Congressman, you have one minute.
Charlie Crist (16:06):
Well that’s interesting. I would agree with your wife. You should have done that the first year you were in office. I mean, aren’t you supposed to be helping us all four years instead of just the last year? And Ron, you talk about Joe Biden a lot. I understand you think you’re going to be running against him. I can see how you might get confused, but you’re running for governor. You’re running for governor. And I have a question for you. You’re running for governor. Why don’t you look in the eyes of the people of State of Florida and say to them, if you’re reelected, you will serve a full four year term as governor. Yes or no? Yes or no. Ron. Will you serve a full four year term if you’re reelected governor of Florida? It’s not a tough question. It’s a fair question. He won’t tell you.
We did not agree on the candidates asking each other questions.
Ron DeSantis (16:53):
Is it my time?
Governor, it’s your turn.
Ron DeSantis (16:55):
Well listen, I know that Charlie’s interested talking about 2024 and Joe Biden, but I just want to make things very, very clear. The only worn out old donkey I’m looking to put out the pasture is Charlie Crist. You want to talk about standing up for taxpayers. When Charlie Chris was governor, he ran saying he would not raise taxes. He became governor and he signed off on the largest increase in taxes and fees in the history of the state of Florida.
That’s time governor.
Ron DeSantis (17:29):
We just enacted the largest decrease in taxes in the history of Florida.
Thank you Governor. Congressman, you have 30 seconds.
Charlie Crist (17:37):
Yeah. Well Ron, we know you love to bully people, and the little name calling you just exchanged, I can take it, but you shouldn’t do it when children stand behind you at a press conference and they’re wearing a mask. You give them hell. But apparently that’s your nature, and that’s too bad. So what we need to do on the economy is make sure that we’re focused on Florida. He keeps talking about the Biden administration this, the Biden administration that. This is the DeSantis administration, and under the DeSantis administration, the middle class is getting crunched in Florida. You can’t get an apartment, you can’t afford a house-
That’s time, Congressman.
Charlie Crist (18:11):
You can’t pay your property insurance, because he’s taken his eye off the ball over and over and over again.
Thank you Congressman. We’re now going to move on to another topic that is top of mind for many Florida families, education. The pandemic and remote learning exposed parents to what was going on in America’s classrooms like never before. Disputes over masks and reopening schools had parents across Florida demanding more say in their children’s education. Part of your response, governor, was to sign the Parental Rights and Education Act, which you congressmen called a quote, “Heinous piece of legislation.” Governor DeSantis, the Parental Rights and Education Act and the Stop Woke Act are centerpieces of your agenda for Florida schools. Why? And congressmen do you believe it’s important to educate students in kindergarten through third grade about sexual orientation and gender identity? Congressmen, you have 60 seconds.
Charlie Crist (19:09):
What I think is important is to educate children on science, math, and history, and true history and facts. Since we’re talking about education in Florida, 9,000 teachers and staff have left Florida because of the way he is treated public schools in our state and it’s wrong. We are the third largest state in America and his administration is paying our teachers 48 out of 50 states. That’s embarrassing. We can and we should and we need to do better than that. We need to have a focus on education and not politicize and make political war zones out of our schools. We need to support our schools, support our teachers, have our parents involved. That’s absolutely essential. And that’s what we need to get back to, is basics. Instead of having all these cultural and political wars that Ron loves to do, as I said, because he wants to run for president and he’s out of state raising all this money all the time.
Governor, you have 60 seconds.
Ron DeSantis (20:02):
Well, I would say when you oppose a parent’s rights and education bill, which prevents six, seven, eight year olds from having sexuality, gender ideology injected in their curriculum, you are the one that’s waging the culture war. I’m simply defending parents and students, because it’s inappropriate to have that an elementary school, it’s inappropriate to tell a six year old that they were born in the wrong body. It’s inappropriate to tell an eight year old that they may have been born a girl, but maybe they’re really a boy. That’s wrong. We need to do the basics. We need to teach them to read, write, add, and subtract. And if we do that, we’ll continue to lead in fourth grade reading and fourth grade math like we did in today’s NAPE results, which is a great testament to having open schools and a lot of hardworking folks and our school system.
