For All You Political Junkies ...
What follows is the full transcript of last night's gubernatorial debate between Charlie Crist, Jim Davis, and Max Linn. It's, um, really long.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Florida, the state that carried George W. Bush into the White House and elected Jeb Bush twice for governor. A state on the move, where the economy, education, immigration and homeland security are top concerns. Whoever wants to the next president, whether its frontrunners John McCain and Hillary Clinton or possible contenders like Rudy Giuliani and Barack Obama, that person will try to win Florida. But before Florida voters play their key role in picking our next president, just eight days from now, they'll pick a new governor. And that man will lead the state that may well pick the next president. Will it be Republican attorney general Charlie Crist or Democratic Congressman Jim Davis? Their final meeting is tonight, and the stakes are great. The Florida gubernatorial debate happens right now on MSNBC.
Welcome to the second and final gubernatorial debate down here in Florida. We're in Tampa. The candidates are, from the left, attorney general Charlie Crist, U.S. Congressman Jim Davis, and the third party candidate Max Linn. Thank you all for joining us tonight. Because of a toss of the coin, Mr. Davis, you're first. There are 24,000 Floridians serving right now in Iraq. As of today, according to the Pentagon, 2,831 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq, including 120 troops from Florida. Has this war been worth it? Are we safer now because of the decision to invade and occupy Iraq?
DAVIS: We are not, Chris, because of the way the president is handling this. As a member of Congress, I have fought to pressure the Republican leadership in Congress and George Bush to do something other than stay the course. To pressure the Iraqi government, to take responsibility for our own -- their own security, to pressure the president to work with our allies.Here in Tampa, we have MacDill Air Force Base, where both the Iraqi and Afghanistan operation are being run. And I've had to fight Secretary Rumsfeld to make sure that our troops have the body armor and support they need. Fighters had more guard and reserve in Iraq than almost any state in the country.And as governor, I will continue to speak out, to make sure that not only that we get the job done in Iraq, we get back to fighting terrorism with strong national security. Strong port security. Something I've worked on with Governor Jeb Bush here. A better job of homeland security. But the war in Iraq is not succeeding because the president wants to stay the course and we need a change.
MATTHEWS: One follow-up question, just to clarify that you say we were wrong to go to Iraq.
DAVIS: We were, Chris. And as a member of Congress, I voted to give the president the authority to proceed, based on the intelligence I had. That intelligence was faulty. So I have fought since then to try to get the president to get the job done. But he is not responding. He is simply saying stay the course. That's not the best policy for our country right now.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Crist, the same question to you with the same numbers of course, 120 people from Florida have been killed in that war over there, 2,800 altogether. And you have 24,000 fellow Floridians fighting over there. Was the war worth it? Are we safer today because of the decision to invade?CRIST: I believe THAT we are safer because of the decision to invade. And you know, great people have said before that war is hell. And truly it is. And it is not easy and freedom certainly is not free. My sympathies go out to the parents of those who have lost their lives in this conflict. It's difficult, the most difficult thing I think that I think any president would have to make a decision about.But let's understand where we are and what's really happening. We were attacked on September 11th, 2001. We were attacked in New York City. We were attacked in Washington D.C. We were attacked in Pennsylvania. I think what we've decided to do is to fight to protect Americans, to fight to make sure that the war is not here and that it is somewhere else.The president made a difficult decision, but he made the right decision. Not an easy one, a tough one. Not always popular, but not all decisions are going to be popular. What he decided to do was take the fight to them, to make sure that we're not having this fight here on our soil. We had never been attacked on our soil before but as you all know, and as I know, it happened in New York, it happened at the Pentagon, and it happened in Pennsylvania.
MATTHEWS: Time up, thank you. Let me ask the same question of Mr. Linn. You know the question, sir.
MAX LINN, FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I do. I was against the war before it started. I was against the war when it started. And I'm still against the war and now we have all the facts and the evidence to show that the American people have been
misled. And if the Congress and George W. Bush were really serious about this war, I would like to see their boys and girls in this war.The fact is they're sending our children, your children to war, telling you to stay the course when they won't let their children near that war. This war is wrong. It should be stopped. And we need a platform and as your next governor, I promise to help lead to national effort to stop this war as soon as possible.
MATTHEWS: The next question goes to Mr. Crist, the attorney general. The New Jersey Supreme Court has just ruled the state of New Jersey, the legislature has to pass legislation for enactment to give gay couples the same legal and economic rights as straight couples. How does that affect your thinking on the subject, that ruling?
