Charlie Crist in 2010 Florida Senate debates


On Budget & Economy: OpEd: As incumbent, blamed for Florida's weak economy

Like other incumbents across the U.S., Crist has been blamed by voters for the weak economy. Florida was one of only two states, along with Maryland, to see its unemployment rate rise in August, reaching 11.7%, compared with the 9.6% national rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state has the second-highest foreclosure rate in the country, behind Nevada, more than twice the national average, according to RealtyTrac, an Irvine, California-based data provider.

Source: Business Week coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Oct 25, 2010

On Tax Reform: Best to extend all tax cuts; but compromise and push later

Obama favors extending the Bush tax cuts only for households earning less than $250,000, about 98% of all taxpayers. Rubio argued, "There's a difference between compromise and cutting a deal," Rubio said. "Compromise is a good thing. Cutting deals in Washington, there's too much of that."

Meek defended Obama's economic strategy. "There were surpluses," he said. "There are no longer surpluses. So we're digging a deeper hole. And what Rubio and also Crist are representing, let's continue to dig, and trickle-down economics will work for the middle class in creating jobs."

Crist, running as an independent, straddled the positions of his rivals, supporting a compromise on the tax cuts. "I want all the tax cuts extended, but sometimes you've got to give relief to the people and they deserve it now," Crist said. "If there's a way to go ahead and do that in the short term and then after January to push for the other tax cuts, that's what I think the real solution is."

Source: Business Week coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Oct 25, 2010

On Abortion: Vetoed bill requiring ultrasound exams before abortions

Crist, seated to the left of both Meek and Rubio, but trying to position himself as a bridge between liberal and conservative extremes that he said are crippling Congress. Crist said he left the Republican Party this spring on principle, because the part had become "intolerant."

"The Republican Party and the right wing of that party went so far right, it's exactly why Marco Rubio stayed there, it's exactly the same reason that I left," said Crist. "He wants to overturn--listen to me, women watching-- overturn Roe vs. Wade. He does not support stem-cell research; you know, these are extreme views that I am not comfortable with."

Meek said Crist's decision was more pragmatic. "We know why the governor is running as an independent--because he couldn't beat Marco Rubio," Meek said.

As an independent candidate, Crist vetoed an education package championed by Republican legislators, along with a bill requiring women to get ultrasound exams before abortions.

Source: Ft. Myers News-Press coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Oct 24, 2010

On Principles & Values: I would have left GOP anyway; they're too extreme

Meek and Crist both tried to portray Rubio as too rigidly conservative for Florida. Crist, who launched an independent campaign after losing the Republican primary to Rubio, said he would have left the Republican Party even if he had won the primary. "Th Republican Party and the right wing of that party went so far right, it's exactly why Marco Rubio stayed there, it's exactly the same reason that I left," Crist said, citing "these extreme views that I am not comfortable with."

Rubio shot back that Crist "changes positions on the issues because he wants to win the election."

Crist tried to present himself as an independent throughout the debate, at one point calling the conversation between Meek and Rubio over tax cuts an example of partisan "bickering" that voters dislike. "You are seeing it right now, right here," Crist said. "That is why I'm running as an independent."

Meek suggested differently: "The governor is running as an independent, because he couldn't beat Marco Rubio."

Source: CNN ElectionCenter coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Oct 24, 2010

On Principles & Values: We need open-mindedness in a Senator, not ideology

Meek attacked Rubio, almost warning Floridians against him: "It's important that we grow this economy. It's the very reason we should not federalize Marco Rubio," Meek said. "He is thinking of ideology that would put the middle class in the hole forever. On his economic policies, Meek said, "I can tell you what Mr. Rubio is talking about is not a solution, it's ideology."

In a back-and-forth that defined their campaigns, Crist depicted Rubio as a conservative ideologue unable or unwilling to deviate from extreme views regardless of changing dynamics. "You know, facts change all the time," Crist said. "I think people want an open-minded senator rather than the opposite, a closed-minded senator."

Rubio "wouldn't accept tax cuts on 98% of the people in America because of his ideology," Crist said. "That's exactly the problem, that's what's not right with Washington today." While Crist advocated a compromise, Meek backed the Obama position.

Source: CNN ElectionCenter coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Oct 24, 2010

On Abortion: Tea Party is too extreme on outlawing abortion

Crist repeatedly mocked the tea party movement while attacking Rubio, calling him an extremist for wanting to outlaw abortion. "You haven't been drinking the Kool-Aid, my friend, you've been drinking too much tea and it's just wrong," Crist told Rubio.