I’m the father of a five year old daughter and a two year old daughter as well as a four year old son. But my daughters are very athletic and we sign legislation to protect the right of women athletes, that you should not have someone competing on the men’s team for three years and then switch to the women’s team. Charlie Crist opposed that bill, he said he would’ve vetoed it. I’m going to protect women’s sports in the state of Florida.
Congressman, you have 30 seconds.
Charlie Crist (21:15):
Thank you very much. There you go again, Ron. It’s all about culture wars. It’s all about dividing us. I’m a uniter. I think we need to be giving our state a chance to unite again. You love dividing our state, whether it’s blacks against whites, whether it’s gay against straight, whether it’s young versus old, you’re making it harder for people to vote in our state. We just started early polling today, early voting rather today, and he made it harder to mail in ballots. I have a 90 year old father, an 88 year old mother. They love to exercise, vote by mail. He’s made it harder along with the Florida legislature. That’s anti-democracy.
Governor, you have 30 seconds.
Ron DeSantis (22:01):
I think denying girls and women athletes the right to compete fairly. I think that’s divisive. I think it’s divisive to rip opportunities away from our girls in the State of Florida. And you want to talk about divisive. The day after Charlie Crist won his primary, he said, “Anyone that supports the governor, you have hate in your heart and I don’t want your vote.” Well think what that means. I’m endorsed by every police group in the state of Florida. I’m endorsed by the firefighters. I’m endorsed by the truckers, the nurse and nurse assists, retail federation, farm bureau. The whole cross section of the state of Florida is backing me. They do not have hate in their hearts because they reject Charlie Crist-
That’s time, Governor.
Ron DeSantis (22:36):
They want to keep Florida going and they want to keep Florida free.
Our next question is also on education. Critical race theory has ignited controversy in school districts around the country. Here in Florida, it is now against the law to give lessons which might cause a student quote, “psychological distress because of actions in which the person played no part committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin or sex.” What do you believe is the best way to address issues of race in our history and in modern life in the public school setting? Governor?
Ron DeSantis (23:15):
Well, Florida statutes require teaching all of American history including slavery, civil rights, segregation. It’s important that that’s taught. But what I think is not good is to scapegoat students based on skin color. It’s not good to distort American history by saying that the American Revolution was fought to defend slavery, which is not true. I think we should have a history like Abraham Lincoln believed in our founding, like Frederick Douglas. These are great eternal principles. We’ve got a great constitution, and people have used those principles to make great progress over the course of our country’s history. I’m proud of our history. I don’t want to teach kids to hate our country. I don’t want to teach kids to hate each, other and the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Charlie Crist (24:07):
Thank you. He talks about not teaching about the history of our country that might offend some people in our schools. We ought to teach facts in our schools. We ought to teach the truth in our schools. There’s an old expression, Ron. Those who don’t know history may be condemned to repeat it. Usually people use that in reference to the Holocaust. It could just as easily be referenced to slavery in our country. It happened. It’s a fact. We shouldn’t have a whitewash approach to educating our children. That’s not right.
How are they going to do well in life if they don’t even know our own history? And we are not going to teach people to hate each other in our schools. I don’t know where you get that idea. I don’t have hate in my heart, and I don’t think we need to be doing that in our schools. Why you think that’s happening right now is beyond me. We need to get back on track. We need to apply common sense. We need to do what’s right. And you’re taking away from all these other issues because you don’t want to talk about taking away a woman’s right to choose. We don’t ever want to talk about it. And that’s on the ballot in this election.
That’s time, Congressman.
Charlie Crist (25:17):
And you’ve even signed a bill that would take away their right in cases of rape and incest. It’s unconscious-
Congressman, that’s time.
Charlie Crist (25:21):
No wonder you didn’t want to talk about this crazy stuff.
We’re going to have to leave it right there. Governor, you have 30 seconds.
Ron DeSantis (25:26):
Yeah, so actually, if you look around the country, they do have programs, unfortunately, where they will take a student, look at their race, say, okay, you’re white, you’re an a oppressor. If you’re black, you’re oppressed. And think about what that does to a six or seven year old kid. That’s wrong. You’re seeing that. You have people that are teaching, and actually his running mate has said this in the past, that teaching the United States was built on stolen land. That is inappropriate for our schools. It’s not true. And I’m happy that we’re going to be able to have accurate history and we’re going to make sure that we honor those who have sacrificed so that we can be free.
