PolitiFact Florida previews the Florida governor's debate

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and current Gov. Rick Scott in a debate hosted by Telemundo on Oct. 10, 2014.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist and current Gov. Rick Scott in a debate hosted by Telemundo on Oct. 10, 2014.

Florida's Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist will debate Wednesday night with polls showing the governor’s race as too close to call.

Scott, the Republican incumbent, rode a tea party wave into the governor’s office in 2010. Now he’s being challenged as too conservative by Crist, a former Republican governor who’s now a Democrat.

At this point in the campaign, the candidates are starting to repeat themselves, using their favorite talking points over and over. But voters just tuning in may be hearing the lines for the first time.

With that in mind, here’s our guide to the candidates’ most-repeated lines (with a hat tip to PolitiFact Wisconsin for the idea) and how they rate on PolitiFact Florida’s Truth-O-Meter.

By the way, you can watch the debate Wednesday night via live stream or on TV stations around the state. Follow @PolitiFactFL on Twitter for live coverage.

If you hear Rick Scott say …

… 832,000 people lost their job while Charlie Crist was governor.

That’s Half True. The number is correct, but there’s more to the story than Scott’s clear implication that Crist is to blame. Economists have told us a governor usually has little control over private sector job creation at the state level, and that’s even more true when there’s a national financial crisis. It’s not accurate to give Crist much blame for the crash of the national housing market or the banking troubles of 2008.

… raising the minimum could cost 500,000 jobs.

This is a reasonable number to use for the entire country; similar claims have earned a Mostly True. In the first debate on Telemundo, though, Scott gave the impression that the 500,000 number applies to Florida alone, and that questionable context motivated us to downgrade the statement to Half True.

… Charlie Crist laid off 3,000 teachers.

We rated that Mostly False. The number was calculated in 2009 from media reports about possible layoffs, not actual layoffs. While there were some layoffs -- Crist and the Republican-led Legislature signed off on budget cuts amid a national recession -- it’s not clear that the total was 3,000 teachers. Also, Crist accepted federal stimulus money that preserved thousands of teacher jobs.

 

If you hear Charlie Crist say …

… Rick Scott cut Bright Futures in half.

That’s partly accurate but leaves out important details. We said Half True. The full story is that Scott signed off on legislation that raised standards for Bright Futures, the scholarships funded by the Lottery and aimed at keeping high-achieving students at Florida schools. The higher standards meant fewer students were eligible for the scholarships, thereby saving the state money. So it’s the number of scholarships that was cut in half, not the dollar amount of the award. Also, Scott continued a trend that started under Crist; Crist himself approved a measure intended to reduce the number of recipients.

… accepting the economic stimulus saved 20,000 teachers jobs.

That’s Mostly True. The state Education Department identified 19,166 full-time equivalent jobs affected by stimulus money, so that’s close to what Crist said. But that figure includes school employees other than teachers as well.

… Rick Scott took the 5th 75 times to avoid jail.

Again, that’s partly accurate but leaves out important details, so we rated it Half True. Scott’s company did plead guilty to Medicare fraud, but from what we can tell, Scott was never in danger of going to prison himself. Instead, his invoking of his 5th Amendment rights was part of a civil lawsuit. Scott resigned from the company under pressure, but he got $5.1 million in cash severance and an additional $300 million in stocks and options.