"I think it's always funny to listen to the governor attack me for the positions he himself held just six months ago, when he was trying to be the biggest conservative in the world and win the Republican primary," Rubio said.

Source: Associated Press coverage of 2010 Florida Senate Debate Oct 6, 2010

On Budget & Economy: Supports economic stimulus and some parts of ObamaCare

Meek supported the economic stimulus package and said it kept the country from going into a depression; Rubio said it was a failure. Meek wants to continue Bush's tax cuts for all except those who make more than $250,000, Rubio wants them extended for al earners.

"You think government creates jobs," Rubio said to Meek, cutting him off.

"No, I don't," Meek said.

"You do," Rubio said.

"I think tax cuts for small businesses create jobs and incentives for local communities to move forward," Meek said

Crist added, "What you just witnessed is the problem and the reason I'm running as an independent. These two guys are going at each other because one's the Republican right, one's the Democratic left. What's true is there are good things that both parties can present to the future of our country." Crist, who supported the economic stimulus and said he likes some things in the health care law but that it needs to be fixed, portrayed himself as a centrist who backs the best policies of each party.

Source: Associated Press coverage of 2010 Florida Senate Debate Oct 6, 2010

On Civil Rights: Opposed gay adoption; then praised Court overturning ban

Meek pointed out that Crist has changed his position on several issues, including once being against allowing gay couples to adopt children and later praising a legal decision that said Florida's ban is unconstitutional.

"Charlie Crist stands on a wet paper box," Meek said. "You don't know where he is."

Rubio said neither Crist nor Meek would oppose the Obama administration.

Source: Associated Press coverage of 2010 Florida Senate Debate Oct 6, 2010

On Tax Reform: Extend the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers

Crist said extending the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers would help boost home sales in Florida. "I think any time you can reduce taxation in order to spur the economy forward, that's a good thing to do and that would be great to do," he said.
Source: CNN "State of the Union" on 2010 Florida Senate debate Jul 22, 2010

On Social Security: Reducing COLA is unfair to seniors living on fixed income

Rubio said that he favored raising the retirement age only for people younger than 55, meaning current beneficiaries would not be affected. Rubio also said he's open to rejiggering the cost of living adjustment.

Asked what he would do, Crist said that raising the age "really flies in the face of an awful lot of my fellow Floridians" and said he would root out waste and fraud instead. The Crist campaign issued a post-debate statement: "Governor Crist believes that Speaker Rubio's support of raising the retirement age and reducing Social Security cost of living adjustments is cruel, unusual and unfair to seniors living on a fixed income," it read. "While entitlement reform needs to be addressed, the speaker's position on this issue demonstrates, yet again, that he does not have Floridians' best interests in mind. This issue will surely be one of many Florida voters will hear more about throughout the rest of this campaign."

Source: St. Petersburg Times on 2010 Florida Senate debate Apr 7, 2010

On Social Security: Focus on waste & fraud, not retirement age & COLA

Rubio pointed out the problems facing the Social Security program and stated that we're going to have to look at the tough choices, which include raising the retirement age for younger Americans, possibly reducing Cost of Living Adjustments, and other changes to benefits. If you don't want to raise taxes--which both Crist and Rubio say they oppose--then these are pretty much your only options.

Crist replied that he opposes either a retirement age increase or changes to annual COLAs. Instead, he would focus on attacking "waste and fraud" in the system. As a general rule, when a politician mentions "waste, fraud, and abuse" it should be interpreted the same as if the candidate wore a sign saying "I'm not serious." That's not to say that we don't have problems with fraud, but that the real problem is simply that the government spends too much. This is particularly so in the case of Social Security, which is one of the most efficient federal government programs.

Source: Andrew Biggs in The American, on 2010 Florida Senate debate Mar 29, 2010

On Budget & Economy: $8B stimulus funds saved or created 87,000 jobs in Florida

Q: From the Obama stimulus package, by the start of 2010, Florida had received $8.2 billion in stimulus funds. Gov. Crist says that has created or saved 87,000 jobs. Mr. Rubio, why is $8 billion & 87,000 jobs bad for a state that has 12% unemployment?

RUBIO: Well, if it's bad for America, it can't possibly be good for your state. Since February, 211,000 Floridians have lost their jobs.