Congressman, you have 30 seconds.
Charlie Crist (26:00):
You have 30 seconds, Congressman.
Charlie Crist (26:07):
Thank you. Well listen, here he goes again. I mean, it keeps going back to this stuff. These outrageous, radical kind of comments that have nothing to do with reality. He says, they’re teaching this in other schools and other states. This is Florida. You’re the governor of Florida right now. You won’t even say if you want to be the governor of Florida after this election, but you are right now, and you need to be focused on what’s happening in our schools. Our schools are doing a decent job and they’re not teaching hate. They’re teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. They’re doing it with good teachers, but you don’t respect them and that’s why they’re fleeing our schools. We need a governor who cares about education. Real education.
We’re going to move on to our next question. You cannot have school without… Reports, Florida now ranks 15th in starting teacher pay. Governor, you have proposed making it easier for veterans and first responders to join the ranks of public school teachers. But some argue your policies, which we have just discussed, are a barrier to new educators. Congressman, you believe the solution is declaring a public emergency and increasing spending for healthcare and other benefits in a system that already makes up a significant chunk of the state budget. Is money the answer? Congressman.
Charlie Crist (27:28):
Money does help. Yes. If you invest in what you care about and you prioritize by how you spend your money. This governor, as I said before, is spending for our teachers, they’re 48 out of 50 states in America. We’re the third largest state in America. He’s got a budget surplus. Why can’t you treat teachers better than that? That doesn’t make sense to me. You invest in what’s important in other areas of our state. You make sure that we have infrastructure. That’s why a member of Congress, I voted for the infrastructure that got the Sanibel bridge built back up as quickly, that you took credit for.
Charlie Crist (28:00):
With the Sanibel bridge built back up as quickly, that you took credit for. But it’s important to invest in things that matter to the people of our state. Like actually regulating our utility rates, and you’re not. Like actually bringing down the price of property insurance, and you’re not. Like actually making sure that our taxes are lower, not higher. You raised them a billion dollars on every consumer in the state. You did that. You raised the highest taxes ever.
Governor you have 60 seconds.
Ron DeSantis (28:27):
Well I think that teacher pay is very important and when Charlie Crist was governor, he did nothing about it for four years. In fact, he cut education $300 million. What have I done? We’ve done the largest increase in teacher compensation in the history of the State of Florida. As you mentioned Liz, we now rank much higher with average minimum salary because we focused on that because we knew that was important to recruit good teachers. So we’ve raised the average minimum salary by over 20%. We’re now number one in the southeast. And I created with the legislature a categorical budget item where the money has to go to teachers salaries. Because what happens is we send the money to school districts. His running mate is a teacher’s union boss, she makes almost $200,000 a year. The teachers down in Miami don’t make that. So I don’t want the money going to teachers unions. I want the money going in the pockets of teachers.
So we are going to do a billion dollar categorical in next year’s budget. We’ve made tremendous progress and we’re going to continue to do it because we know how important it is.
Congressman, you have 30 seconds.
Charlie Crist (29:27):
Ron. When I was governor we paid our teachers more per dollar than you are and you have a surplus. I governed when we had a great recession and we did it because we prioritized, it was the right thing to do. That’s how you need to lead. You need to lead by uniting people, not dividing them. He talks about dividing us all night long. It’s what he does. It’s who you are. It’s what he’s about. You deserve a better governor who cares about women and your freedom, your freedom and your right to choose and your right to vote-
That’s time. That’s time. Governor, you have 30 seconds.
Ron DeSantis (30:01):
And so we’re going to continue to do more with the teachers, but I think this is also important when we’re talking about schools, I oppose allowing school districts to force students to get the COVID shot. Charlie Crist wants to force students to get the COVID shot. We passed a bill to prevent that. He opposed the bill when we did it. I think this is a parent’s decision. I think it’s wrong to force this on these kids. And as long as I’m governor, as parents you’re going to have the ability to make that decision. We are not going to subcontract out your parental rights to Charlie and his special interest buddies.
