Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Candidates Scott and Crist Set for Last Debate

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Candidates Scott and Crist Set for Last Debate

Article excerpt


Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist will meet tonight in Jacksonville in their third and final debate, exactly two weeks before the conclusion of the 2014 governor's race.

The stakes remain high for both candidates who have waged a bitter but closely fought contest that remains in doubt in the final weeks of the election. The one-hour debate, which will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. to a national audience on CNN, follows the second debate, which was characterized by a bizarre incident involving a podium fan.

Scott accused Crist of breaking the debate rules by using a podium fan. It delayed Scott's appearance on the stage at Broward College by more than 7 minutes and then became national story with its own Twitter hashtag #fangate.

Scott now says he would not object to a Crist fan. Crist says he will appear with or without the fan.

CNN says the podium fan is banned under the rules of the debate, which will be hosted by WJXT-TV in Jacksonville.

"There will be no opening and closing statements, no notes, no props and no electronic devices will be allowed on stage. Candidates will be provided water, notepad and pen," according to a statement from CNN.

The debate, which does not include Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie, is only one of the elements that could impact the race in its final weeks. Independent polls continue to show the race is essentially tied.

Absentee voting has been going on since late September, with the Republicans holding an edge. Some 2.5 million absentee ballots were requested. More than a third have been turned in -- 892,000 -- with Republican ballots outnumbering Democratic ballots by 48.3 percent to 34.7 percent.

Democrats expect the gap to tighten as more absentee ballots are turned in from the larger counties, which were later in mailing out the ballots.

Another critical element kicked in Monday as early voting began in the major Florida counties, including Duval, where the debate will be held. It also began in Broward, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Pinellas counties. Hillsborough County will begin on Thursday.

The Democrats are expected to have the edge in the early-voting period, although the Republicans are also trying to narrow the gap. …

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