CRIST: As governor, you've got to make tough decisions. I made the tough decision to utilize these funds to help th people of Florida. I know the unemployment rate is bad. I know the economy is tough. I understand all of that. If we had taken the speaker's approach, we would have had 87,000 more people on top of that 12% that would be unemployed in Florida today.

Q: If you had been a senator in 2009 you would have voted for the stimulus?

CRIST: Yeah, it was the right thing to do at the time. You have to go back and remember what was happening in our economy. It was literally falling off the cliff.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Health Care: Cover Florida: 6,000 uninsured given peace of mind

Q: You said a month ago there may be parts of healthcare reform that you don't have to scrap. What parts?

CRIST: Pre-existing instances should not be a discriminatory tool used by insurance companies to not give people insurance. We need to repeal this thing. Let's start over. The real problems with health care are access and affordability. And we have approached those in Florida, a plan called Cover Florida. No tax dollars involved. No government mandates. I think Washington could learn a lot from Florida.

Q: We looked into Cover Florida--stripped-down insurance for stripped-down prices. As you say, all voluntary. But only 0.1% of Florida's uninsured have signed up for it, 5,000 out of millions of people.

CRIST: It's about 6,000 now. Every individual of those 6,000 now has that peace of mind, doesn't have to worry about their child having a catastrophic illness.

Q: But it's hardly "Cover Florida."

CRIST: Well, I think it's important that it's Cover Families. People who get it like it.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Health Care: Get waste & fraud out of Medicare so program will survive

CRIST: I think we need to take the fraud out of Social Security, the waste, in Medicare as well.

Q: With all due respect, waste and fraud--people have been talking about it for years. Don't you actually have to make some benefit changes if you're going to deal with this debt issue?

CRIST: You might have to make some, but I think what you want to do first is get the waste and the fraud out.

Q: Such as what?

CRIST: I think you have to have strict enforcement. You have to have U.S. attorneys that go after this with a serious approach and realize that in order for these programs to be able to survive so that my children and my grandchildren have an opportunity to be able to benefit from them, we have to spend less by getting waste and fraud out of these systems.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Immigration: Seal borders; enforce laws; send illegals to back of line

Q: In 2007, you supported the McCain immigration reform plan. Is Rubio tougher on immigration than you are?

CRIST: I don't think so. We probably agree on this issue. The first thing we need to realize about immigration reform is to make sure that we seal the border. Everything else is an academic conversation unless and until we do that. Second, we need to make sure that we're enforcing the law. Laws on the books don't mean anything if they're not being enforced. And third, those who are already her shouldn't be advantaged by the fact that they got here illegally. They should go to the back of the line, go through the regular process, what the law requires, in order to attain their citizenship.

Q: The immigration reform plan of 2007--you still think those are pretty good ideas?

CRIST: I don't think they're bad ideas. I think that those three principles, though, need to be underscored--protecting the border; enforcing the law that's on the books; and no advantages.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Principles & Values: In Rubio's $600,000 slush fund only $4000 went to candidates

CRIST: I view public service as a calling, something that you do to try to help other people. Unfortunately, recent news accounts indicate that Speaker Rubio views public service as a way to enhance his personal enrichment. And that's just wrong. For example, he set up about a $600,000 slush fund which he utilized for ostensibly political purposes but it's been shown lately it's been used to fix his minivan, get haircuts, employ family members, things of this nature that are not what a political committee is supposed to do. In fact, out of the $600,000 that were raised, only $4,000 went to candidates to try to improve their chances to be elected to office.

RUBIO: Those allegations have been proven false. Here are the facts. This is not taxpayer money. It was raised for the purposes of political advancement, for advancing a political agenda. And that's what the money was spent on. All this money's been accounted for.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Principles & Values: Problem solving requires consensus, and sometimes concession

Q: In your recent state of the state speech, you said this: "Problem solvers recognize that important achievements often require consensus, and consensus sometimes requires concession." You'd look for areas to work with President Obama, areas of consensus and areas of concession?

CRIST: I would work to make sure that I stand with people who will help the people of my state and my country. I am a pragmatic, common-sense conservative, always have been. I also understand that we're in a tough economy right now, and when you're in a tough economy, sometimes you have to do the kinds of things that make sense in order to be able to keep people employed. You can't just be off on some limb, rattling the cage and saying you're going to do great things and stand on principle above the people of your state that you're supposed to serve. You've got to do what's right. And this race comes down to doing what's right. That's what it's all about.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Social Security: Don't raise retirement age; don't adjust COLA

Q: [to Rubio]: Would you change cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security?