Governor, that’s time. We’re going to move on now.
Charlie Crist (30:37):
[inaudible 00:30:37] please.
No, we already had your 30 seconds. We’re going to move on. What? I’ve got to be fair, you each got 60, you each got 30.
Charlie Crist (30:45):
We’re the only state in America [inaudible 00:30:47]-
No, I’m sorry. We’re going to move on to public health. Moving on to public health. I’m sorry, Congressman.
Public Health, which has been at the forefront of public policy debate for the past couple of years, perhaps never more so than after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Right now a legal challenge to Florida’s 15 week abortion ban passed by the legislature and signed by Governor DeSantis is making its way through the courts. The Florida Supreme Court which will ultimately decide on this issue has previously found the state constitution’s privacy clause applies to abortion access. This question comes from Wayne in Stuart. In your opinion, after what week of pregnancy should abortion be banned? Governor.
Ron DeSantis (31:35):
Well I was thinking back in the aftermath of this to a poor woman over 40 years ago in Jamaica and she found herself pregnant, didn’t think there’d be much opportunity to have a child, was urged to abort the baby, went to get the abortion and for whatever reason and maybe we can’t explain, that didn’t end up happening and she ended up having the baby. And I think about that because a few months ago I appointed her daughter to be the first Jamaican American justice in the history of the Florida Supreme Court.
I just think we’re better when everybody counts. I understand not everyone’s going to be born in perfect circumstances, but I would like to see everybody have a shot. I’m proud of the 15 weeks that we did. I know Charlie Crist opposes that, even though the baby is fully formed, has a heartbeat, can feel pain and can suck their thumb. He also supports sex selective abortions, which is used to discriminate against little girls. He supports dismemberment abortions where they literally will tear the baby limb from limb. And he supports taxpayer funding of abortion all the way up until the moment of birth and that is wrong.
That’s time Governor. Congressman, you have 60 seconds.
Charlie Crist (32:43):
Ron, that’s just like the truth and you know it. You know it. He wouldn’t answer your question, do you want to ban abortion completely? He never got to it. He talked about Jamaica. I don’t want to ban abortion. I want to make sure we keep a woman’s right to choose available to the women of the State of Florida. And I want to make sure that we don’t have a governor in the future who wouldn’t even allow exceptions for rape or incest. We just found out recently about a case of a middle school girl near Jacksonville who was a victim of incest, became impregnated because of the bill you signed Governor, she had to go two to three states in order to take care of this issue. That’s not compassionate leadership, that’s not doing the right thing. That’s not even having a heart. That’s callous, it’s barbaric and it’s wrong and Florida deserves better. And if you want better, I hope you vote like hell.
Governor, you have 30 seconds.
Ron DeSantis (33:38):
You know what’s callous is, Charlie Crist has not only supported abortion up until the moment of birth, he even voted against the infant born alive back, which would’ve had medical care for an infant that survives an abortion attempt and is born alive. He’s also something of a little bit of a chameleon. I mean he used to support a federal constitutional amendment that outlawed all abortion regardless of any type of exceptions. Now he’s taken the other extreme position. The question is this an honest change of heart or is this a guy that’s going to shift with whatever wind he needs to try to keep his political career alive? I think we all know the answer to that question.
Congressman, you have 30 seconds.
Charlie Crist (34:15):
Ron, again, that’s not true and you know it. And I watched two debate four years ago and I remember your opponent said that in the last debate, I guess he got two instead of the one we’re getting, he said Ron lied 21 times and when you did it again in his second debate, he goes, well there’s number 22. I don’t know why you are so compelled to be disenfranchised from the truth as much as you are. Maybe it’s because you don’t want to talk about your record. You don’t want to talk about how you’ve made Florida unaffordable for most of our citizens. You don’t want to talk about a woman’s right to choose and these other things that are so important to Florida today.
That’s time. Thank you.
Moving on to our next public health question. The coronavirus continues to be a significant concern. A pandemic was not something any of us were prepared for. There was no playbook, no list of time tested strategies to stop this fast spreading and dangerous virus. By the summer of 2020, Florida was slowly reopening under Governor DeSantis while democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Congressman Crist were calling for new stay at home orders and a statewide mask mandate. Looking back more than two years later, are you satisfied with your approach to the COVID response, Congressman?
