Fact-checking the third Florida governor's debate

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and current Gov. Rick Scott debated in Jacksonville on Oct. 21, 2014.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist and current Gov. Rick Scott debated in Jacksonville on Oct. 21, 2014.

The gloves came off in Jacksonville on Tuesday night, as the third and final gubernatorial debate between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist was marked by insults, arguments and accusations.

The governor and the former governor took each other to task over their respective records, charging each other with mud-slinging and twisting the facts.

CNN moderator Jake Tapper brought up topics like Ebola, executions and Florida State football, but the candidates managed to go back to familiar talking points several times. Both Scott and Crist still talked at length about immigration, the cost of living and believe it or not, jobs.

We took a look at some key claims brought up during the debate, and will highlight some familiar talking points we’ve examined before. In the days ahead, we’ll post fact-checks of new claims from the debate and update this story.

On jobs

Scott continued to needle Crist about 832,000 lost jobs during the former Republican’s term, when the Great Recession hit the state with full force. We’ve looked at that one before and found that while the number was pretty accurate, economics experts have said time and again that no governor can take the blame (or credit) for jobs numbers. We rated the claim Half True.

As for paying for some of those jobs, Scott again said raising the minimum wage as Crist does "would lose 500,000 jobs." He was citing a Congressional Budget Office report that said bringing the wage up to $10.10 could cost that many jobs, but ranged from a slight impact up to 1 million job losses. Scott neglected to say those were national numbers though, and not just Florida. (Tapper corrected him on that point.) We rated the statement Half True.

Tapper at one point said Scott had changed his promise to create 1.7 million jobs down to 700,000 jobs, an assertion we’ve rated True. Crist then pounded Scott for refusing to take $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa in 2011, saying the project would have created 60,000 jobs. We said that jobs number was too high, rating the statement False.

On immigration

While discussing immigration reform that was championed by Sen. Marco Rubio, Crist mentioned that Scott had promised during his last campaign to bring an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida.

The idea was to allow law enforcement to stop individuals they suspected of being in the country illegally and asking them to verify their immigration status. Scott had promised to bring it to Florida during the Republican primary, but he’s barely mentioned it since. We called that a Promise Broken on our Scott-O-Meter.

Scott said he supported in-state tuition for Dreamers, the undocumented children of illegal immigrants, while Charlie Crist was against it. That doesn’t tell the whole story. Scott was against in-state tuition for Dreamers in 2011 but came out in support of it in 2014. Crist opposed it in 2006 but voiced his support during this current campaign. We rated this statement Half True.

Crist countered that "now you won’t give them a driver’s license." That came up during a previous debate, concerning how Scott vetoed a bill that would have given Dreamers driver’s licenses. Scott had said it wouldn’t have changed anything about the current law, but we said that was Half True. It would have changed the law, but many Dreamers can get licenses in Florida now.

On cost of living

Both candidates sparred about their backgrounds, with multi-millionaire Scott repeatedly saying he had "nothing" growing up, while Crist always had money. "You don't know me and you can't tell my story," Crist eventually shot back, saying his father delivered newspapers when Crist was a boy to help make ends meet. Somewhere along the line, the candidates had time to launch into a discussion about paying the bills.

Scott said prepaid tuition cost less during his term than it did under Crist. We’ve looked at that talking point before and ruled it Mostly True.

As in the second debate last week, Scott asserted that electric bills had gone down while he was in office but shot up under Crist. We examined that and found some errors in the reasoning, especially because it didn’t differentiate between fuel costs, which no governor controls, and actual base rates. We ruled Scott’s statement False.

Crist fired back that homeowners were paying higher property insurance rates under Scott. We found that not only are rates higher, residents are getting less coverage. That’s in no small part because of legislation signed by Scott in 2011, but it’s a trend that started under Crist, so we rated it Mostly True.