CRIST: It doesn't affect my thinking at all. I believe that marriage is a sacred relationship between a man and a woman. I've always felt that way and I still believe that now. I have respect for the courts. I think it's important that we have respect for the three branches of government and certainly, I do. I am the attorney general so I understand how important the judiciary is in this process.But it is not the Florida Supreme Court. It is the New Jersey Supreme Court. We're here in Florida tonight. This election is about Florida. This election is about the future of our state and the law is clear in our state. We respect civil unions and I do as well. I think it's fine if people want to introduce and go into agreements to be able to have funeral arrangements made, things of that nature. But I think that marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman.
MATTHEWS: What's the difference between a civil union and a marriage legally under the eyes of the law?
CRIST: Under the eyes of this law, under the eyes of Florida, I believe that the difference is that civil unions are not the same as marriage. Marriage is a relationship like my mother and father had. Like I had before I got divorced. It is one of those unique institutions, not only in America but across the world where a man and a woman commit to one another. This is one of the things where I think it is fundamental, it is my belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman and it is different from civil unions.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Linn, should there be, I want to ask you the same question but in a different form. The New Jersey Supreme Court has demonstrated once again that the Supreme Courts of states can tell legislatures what to do, as they did in Massachusetts. What would you do if you wanted to -- if you don't, give me the other answer. What is your reaction to that possibility here in Florida? The court ruling?
LINN: I'm fine with that. I support it and I also support a civil union and equal rights for all member and women, including gay adoption.
MATTHEWS: How about gay marriage?
LINN: Gay marriage, I really don't think that the country is ready for that right now so it is it is good to take one step at a time. So I support the civil unions and the gay adoption.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Davis, your response to the first question. What's the implications? You're an attorney. What is the implication of a court ruling once again telling a legislature what to do?
DAVIS: Here in Florida, we have our own law. It says marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe marriage is a religious sacrament and I don't think the government should interfere in that religious sacrament. My wife Peggy who is here with me tonight along with our boys, Peter and William, have been married 20 years.But I also believe in civil unions and I believe if a couple decides to make a lifetime commitment to one another, that they should be able to have the same rights and responsibilities that my wife and I have. This is something Charlie, Chris and I agree on. But I think what's happened in New Jersey has no bearing on Florida and I expect the law in Florida to continue when I serve as governor, and that is that marriage is between a man and a woman.
MATTHEWS: And you would permit gay adoption.
DAVIS: I would. I think a judge should have the authority to decide whether any couple is fit to adopt. Florida is one of only a handful of states in the country to not give a judge the authority, and I think the judge should be able to make that decision.
MATTHEWS: A rebuttal, Mr. Crist. Both of these gentlemen have come out for gay adoption, have supported it. Are you for or against that position?
CRIST: I am opposed to it. I think that we have in our state some rules that permit adoptions within our system, but I don't think gay adoption is appropriate. I believe that the traditional family is the best means by which to raise children.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the definition of all you candidates and you've been running a very clean campaign. I must say watching the national news every day, this is the cleanest campaign I've seen so far. Not that that's perfect.Let me ask you about what kind of a conservative you are, a conservative Republican. There are two kind of conservatives, it seems to me. There's the libertarian, Barry Goldwater, live and let live type of conservative, the classic libertarian.You know, few laws, let us do our thing, lower taxes. And then there's the values conservatives, who believes that government's job is to protect the unborn, to protect people against marriage -- against gay marriage, to protect traditional marriage and make rulings on abortion and thing like that.Are you a libertarian Barry Goldwater style, live and let live conservative, or are you a strictures, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson type Republican?
CRIST: That's a lot of labels to try to remember.
MATTHEWS: But they're very striking.
CRIST: Yes, they are. I'm a common sense conservative and I'm a Floridian first. I think it's very important that the people at home watching tonight, and thank you for tuning in -- there's a lot of things you could have been doing and you've decided to watch this debate about the future of our great state. I want to keep your taxes down. I want to fight to make sure that home insurance rates go down. I fought for you as your attorney general to make sure that your utility bills stay down, that phone rates don't go up. I understand that these pocket book issues are important to the people of the state. I know that they're important to you, watching at home to you tonight.As your attorney general, I have fought for you. If you give me opportunity to be your next governor, I will continue to fight for you each and every day because I think it's fundamentally important to have more common sense in government. I say many times on the campaign trail that common sense and government don't often meet. And that is far too true. But I think given the opportunity to be your next governor, I'll try to make sure that they meet each a lot more.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Davis, the same kind of self-definition from you, sir. You -- are you a liberal? Your voting record with the Americans for Democratic Action is 90 percent the last time I looked. Does that define you, that you're 90 percent liberal?