Charlie Crist (35:38):
Yeah, I’m satisfied with my approach. I would’ve listened to scientists unlike the Governor. He wants to talk about how we reopened this and we reopened that, you can keep things reopened but you got to do it with an eye toward what healthcare providers tell you, not being arrogant. So arrogant that you won’t listen to their advice about when masks are appropriate and later on when they probably are not, like now. We don’t need them now. But you take a common sense approach and you do what’s right.
Ron, I wouldn’t pat yourself on the back too much about your response to COVID we’ve lost 82,000 of our fellow Floridians and when you look at the Thanksgiving table, one of those empty seats is probably one of those people for many families watching tonight. If we had only had the standard of other states in the United States, 40,000 of those people would still be alive, enough to fill Tropicana Stadium in St. Petersburg. That’s tragic.
That’s time. Governor.
Ron DeSantis (36:34):
So he didn’t quite acknowledge. He called for harsh lockdowns in July of 2020. And if that had happened in this state, it would’ve destroyed the State of Florida. Our hospitality and tourism industry, which is thrive, would’ve gone into disrepair. It would’ve thrown millions of Floridians into turmoil. And I can tell you as Charlie Crist and his friends in Congress were urging you to be locked down. I lifted you up. I protected your rights. I made sure you could earn a living. I made sure you could operate your businesses. And I work like heck to make sure we had all our kids in school in person five days a week.
That’s time Governor. Congressman, 30 seconds.
Charlie Crist (37:19):
And we had one of the highest death rates in America, Ron and over 6 million of our fellow Floridians have gotten COVID under your leadership. Now that’s not something to be boastful and proud about. I’m pro business, I want to make sure we keep our businesses open. I’m not the governor who attacked Walt Disney World because they [inaudible 00:37:37] to express their point of view. I’m not the governor who attacked the cruise industry because they just wanted to make sure that their customers weren’t sick before they got on the boat. That’s you. You’re the most anti-business governor I’ve ever seen.
That’s time Congressman. Governor.
Ron DeSantis (37:54):
Yeah. Except for all the businesses that are moving down here and leading the nation in migration. And I’m proud, we said seniors first. We worked with nursing homes, we work with testing with seniors, we did monoclonal antibodies and the result is 38 other states had higher COVID mortality rates for senior citizens than we did in Florida. And I think that that’s the approach people should have taken. Focus on the vulnerable population, but make sure you’re not locking down the rest of the people, we’ve thrived as a result. That would not have happened if Charlie Crist had got his way and locked down the State of Florida in July of 2020.
Thank you Governor. Across the country and here in Florida, lawmakers are divided on the issue of gender transitions for minors. The Florida Department of Health has held firm that there are risks associated with certain puberty blocking and hormone therapies for children despite pushback from the federal government and other states. Where do you stand on minors undergoing gender affirming medical procedures and therapies? Governor.
Ron DeSantis (39:00):
Well so called is important because when they say gender affirming care, they mean giving puberty blockers to teenage girls and teenage boys, they mean doing double mastectomies on young girls, they mean chemically castrating young boys. That is wrong. We are not going to allow that to happen in the State of Florida. A lot of kids go through a lot of different things. A lot of the dysphoria resolves itself by the time they become adults. We have a number of people that have spoken out in favor of what we’re doing to say you should not mutilate minors, and they went through this when they were minors. Now they’re adults and they regret it. And other countries in Europe that went down this road have now backtracked and so we’re doing the right thing, it’s inappropriate to be doing basically what’s genital mutilation.
Congressman, you have one minute.
Charlie Crist (39:56):
This reminds me of your position on a woman’s right to choose, you think you know better than any physician or any doctor or any woman in a position to make decisions about their own personal health. You want to be the judge, you want to decide about what people should do with their own physical being with the betterment of their health, with whether or not they want to make sure that they can practice their right to choose as a woman. Now, that’s just not right. I don’t believe in that. I believe that we need to do unto others as we would have done unto us. It’s called the golden rule. And Ron, if you ever knew the golden rule clearly you have forgotten it. You don’t have the temperament to be kind and decent to other people who don’t look like you, who don’t act like you and don’t contribute to you. But we’re all children of God, and that doesn’t mean that you’re the one who’s supposed to judge about what other people are supposed to do, particularly women with their body.
