Previewing the third Florida governor’s debate

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and current Gov. Rick Scott debated at Broward College on Oct. 15, 2014.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist and current Gov. Rick Scott debated at Broward College on Oct. 15, 2014.

CNN is hosting the third and final debate of the governor’s race Tuesday night  and the network has been clear: No fans.

That may avert another standoff like the one that held up last week’s debate for seven minutes. But it probably won’t stop the candidates from spinning on the issues. 

Whether it’s Democrat Charlie Crist or Republican incumbent Rick Scott, the two have been campaigning so long that they’ve started to repeat themselves on issues like jobs, education and same-sex marriage. PolitiFact Florida has been fact-checking the race for close to a year now.

Here’s a guide to some of the same campaign lines you might hear Tuesday night and how PolitiFact Florida has ruled on the claims. The debate airs at 7 p.m. ET and will be moderated by CNN's Jake Tapper and WJXT's Kent Justice. 

On jobs

Scott has said many times that 832,000 people joined the ranks of the unemployed in Florida while Crist was in office. The number is about right, but blaming Crist for it is questionable. Florida’s job losses during those years depended heavily on the national and international economic picture, not Crist’s particular policies. The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details, so we rated it Half True.

Scott also has said that "3,000 teachers lost their jobs when Charlie was governor." That’s far from clear; the number comes from media reports about possible layoffs and not all of them materialized. And Crist was not solely responsible for teacher layoffs, because the Republican-led Legislature also signed off on budget cuts amid a national recession. Finally, Crist accepted stimulus money, which preserved many teacher jobs. Overall, we rated Scott’s claim about teacher layoffs Mostly False.

Crist has said the state could create more jobs if it embraced the federal health care law and expanded Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor. Crist said some studies indicate that expanding Medicaid would "create about 120,000 jobs."

Crist was referring to a single study done for the Florida Hospital Association, a supporter of Medicaid expansion. That study did predict about 120,000 new jobs, but there have been other studies that put the figure much lower, with one as low as 10,000 jobs. Most economists and Medicaid experts say that it’s likely that the infusion of federal cash would lead to some jobs, but it is difficult to pinpoint the number, and Crist cherry-picked the highest number out there. We rated his statement  Half True.

On education

Crist has said Scott cut $1.3 billion out of Florida schools during his first year as governor. There are various ways to add up the total cuts in K-12, but Crist is generally on the right track here. The $1.3 billion figure includes cuts in state and state-required local dollars, but the largest chunk was due to the expiration of stimulus funds. It’s important to note that much of K-12 education funding was restored in subsequent years, though it’s still below pre-recession levels. We rated this Mostly True.

Scott has attacked Crist for college tuition increases at Florida schools, saying he passed legislation that allowed tuition to go up 15 percent year after year. Scott is right that tuition did go up 15 percent in 2009 and 2010. But tuition increased only 5 and 6 percent the two years before that. Also, Crist wasn’t the only actor here; the Legislature approved increases, as did the state Board of Governors. We rated this claim Mostly True.

On Duke and Jeb Bush

In last week’s debate, Scott said Crist signed legislation allowing utility companies to charge customers for power plants that were never built. Crist interrupted and said no — that was former Gov. Jeb Bush. That’s accurate.

The law that allowed for nuclear plants to bill customers was signed in 2006, when Bush (Crist’s predecessor) was governor. Crist signed an amendment in 2008 that expanded the authority to transmission lines, but that wasn’t the clause that Duke Energy was using. Scott, meanwhile, has allowed a different utility company to potentially benefit from the expansion Crist signed. It’s a complicated story, but Crist was correct that Bush signed the legislation that benefitted Duke, so we rated his statement True

On same-sex marriage

Scott said voters can’t know where Crist really stands on gay marriage because he has changed his position. Scott has a point that Crist has flipped on this. Crist signed a petition to help get a gay marriage ban on the Florida ballot in 2008 and said he supported "traditional marriage" when he was running as a Republican for governor in 2006. While governor, he appeared to soften on the subject, saying he was a "live and let live" kind of person. But in 2008 he voted for the ban nonetheless. At Wednesday’s debate, Crist offered his full support for gay marriage. We rated his change of position a Full Flop on our Flip-O-Meter.