One way to turn a Florida governor debate into an oops

Sixty years ago, one of the most embarrassing moments in a Florida gubernatorial debate took place between Democratic candidates Charlie Johns and LeRoy Collins.

This was 1954 and the Democratic nominee would be the certain victor. Republicans were an afterthought until 1960 when Claude Kirk became the first GOP candidate to win since Reconstruction.

Johns became acting governor, after the untimely death of Dan McCarty of Fort Pierce. There was no lieutenant governor and Johns was Senate President. A special election was held and LeRoy Collins would go on to become one of Florida most revered governors.

During this debate, perhaps Florida's first televised debate, Collins reads from an advertisement in the Miami Herald saying Johns had whipped Collins during the debate.

The problem - it was an early edition of the morning newspaper and the debate had not yet taken place.

Collins nails Johns. 

Johns squirms. 

Debate War begins Crist 7 Scott 3

You can't have an election without a debate war. One side claiming it will debate "anytime, anywhere, anyplace," and the other - unusally the incumbent - pushing for fewer debates.

Our morning begins with a pronouncement from Florida Governor Rick Scott that he has decided to accept three debates - with the Democratic primary winner, Charlie Crist or Nan Rich.

Let us pause for a minute. It is awfully cute of the Scott campaign to offer to debate Nan Rich. Of course they do not for a second believe that Rich is going to win the Democratic nomination which is why they have spent tens-of-millions on television ads hammering Crist and not a dime on Rich.

Scott's announcement includes this tidbit:  He urges both candidates to agree to these debates now, so that proper planning and scheduling can take place . . .

How thoughtful.

Scott said he will participate in three debates: WSCV Telemundo 51, October 10; Leadership Florida, October 15; and CNN, October 21. Each would be televised statewide.

Not so fast says the Crist campaign which quickly responded with a statement saying Crist has accepted seven debates. In a statement, Crist said: â€śRick 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 he has accepted these debates:

Tampa Bay Times with CBS Affiliates
NBC Affiliates (by WESH)
Statewide Public Radio (by the Tampa Tribune)
Leadership Florida

The Tampa Bay Times put particular note on the fact that Scott is apparently snubbing its plans for a debate. It not likely that Scott will change his mind about the Times which has slammed him on its editorial pages.

Will there be more than 3 debates? Not likely but time will tell.