Ron DeSantis (40:54):
Well, we’re talking about 13 and 14 and 15 year old kids. They are not in a position to know whether they can undergo a radical procedure that physically alters their body. If you’re a 15 year old, you can’t go get a tattoo in the state of Florida yet we’re saying you could get a double mastectomy. Of course not. It is inappropriate to do this for minors and in Florida. We are not going to allow that to happen here.
Charlie Crist (41:23):
Again, this is a difficult-
Ron DeSantis (41:25):
If you support it for minors, I mean, you should just be honest with [inaudible 00:41:28] issue-
It’s the Congressman’s turn.
Charlie Crist (41:28):
This is a difficult issue for anybody. And he talks about it like it’s fun, it’s not. These are difficult issues and they deserve mature leadership and you deserve to have a governor who understands that a woman has a right to choose, that you need to have somebody who understands and respects that decision. I was raised with three sisters. I’m an only son. I learned as a very young boy to respect women. And it’s important to respect all-
Congressman, that’s time.
Charlie Crist (41:56):
And it just doesn’t sound to me like Governor DeSantis wants to do that to respect some other family’s decision about what they want for their children.
We’re going to leave it there. Thank you-
Charlie Crist (42:00):
Some other family’s decision about what they want for their children.
We’re going to leave it there. Thank you. Moving on now to another topic. Gentlemen, illegal immigration continues to make headlines from our southern border to the shores of our state. Governor, your administration recently used state funds to transport migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. Why? And do you believe that was an effective use of taxpayer money? Congressman, you called the flights inhumane. Do you believe Florida should be a sanctuary state? Congressman.
Charlie Crist (42:35):
I thought what the governor did was a horrible political stunt. We have an immigration problem. We have a problem at the border. We need to secure the border. I agree with all of that, but it doesn’t mean that you use Florida taxpayers dollars to charter two jets, go to Texas, lie to people to get them onto planes, fly them up to the northern part of our country, and one of them’s a one year old baby. Another is a pregnant woman. You’re willing to use people like that. In this case they were Hispanics, Venezuelan in particular, and have them as props for your political gain.
That’s not the way to change policy. You can change policy and do what’s right to secure the border by having comprehensive immigration reform. That’s what I voted for in Congress. When you were in Congress, you wouldn’t do it because you want to keep this issue alive. You want to have it as a wedge issue and you want to pull political stunts like you did with the taxpayers dollars of the people of Florida. That’s not what it’s for. That’s not what you should have done. It isn’t funny. It’s not right. And you were inhumane in how you treated these people.
That’s time, congressman.
Ron DeSantis (43:41):
Governor. Well, you say you’re for the secure border, but this is all happening under the Biden administration and the policies that Charlie Crist supports. We’ve had millions and millions of people pour in across illegally. We’ve had record numbers of fentanyl come in. We now see it ravaging our communities like never before. I didn’t hear people like Charlie expressing outrage about that. We’ve had criminal aliens come into the country. We just had a sheriff’s deputy from Pinellas County killed by a twice deported illegal alien who came across the border illegally six months ago.
I didn’t hear any of the outrage about that. It’s only when they go to DC, New York, or of course Martha’s Vineyard. Then all of a sudden this is… You know why? Because we have elites in this country that want to impose policies on you, but they don’t want to have to suffer the same consequences that you may have to in your community. It’s sad that it comes to this, but what we did put this issue front and center, I think we need to reinstitute remain in Mexico and I think we need to secure the border because the fentanyl is absolutely out of control.
Charlie Crist (44:44):
Well, if you want to secure the border, you ought to support policies that actually will secure the border, like comprehensive immigration reform. When you were in Congress, you wouldn’t do it because you like having it as an issue for political scoring in points that you want to have for a future campaign. And let me remind the viewers, he wouldn’t even answer you if he would stay four years, if you reelect him as your governor, you’re running for governor, you’re asking them to vote for you for governor. At a minimum, you ought to be able to tell him if you get reelected, you’ll serve as governor. Ron?