RUBIO: I think all of that has to be on the table, including the way we index increases in cost of living. All of these issues have to be on the table [including raising the retirement age]. They are options that I would be open to.

Q: Gov. Crist, we looked all over your campaign Web site. Frankly, we couldn't find a word about Social Security reform.

CRIST: Well, I think it's important that we understand Social Security must be saved. It must be protected. The idea of having a higher age for people to be able to be eligible for Social Security really flies in the face of an awful lot of my fellow Floridians and it's something that I would not advocate. I think we need t take the fraud out of Social Security, the waste, in Medicare as well.

Q: You're saying that even for people under the age of 55 you would not raise the retirement age or you wouldn't change the cost-of-living adjustment?

CRIST: No, I would not.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Tax Reform: Reduce the tax brackets to let private enterprise flourish

CRIST: As it relates to taxes, as somebody who believes that we need to reduce the tax brackets, we need to reduce the income tax, in order to have private enterprise flourish--we have to do that because I think that we have an obligation to have this dream called America continue to be able to prosper. We've done that in Florida. In fact, I signed into law the largest single tax cut in the history of my state. Let me talk about my opponent and what he did on taxes. He proposed the largest tax increas in the history of my state, about a $9 billion increase in taxes. He said it would be some kind of a swap and that justifies it. But it would have hit sales tax, which would have been the most regressive tax that you could imagine--in other words, meaning that people who can least afford it have to pay the same as people who can afford a lot more.

RUBIO: That program would have eliminated property taxes for all sorts of people. And it was supported by Jeb Bush.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Tax Reform: 2006: Pledged no taxes; 2009: $2.2B in fees on 16M people

Q: When you were running for governor in 2006, you made a George H.W. Bush pledge, you will not raise taxes as long as you're governor. Last year you signed a $66 billion state budget that had a $2.2 billion increase in new taxes and fees. Didn't you break your promise?

CRIST: No, I don't think I did, and I'll tell you why. The only part of it that was a tax--and it's loosely defined as a tax--was on cigarettes. And I would argue that that's a user fee. If you don't use them, you don't pay it.

Q: But you also signed into law higher fees on drivers' licenses and on motor vehicle registration, motor vehicle tags. You said these aren't broad-based taxes. Governor, 16 million people are drivers in Florida. That's a pretty broad-based tax, isn't it?

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Homeland Security: Military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy has worked

U.S. Senate rivals Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio both said today they oppose abolishing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy affecting gays and lesbians in the military. The 1993 policy was intended to be a political compromise that let gay men and women serve so long as they stayed silent about their sexuality. But President Barack Obama and top military leaders say it is time to end the discrimination all together.

"We are a nation at war. The governor believes the current policy has worked, and there is no need to make changes," a Crist campaign spokeswoman said.

"Marco Rubio supports the current policy and doesn't see any evidence it needs to be changed," a campaign spokesman said.

Source: St. Petersburg Times' coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Feb 4, 2010

On Civil Rights: Lifetime member of NAACP

He has appointed judges whom many Republicans deem liberal, and his support for restoring voting rights to ex-felons is hardly a Republican hobbyhorse. He boasts of being a "life member" of the N.A.A.C.P., and one black legislator called Crist the state's "first black governor."
Source: New York Times on 2010 Florida Senate debate Jan 10, 2010

On Crime: Chain-Gang Charlie: reinstitute prison chain gangs

Crist has been doggedly reminding people: He says he is a pro-gun, anti-abortion, small-government conservative who worships Ronald Reagan. He says he is against gay marriage, frugal (he pays off his single credit card every month) and despised by criminals (he once proposed that chain gangs be reinstituted, earning him the nickname Chain Gang Charlie).
Source: New York Times on 2010 Florida Senate debate Jan 10, 2010

On Energy & Oil: Open to cap-and-trade plan for carbon emissions

Crist's reputation as a moderate flows in part from his willingness to break from his party on offshore drilling (which he opposed, until 2008) and his openness to notions like a "cap and trade" plan for the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.
Source: New York Times on 2010 Florida Senate debate Jan 10, 2010

The above quotations are from 2010 Florida Senate debates.
Click here for other excerpts from 2010 Florida Senate debates.
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Page last updated: Nov 01, 2010