Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist has issued an impromptu debate challenge to incumbent Gov. Rick Scott.
The Miami Herald
reported that Crist, who served as Florida governor as a Republican until 2011 but now is running as a Democrat, interrupted state Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on Tuesday while he was speaking with reporters.
Lopez-Cantera was in the midst of denouncing a speech that Crist just had delivered at the Palm Beach Forum Club as filled with mistruths.
Grinning broadly, Crist was captured on camera striding up to him. According to the Herald, a reporter asked Crist about Lopez-Cantera’s claims that the Democrat has "told lies about Gov. Scott…"
"He’s got to debate the lieutenant governor candidate," Crist responded. "Give me Scott."
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His salvo got immediate national attention. "The Sunshine State gubernatorial race is heating up!," said The New York Daily News
Scott retorted that he will not take up the challenge, pointing out that Crist has yet to win his new party’s nomination. Moreover, he repeatedly has refused to debate his chief opponent in the Democratic primary, former Florida Sen. Nan Rich.
"That's laughable. Think about it. He has a primary," Scott told the Herald.
Rich quickly took advantage of Scott’s taunt. "It’s the first thing Scott has said in almost four years that I agree with," she joked to the Herald.
"Since Charlie is new to the Democratic Party — especially because Charlie is new to the Democratic Party — he owes it to the voters to debate and talk about the issues to show where he stands."
Crist has declined to debate Rich in the past on the grounds that voters from all parties know his record. He isn’t "even thinking about" taking her on, he has said.
His spokesman, Kevin Cate, said in a statement Tuesday that his position has not changed, and he is concentrating his attention on Scott: "Charlie Crist and the people of Florida are facing $100 million in negative advertising from Rick Scott."
A new poll, conducted for Tampa’s WFLA, shows Crist leading Scott by about 5 percentage points.
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