DAVIS: I am a candidate for governor, a Floridian who is running because I'm standing up for my value. And what I believe here in Florida is our greatest resource is our people, our children. And we're nearly last in the country in graduation rate and SAT and scores because the FCAT is being used to punish our children, teacher and schools, something Charlie wants to continue.I want to end the use of the FCAT as we know it. I want to start lifting up our children to a higher graduation rate, a higher SAT score. Here in Florida, another one our values is the American dream, owning your own home. I have a plan to reduce property taxes next year by $1 billion for homeowners, renters and business owners.Charlie Crist plans to do nothing for four years. I think that's unacceptable. And unlike Charlie Crist, I will stand up to this very powerful insurance lobby because our values in Florida here is that we do not let special interests run our state. And they are dominating the Florida legislature and insurance premiums and property taxes are driving people out of their homes and out of business.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you, since you went into the question, I guess that's your answer. That you're a liberal, right?
DAVIS: I don't fit into a label, Chris, and neither does our state.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask but this issue that you've raised, and I don't want to leave it off until later, the property tax issue. You want to have a billion dollars in tax relief in property taxes. You want to give each of the 180,000 teachers of this a $4,000 raise. You also want to keep the entire education budget whole. Show me money, how do you do that?
DAVIS: My plan to raise teacher salary next year by $4,000, I do without raising tax. I take reward money attached to the FCAT program that Charlie Crist wants to continue and use that and existing money to raise teacher salaries.I'm going to cut property taxes by $1 billion next year in a very simple way. There have been $20 billion of special interest tax giveaways over the last eight years. I'm going to take five percent of those and pressure the Florida legislature to stand up for what is the largest tax increase in the history of our state, a $4 billion property tax increase on local property owners.Charlie Crist isn't going to do anything about this but I am, and I'm going to pressure the legislature to get rid of some of the special interest.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Crist, do you want to challenge that? I mean, the question of getting this money from somewhere else through plugging loopholes, would that stand a chance in the state legislature?
CRIST: I don't believe that it would. But let's understand exactly what my opponent just said. He wants to raise your taxes. He talked about the fact that under the current administration, $20 billion in tax cuts have come about. He has said in this campaign, he wants to put all of them on the table. I don't that's right.Also, in what he talks about a property tax reduction, he wants to raise $1 billion in new taxes on seniors and savers. That's how he wants to pay for it. Then he wants to send the money back to local government on the hope and a prayer that they might send it to you. I want to cut your property tax and your bill straight away.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Linn, these two other candidates, mainstream candidates have offered plans for property tax reduction. Both about $2 billion relief and half of that goes to the teacher for Mr. Davis's plan. What is your finances? What's your arithmetic on this issue? Can you reduce the taxes without raising them elsewhere?
LINN: Absolutely. My arithmetic is that the system is broken and that's why I've been in court now through four judges and finally got here at the last hour. I've been a registered Republican now all my life and years ago, the Republican Party left me. They've left all their traditional values and Charlie Crist has left all the traditional values of the Republicans, which is fiscal responsibility, smaller government, and less government in your life.The fact is I'm the only one up here who has a career in financial management. I had one of the most successful financial management firms in Florida. I sold it three years ago and I'm currently a certified financial planner. And I think what taxpayers are looking for more than anything else, they're looking, when they send their hard-earned dollars through the form of taxation, they're looking for proper financial management.And this is where I'm head and shoulders over either of my opponents, who have no experience in this area. Their only expertise is running for one office after another after another and climbing the political ladder.
MATTHEWS: Well you're the reform candidate here, the third party candidate. Tell me where you're going to get this money that's going to offset the tax relief on property taxes. Show me money again. I'm trying to get arithmetic out of you gentlemen.Where is that money? With the same specificity -- I mean, Mr. Davis, you talk about -- you're talking about 25 to increase the homeowners' exemption from 25,00 -- a very specific proposal. But I don't hear the specificity in replacing those government funds.LINN: I will be specific. Right now, there's a $400 billion surplus. The Republican and Democrats say they don't know what to do with it. Tax Watch in Tallahassee have come up with over 100 ideas that you've got another $4 billion. Under my proposal, I promise to cut the size of government and its bureaucracy.The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, you cannot lower taxes unless you slow down and stop the growth of government and even cut the growth of government. Anything else is just shifting taxes from one area or another. So there's plenty of places. Under my budget, I want to make a 10 percent cut in the bureaucracy, including in the schools, but not the teachers. There is a huge bureaucracy in our school system. I want to outsource the bussing. I want to outsource the food and janitorial service. I represent the people's interests, as opposed to my opponents, representing big business and special interests. My opponents have received money from big developers, special interests and even the insurance companies. And that has to stop.
