The presence of Democratic candidate Charlie Crist’s electric fan gained attention on Wednesday night for causing a rift between the Florida gubernatorial candidates that almost canceled the debate. But Crist’s fan has been by his side throughout his political career.
Crist’s unique attachment to his fan is well documented, including by Crist himself in his memoir The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat. “I always like a fan at the podium when I give a big speech,” Crist wrote on page three of his memoir. “You have no idea how hot those TV lights can be.” Crist has traveled with portable fans since at least 2000 when he ran for education commissioner, The Atlantic reported, and spent $320 on portable fans alone on one European trade mission as governor. Crist’s fan has disrupted other debates in the past as well. As a Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2006, Crist squared off with fellow Republican Tom Gallagher. When Gallagher discovered Crist had a personal fan on stage, he threatened to leave the debate unless he was given a fan too, the Tampa Bay Times reported. A fan was found for Gallagher and the debate went on as planned.
But on Wednesday night, incumbent Republican governor Rick Scott discovered Crist’s fan before the debate began and did not appear on stage for several minutes. Following the debate, Scott’s campaign manager Melissa Sellers released a statement defending Scott’s action. “Rick Scott never refused to take the stage and debate,” Sellers said. “In fact, our campaign was not notified Charlie had even taken the stage because the last we heard, Crist was in an ‘emergency meeting’ with debate organizers pleading for his precious fan. But Charlie Crist can bring his fan, microwave, and toaster to debates — none of that will cover up how sad his record as Governor was compared to the success of Governor Rick Scott.”
A copy of the debate rules agreed to by both campaigns includes the statement, “Candidates may not bring electronic devices (including fans), visual aids or notes to the debate, but will be provided with a pad and pen.” Crist’s campaign signed the rules, but inserted a note underneath the signature that read, “with understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan if necessary,” according to Kevin Cate, a Crist spokesman. The electric fan overshadowed the substance of last night’s debate, but the election may be decided by the one candidate who was not on the stage: Adrian Wyllie, the Libertarian candidate who has polled in the double digits in some polls. Support for Wyllie has shrunk in recent polls that show Scott and Crist tied, but it remains to be seen who will gain the most ground from last night’s debate.