Previewing the first Florida governor's debate

Rick Scott, left, and Charlie Crist (Tampa Bay Times file photos)
Rick Scott, left, and Charlie Crist (Tampa Bay Times file photos)

Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist will share the debate stage for the first time on Telemundo on Oct. 10 as they battle for the Hispanic vote.

The candidates will face questions at Telemundo’s studio in Miramar at 11 a.m. Friday; the debate will air at 7 p.m. (The candidates will answer questions in English, and the station will translate into Spanish.)

PolitiFact Florida, a partnership of the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald, will fact-check the Telemundo debate. (Follow us on Twitter at @PolitiFactFL and suggest fact-checks with #PolitiFactThis).

We have fact-checked dozens of claims in the governor’s race, including by the state political parties and outside groups like NextGen Climate.

Scott, a Republican, and Crist, a Democrat, are likely to repeat or tweak familiar talking points about education spending, the economy and Obamacare. Some of their previous statements we have fact-checked specifically relate to Hispanics, including the state’s attempt to purge suspected noncitizens from the voter rolls and the battle in Florida to give in-state tuition to young people brought to the country illegally.

Both candidates have advertised in Spanish as they try to sway the approximately 14 percent of Florida’s voters who are Hispanic before the Nov. 4 election.

Here’s how Scott and Crist have fared on our Truth-O-Meter over the years. We’ve fact-checked Scott 115 times and Crist 70 times. (The disparity is because Crist hasn’t held office since 2011.)

 

Rating

Rick Scott

Charlie Crist

True

14 (12%)

12 (17%)

Mostly True

30 (26%)

18 (26%)

Half True

27 (23%)

18 (26%)

Mostly False

19 (17%)

13 (19%)

False

19 (17%)

7 (10%)

Pants on Fire

6 (5%)

2  (3%)

 

Voting rights, in-state tuition and Cuba embargo

Scott, who campaigned in 2010 on a platform of cracking down on illegal immigrants, started the push for state officials to clear the rolls of noncitizen voters.

In 2012, the Division of Elections put together a list of about 180,000 potential noncitizens based on driver’s license data. The state later reduced that list to 2,600 -- and then again to about 200. (Many had Hispanic names, particularly in Miami-Dade County.) Amid multiple errors and problems, the state scrapped their effort as Election Day approached. A plan for a second round was delayed until after the 2014 election.

We have fact-checked many claims related to the noncitizen purge, including one by Crist in 2013. "The secretary of state put together a list of over 100,000 people that they thought were ineligible to vote. Came out there were less than 10," Crist said. The best data we could nail down from the state was that there were about 85 noncitizens removed as of Aug. 1, 2012. We rated that Mostly False.   

In 2014, after a decade of failed attempts, the Legislature approved in-state tuition for DREAMers -- college students who were brought to the United States illegally as children. In September 2011, Scott said in a TV interview that he "completely" opposed in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. But by April 2014, he supported it. For his complete change of stance, we give Scott a Full Flop.

As the Republican-led Legislature appeared poised to pass the bill in April, the Republican Party of Florida attacked Crist for opposing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants in 2006. As a Republican candidate for governor at the time, Crist did oppose the tuition break, though he supports it now. We rated the party’s claim that he changed position as True.

We have evaluated several of Crist’s changed stances on our Flip-O-Meter, including his position on the Cuba embargo. We gave him a Full Flop after he came out in support of dropping the embargo this year after supporting it as governor.

Education

Both candidates have portrayed their own education records in the best light as they have battled about K-12 and higher education spending. They cherry-pick numbers and years to boast about themselves while attacking their opponent.

We have rated Mostly True a Crist claim that Scott’s K-12 per-pupil education spending is "about $200 less" than the $7,126 his own administration spent per-pupil during the recession. We found that this number is correct, though the record refers to the budget Crist signed in 2007, before the recession hit.

Scott said that he proposed the "record" for total K-12 spending in 2014. He’s correct that both the sheer dollar total and the state’s portion are larger than in past years -- while ignoring that per-pupil spending was higher under Crist. Also, factoring in inflation would make the total amount for 2007-08 larger than Scott’s current proposal. We rated Scott’s claim Half True.

Economy

The Republicans have campaigned under the mantra "Crist crash, Scott surge." That’s a reference to the fact that Crist was the governor during the national recession while Scott has led during the recovery.

Scott said in 2012 that under Crist, Florida lost 825,000 jobs and the unemployment rate increased from 3.5 percent to 11.1 percent. He has repeated similar lines multiple times.

Scott is right about the grim jobless figures: The state’s employment picture worsened almost as soon as Crist became governor and did not let up. But Scott misses the mark for implying the state’s recession was the result of a poor handling by Crist. Florida’s economy tanked largely as a result of the housing market crisis, a tornado of issues over which Crist had little to no control. We rated Scott’s statement Half True.

Both Crist and Scott have made misleading claims accusing each other of causing teacher layoffs in the economic downtown.

Obamacare

The Republicans have attacked Crist for embracing Obamacare.

In a TV ad, the Republican Party of Florida said health insurance costs for Floridians are up 30 percent or more and attacked Crist for saying the law is "great."

Many reports that cite big double-digit premium increases are based on individual or small-group plans and omit large group plans, the type of coverage many people have through work. The Kaiser Family Foundation concluded that in large-group plans, the largest segment in the market, premiums will rise 3 percent. We rated this claim Mostly False.

Scott’s record at Columbia/HCA

Crist and the Democrats have attacked Scott many, many times before about his role related to a $1.7 billion fine related to Medicare fraud by Columbia/HCA, the company where Scott was CEO before he resigned amid the federal investigation.

In a recent TV ad, Crist said Scott "pled the Fifth 75 times to avoid jail for Medicare fraud."

Scott did invoke his Fifth Amendment rights 75 times, though that was in a communications contract case, while the Medicare fraud case was pending. He must have been worried about creating legal problems for himself in some fashion, however, because the definition of using the Fifth is a fear of self-incrimination. Scott couldn’t have asserted his right otherwise.

But Crist’s ad is pushing the envelope to say he did it to avoid jail. No one went to prison for the Medicare fraud debacle, nor did Scott actually face the rigors of a grand jury or even federal investigators. We rated this Crist claim Half True.