Gov. Rick Scott's campaign announced today that he agreed to appear in three debates against the Democratic nominee, either former Gov. Charlie Crist or Nan Rich. The debates are all within four weeks of the Nov. 4 general election:
- -WSCV Telemundo 51: October 10
- -Leadership Florida, WPBF-TV 25 and the Florida Press Association: October 15, 7 to 8 p.m. at Broward College
- -CNN: October 21
The governor declined to participate in a planned Oct. 7 debate sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times, WTSP-10 News and the University of South Florida, which would have been the first of the season. Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said three is enough.
"Three statewide debates will give voters ample opportunity to hear from Gov. Scott and his challenger,' she wrote in an email. "He will be spending the rest of his time traveling the state and meeting with voters."
By signing on to dates later in the election season, many voters many have already made up their minds by the time the two gubernatorial nominees square off.
Meanwhile, Crist continues to take heat for refusing to debate Rich before the Aug. 26 primary. He lead her in polls and says his focus is on beating Scott in November.
UPDATE: Crist says he agreed to all three debates, as well as four more. In addition to the Times' debate, Crist would also appear at events sponsored by Univision, WESH/NBC affiliates, and Florida Public Radio in conjunction with the Tampa Tribune.
“Rick Scott limiting debates to three is a disservice to voters, but not surprising considering his history of refusing to answer questions to avoid going to jail," Crist said in a statement. "I want to do more debates with the winner of the primary campaign."
2nd UPDATE: Crist has apparently agreed to so many debates he can't keep up with them all. The folks at Florida Blue Key alerted us that he also agreed to attend their debate in Gainesville on Sept. 29, to be aired by FOX affiliates. Crist's campaign confirmed it, bringing his number to eight.
Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie is also trying to make sure he won't be left out of the fall debates. His campaign says he accepted invitations to two: the one sponsored by Leadership Florida that both Scott and Crist agreed to and the one in Gainesville that only Crist accepted.
Wyllie is in talks to participate in other debates, but sponsors have not determined if he meets the criteria. Recent polls show he has little chance of winning the election but could serve as a spoiler by siphoning independent votes.