Fangate Hits 2nd Florida Gubernatorial Debate

The ferocious race for Florida governor took a surreal turn when a small electric fan threatened to derail Wednesday night's debate, leaving the stage empty and panelists confused for a few long minutes at its start.

Gov. Rick Scott debated former governor and current Democratic challenger Charlie Crist on Wednesday night at Broward College, but not before minutes of awkward dispute over the fan.

When the debate’s scheduled start time arrived, Crist was introduced and took his position behind one of the podiums. Then, when Scott was supposed to come on stage, the moderator announced that he was refusing to participate in the debate over a small fan below Crist’s podium.

Crist typically uses an electronic fan at public appearances to avoid sweating. Scott said Crist’s use of a fan violated the rules of the debate against using an electronic device. Crist was left alone on stage for about five minutes to start the debate.

Crist called Scott’s position ridiculous before Scott eventually came onto the stage.

In an email sent out to campaign supporters hours after the debate ended Scott's campaign manager maintained that Scott "never refused to take the stage." Melissa Sellers also contends that the campaign was "not notified" that Crist had taken the stage. She said they were told Crist was talking with debate organizers about the fan.

When both candidates began the actual debate, both took opposing sides on almost every issue, including gay marriage. Scott said that he supports traditional marriage but that ultimately it is a question for the courts to decide.

Crist said he supports same-sex marriage, but Scott pointed out that Crist had before told reporters his opposition to same-sex marriage was a matter of political expedience, because he was then a Republican.

When the candidates were asked if justice was served when neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder for fatally shooting unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin last year, Crist used the opportunity to suggest amending the stand your ground law, which allows use of deadly force if people are in fear for their lives.

"Everyone believes in that American premise, and it is the right thing to do to defend yourself and your property," Crist said. "But when it gets to the point where you have a statute on the books that allows the instigator ... to end up killing another human being after they started the incident, there is something fundamentally wrong with that law."

Scott said Martin's death was tragic, but the law should remain as is.

"I believe in the right to defend yourself. I can't imagine losing a child like that but I have talked to sheriffs and police chiefs," Scott said. "I stand with them that we need to have the existing law in place."

While the issues may have been discussed during the debate, the discussion afterward was all about the fan. Miami Herald political reporter Marc Caputo tweeted, “Republican/Rick Scott loyalists are telling me the moment he didn’t go onstage over fangate was the moment he lost the election.”

The election is shaping up to be one of the closest gubernatorial races in the country. Polls have tightened in recent weeks, showing a statistical tie between the two candidates.

Democrats want to gain control of the governor’s office ahead of the 2016 election as Hillary Clinton prepares for a likely run. Florida will once again be a key swing state, and controlling the governor’s office could be a key gain for Democrats.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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