The state of Florida was scheduled to have a gubernatorial debate Wednesday night, but it almost didn’t happen. Why? Because there was a fan placed under Democratic candidate Charlie Crist’s podium, which Republican Rick Scott’s campaign maintained was against the candidates’ agreed-upon rules.
Both candidates had not taken the stage by the time the debate was supposed to begin. “As you can see, the two candidates who were invited to take part in this debate right now are not stepping up on the stage,” one of the debate’s moderators, local anchor Elliot Rodriguez, announced as the audience laughed at the two empty podiums. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have an extremely peculiar situation right now,” he said.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist finally did take the stage and stood alone for a few minutes, during which Rodriguez explained the fan controversy. Crist told another moderator he was not aware his fan’s presence was prohibited, and asked, “Are we really going to debate about a fan?”
Some in the audience applauded Crist, but others could be heard shouting “follow the rules,” while the debate moderators talked among themselves about whether or not they should ask him to get rid of the fan. Eventually, Scott appeared on stage to a partial standing ovation, and the debate began.
Scott and Crist entered Thursday’s debate in a neck-and-neck race, according to recent polls from the Tampa Bay Times and CNN. Crist, a former Republican governor who’s now running as a Democrat, has taken heat for his mercurial policy positions. Scott has recently been criticized for some discrepancies in his financial filings, but has been boosted by Florida’s improving economy. It’s possible the seesawing race between two relatively unpopular names could be decided by the impact of the Libertarian candidate, Adrian Wyllie, who has attracted double-digit support in some polls.