Ron DeSantis (45:20):
So we had the border that was in much better shape in January of 2021. The Biden administration reversed almost every policy that was in place and they opened the floodgates. That’s why we have the problem. It’s not from some phantom piece of legislation. And I hear Charlie Crist talking about some of this other stuff. He as a congressman, made $174,000 a year. You know how many days he showed up to work in Washington DC this year? 14 days. Imagine that deal for you. You show up 14 days and you make over a hundred grand. That’s the type of effort this guy puts into actually doing his job.
The candidates would not ask each other questions. Just wanted to remind you. Drug smuggling is another consequence and an insecure border and according to the CDCs most recent data, Florida is only second to California in the annual number of overdose deaths. What will you do as governor over the next four years to protect Floridians and their families from drugs, addiction and the crime that comes with it? Governor.
Ron DeSantis (46:25):
First, let me tell you what we have done and we’ve done half a million doses of Narcan to first responders, which have saved a lot of lives. We also created a core program: Coordinated Opioid Recovery. And basically we’re trying to get people who are addicted to have stabilization in their life. We patterned after a program in Palm Beach. We now have 12 of these addiction stabilization centers around the state of Florida. And then I sign legislation raising the penalties for people who are trafficking fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. If you’re trafficking that garbage, that poison, you are killing people in our state and we are going to treat you like the murderer that you are.
Charlie Crist (47:09):
Well, we’re talking about enforcing our laws, making sure that we have leaders that understand that these laws are on the books for a good reason. So what you need to do is have somebody as an attorney general. I actually served as Attorney General, the top cop of Florida. And I understood in that role how important it was to enforce our laws. And we did it. Day in and day out. It’s important to make sure that not only with the drug problem we’re dealing with, but also all the laws in crime.
Crime is up under Governor DeSantis crime was down when I was your governor because we enforced the laws and made sure Floridians were safe. That’s the kind of leadership that we have to have. It’s common sense leadership. Stop the flow of drugs. I already told you we need to secure the border. I support that. He said that I don’t, but I do. And I think it’s really important that we have common sense applied all these issues, enforce the laws, keep our state safe, keep our school safe. He won’t even effectuate a ban on assault weapons to keep our kids safe in school. That’s wrong. I think it’s right.
Charlie Crist (48:13):
We ought to do it.
Ron DeSantis (48:16):
This is an important issue because Charlie Crist has endorsed the idea of reallocating funding away from the police, I guess to give to social workers. But if someone’s robbing your house, you don’t want a social worker coming up to help you. You need the police. And so that’s why all these police groups are endorsing me. And they have said that Charlie Crist crime policies are very dangerous. He used to be tough on crime when six political parties ago, but now he’s admitted that he has softened up on crime. But we’ve seen what’s happened in all across the country. People are moving to Florida because we’re a much safer state than the Californias and the New Yorks of the world.
Charlie Crist (48:55):
Well Ron, if that’s the case, how come crime is up under your four years as our governor and you think you allege that I want to defund police. As a member of Congress, I voted for another 200 billion to go to law enforcement in our country to fund the police. Once again, he misrepresents the facts. It’s a shame that he does it. But we have to get back to basics, folks. This is our state, this is our Florida. We need to have a governor who will bring us together, not divide us like he’s doing all the time.
That’s time, Congressman. Do we have time for one more question? We do. Continuing now on the topic of public safety. Earlier this month, Nicholas Cruz, who confessed to murdering 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th, 2018, was sentenced to life in prison. You have both said that he should have received the death penalty, but legal scholars and at least one juror blamed Florida law for sparing his life. If elected. Will you take action to change existing law? Why or why not? Congressman.
Charlie Crist (50:10):
What I would do in this case, listen, these are not easy decisions. I served as governor, I signed death warrants. Governor DeSantis has as well. It’s not a fun day, but it’s an important thing to do. As I told you earlier, you need to carry out the law. As it applies to this particular case, this is one thing we actually agree on. I believe that that young man should have gotten the death penalty for killing 17 innocent students in our schools. It was absolutely abhorrent and you have to do what’s right and it’s a tough thing sometimes. But whatever it takes to make sure that we can enforce those laws that say there are consequences to your actions, we need to be able to enforce them and get it done right.