MATTHEWS: Do you want to respond about the insurance company? Did you take money from insurance companies?
CRIST: I've taken money from a lot of people...
MATTHEWS: ... No, but from insurance companies.CRIST: From 40,000 people from across...
MATTHEWS: ... But have you taken money from insurance companies?
LINN: Yes or no Charlie, you have, that's the fact.
MATTHEWS: You can't -- we have rules here. Sir, Mr. Linn, there is one rule I didn't tell you about. You can't talk to the other candidates. But you made your point.
CRIST: Yes, I think some may have. What I think is important is to respond to your question about let's make sure we make the math work. What I want to do is I want to reduce...
LINN: ... insurance companies and he's not answering it, and that's what the Florida voters are fed up with. Answer the question Charlie, for a change.
MATTHEWS: OK, that was my question. Let me go back to try to reclaim the chair here. Mr. Crist, do you take money from insurance companies?
CRIST: I've taken some, sure.
MATTHEWS: A substantial amount? Can you give me an estimate?
CRIST: No, I don't know, I really don't know how much.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to Mr. Davis. How much money did you take from the Teacher's Lobby?
DAVIS: I haven't gotten much money from the Teacher's Lobby. Teachers don't have any money, Chris. They're not getting paid much. But I'll help you answer the math.
MATTHEWS: But you've gotten more from the teachers than from the insurance companies.
DAVIS: Well, I've gotten very little from insurance companies, but I'll help you out with the math.
CRIST: Could I answer the question if you don't mind, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Sure. We'll get back to you. Now you want to do it. Which answer do you want to answer? Do you want to answer the question of how much money do you take from insurance companies? Or the question of how you're going to finance the increase in the homestead exemption?
CRIST: I want to talk about the homestead exemption.
MATTHEWS: OK, how do you finance that loss of $2 billion?
CRIST: Yes, the way you do it is you make a presumption or a premise within your question. And what he's asking is, if we cut taxes in one place, do you necessarily have to raise them somewhere else to make up for it? In my view, you do not. Government needs to live within its means. That's what I'm talking about. These guys want to raise your taxes. I do not want to raise your tax.
MATTHEWS: First of all, I want to follow up there, because I really think this has gotten further than last week's debate on this point. I want you to itemize sir, which programs you're going to cut and how much to get up to $2 billion. Just give me an example -- give me a rough estimate of your plan to save $2 billion in spending. Please tell me, you're very specific about the relief for the people. They want to hear that. Be equally specific and tell me where you'll cut and how do you get $2 billion?
CRIST: Sure. I want to double the homestead exemption.
MATTHEWS: That's what you said.
CRIST: Right now it is $25,000. I want to take to it $50,000. If all 67 counties adopt it, that will generate about $2 billion.Now, the premise that's wrong is that that's going to have to require a raise in taxes somewhere else than local government. Because the argument that my opponent makes is that you'll take that money from local government. Local government needs to live within its means, too. Just like families across Florida have to do every single day.So Chris, where you get the money is, you don't raise more money at the local level. You get more of the money back to the people of Florida.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Davis, Mr. Crist said he was going to cut spending to pay for the tax relief. He didn't tell me where he's going to cut it.
CRIST: Chris, I never said I was going to cut spending.
CRIST: You have to understand, our state is growing rapidly. We're getting 1,200 new people coming to this state every single day. That's a blessing to us. That means that our budget just next year is going to be at least $4 billion more from the latest estimate, from the revenue estimators. We don't to have raise new taxes.
MATTHEWS: OK, so no matter who is the next governor, you'll get the tax relief, because you'll be getting that through growth?
CRIST: You'll get it from me.
MATTHEWS: Dynamic score keeping, right.
CRIST: My Democratic opponent wants to raise your tax.
DAVIS: Here in Florida, the question is who is going to pay the cost of growth? Over the last eight years, there have been $20 billion in tax breaks to developers that don't want to pay the cost of growth, to special interests. And I think that needs to end. And I'll go back and repeal some of those and do a $1 billion property tax cut next year. These developers need to start paying their share of the cost of growth.Now Charlie's plan is four more years. He doesn't want to do anything for four sea. And in four years, the way you pay for what he just described is what the Florida Chamber of Commerce said. He will lower property taxes for some homeowners by raising property taxes for first-time homeowners, small businesses and renters, like Charlie.My plan will help renters like Charlie, homeowners like Max, and my wife and me and everybody next year. The choice is, do we let these special interests, these developers, who have put $5 million into Charlie's campaign, continue not to pay their share of the cost of growth? Do we continue to stick property openers with the bill?I think the time has come that the property owners need some relief. And that's why my plan lowers property tax by one billion dollars next year.