Ron DeSantis (50:53):
I think he deserved the ultimate punishment. When you murder in cold blood, 17 innocent people. There’s no other punishment that meets the gravity of that crime. And to have one juror hold out on that was a travesty. So yes, I’m going to ask the Florida legislature to amend that statute so that one juror doesn’t have veto power over appropriate punishment. But I’ll tell you this, when that happened, I wasn’t governor yet. It was the year before, but I became friends with a lot of the families. People like Andy Pollack, Ryan Petty. No one was being held accountable for anything that was going on there.
I came in the office my first week, we suspended the sheriff of Broward County for the ineptitude that was displayed. We called a special grand jury, statewide grand jury to look into the failures of the school district and other school security failures. That report came back. We’ve instituted great reforms. We’ve done three quarters of a billion dollars for school security and I was able to suspend four school board members that the grand jury had said were derelict in the performance of their duty. We brought accountability for those families when no one else would.
Congressman, you have the floor. 30 seconds.
Charlie Crist (52:00):
Those weren’t the only people he removed from office. We have a state attorney in Tampa Bay named Andrew Warren that he of his own volition decided to kick out of office and suspend because he actually spoke about what he felt about an issue. That used to be called freedom of speech in this country. And Governor, I know you went to Harvard Law School, but you need to study the Constitution again. When you start removing people from public office, that’s the job of the people. He was twice elected state attorney in Tampa Bay, did a great job. And because he voiced something that disagreed with you, you decided to suspend him. That’s not good leadership.
That’s time, Congressman. Governor, you have 30 seconds.
Ron DeSantis (52:36):
Yeah, look, I think that this is a very important issue for our country. Prosecutors aren’t above the law. They don’t have the right to veto dually enacted statutes. I know Charlie Crist supports prosecutors like LA and Manhattan that are basically ignoring the law and crime is spiking in those areas. I disagree with that. I think in Florida you can’t be a law onto yourself as a prosecutor. Dually enacted statutes must be enforced and we will be much safer as a result of that. So I acted appropriately and I would do it again.
Thank you. That is all the time we have for questions at this time. Gentlemen, you each have one minute for a closing statement. The coin toss determined that the Governor will go last. So please begin, Congressman.
Charlie Crist (53:21):
I want to thank Floridians for watching tonight. I love Florida. I love her with all my heart. I want to unite her. I want to bring this state back together and not have a divider as a governor. I want women to have the right to choose and make the own decisions about your body, especially in cases of rape or incest. I want to make Florida more affordable again. When I was governor, I lowered your property insurance. When I was governor, I lowered your property taxes. When I was governor, I made sure that we had an affordable economy, even in a recession. He’s raised all these things. He’s also raised your taxes. He won’t even tell you if he’ll serve four years if you reelect him. I mean, come on. You deserve better than that. Florida deserves better than that. Thank you very much.
Governor, you have your closing statement now. 60 seconds.
Ron DeSantis (54:16):
Well, thank you. We have accomplished an awful lot over these four years. We have the largest budget surplus in history. We have a 2.5% unemployment, second lowest on record, and we just delivered the biggest tax relief in the history of the state. We’ve expanded school choice, we’ve protected parents’ rights, and we’ve done the largest increase in teacher pay in Florida history. And even though it had years of neglect, we made historic restoration for our Everglades and improvements to our water quality. Because water is the foundation of not just our economy, but our way of life.
And then when a once in a century pandemic hit, I led based on facts, not based on fear. I lifted you up while some like Charlie Crist wanted to lock you down. I took a lot of flack in the process. But through it all, I was always more concerned about protecting your job than I was about saving my own. I took the arrows so you wouldn’t have to. We will continue to fight the good fight. We will continue to run the race. We will continue to keep the faith. We’ve accomplished an awful lot, but we’ve only begun to fight. God bless you, and I ask for your vote on November 8th.
Many thanks to our candidates, our media partners, our audience, and the Sunshine Theater. For CBS 12 News-