MATTHEWS: Do you want to be responsible?
LINN: I would love to. Charlie, you haven't researched your plan. And you have another candidate here. I know you've been trying to avoid me all year long, but you happen to have two opponents now. I'm over here, Charlie. Do you see me, or are you still ignoring me? Still ignoring me.But the fact is, Charlie Crist's plan won't work. You cannot double the homestead exemption. The fact is, I've look at this through the middle of our state. This would actually bankrupt some of our smaller towns. This, Charlie, is financially irresponsible. It hasn't been done and you can't do it. Under my plan, we will tax the first $25,000 and exemption the next 100.
MATTHEWS: OK. Mr. Linn, thank you for being here. I have no right to say anything about your being here. That was a court decision. However, we have a rule. Don't talk to the other candidates.
MATTHEWS: Let's go on. I want to ask Mr. Crist...
LINN: Chris? I hear you loud and clear.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Mr. Attorney General, Florida is known for a lot of thing around the country, and a lot of people around the country are watching right now on MSNBC. And one of the things it's known for is of course the 2000 election, the way it was counted and the way the country was divided and decided on that election.But one of the other issues was the Schiavo case. Terri Schiavo, it became a Congressional matter. The U.S. Congress met on a weekend and decided to intervene in that case. Are you happy with the way that was handled? Are you happy that the fact that the governor of this state, Jeb Bush, pushed for a probe of Michael Schiavo afterwards? Do you like the whole smell of the thing?CRIST: No. I have great respect for my friend the governor. But on this we disagreed. And as Ronald Reagan used to say, if you agree with each other 80 percent of the time, you're probably friends. And that's true with the governor and I.But on this, I think it's important that you stand up for the principles you believe in yourself. And I simply believe that this kind of end of life decision is the kind of decision that's best left to God and family. I do not feel it's the appropriate place for government. I didn't think it was right that the United States Congress did the things that it did. Actually, Jim Davis and I agree on this issue.I think it's important when you're the attorney general of the state that you don't get involve in the court case if you don't believe the government should be involved. And that's why I did not.
MATTHEWS: Did you speak up at the time against the Congressional action?
CRIST: Yes, I did.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Davis, your reaction?
DAVIS: No, he didn't. I respect Governor Bush, not because we agree -- we strongly disagreed on the Terri Schiavo issue -- but because you know where he stands. And on this particular issue, Charlie refused to take a position. And I went up to the United States Congress. I stood up to my own party. I stood up to George Bush and I led fight to keep the federal government from interfering in the affairs of our state and Terri Schiavo. And that's the kind of governor I'll be. I'll stand up for what I believe in, even if it doesn't seem popular at the time.Charlie, on the other hand, refused to take a position. That's not the kind of strong leadership that Governor Bush has provided and I'll provide as governor.
MATTHEWS: We'll be right back with Mr. Linn's response to that. We'll be back with more of the Florida gubernatorial debate. Back in a moment.
MATTHEWS: We're back with the candidates for governor of Florida.Mr. Linn, your chance to respond to the topic of the Schiavo case and way it was handled here.
LINN: All right. Well, I'll just say that I was appalled by it. The fact is, our founding fathers believed in a strong separation of church and state. And as your next governor, there will be no interfering in anything like that because we will have a strict separation of church and state.Currently, I'm the Director of Operations of the Ukrainian Christian Ministry, so I know how important religion is in all of our lives, in many of our lives. But in reality, I would want it out of my administration and out of our government.
MATTHEWS: We all agree on that one.Let me ask you about the Mark Foley case. Mr. Attorney General, you served with him in the state legislature. Mr. Davis served with him in Congress.Did you see the problem coming? Which we all know about, we don't have to go into the details.Was this case handled properly by the leadership of the House? And what's the status of any Florida investigation of this case?
CRIST: Sure.No, I did not see any evidence of this coming. It's a tragic case, it's sad and it's disgusting.What I think is important is, I'm not sure how the House Republican leadership in Washington handled it, nor is it my place to judge them. I don't have the facts, I'm not part of that investigation in Washington.Our office, as the attorney general of the state of Florida, offered help in the investigation to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement along with the FBI. And that's what I know about the case.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Davis, what do you think of the way it was handled by the leadership of the Congress in which you serve?
DAVIS: I think it speaks volumes about their failure to use their power to protect the American people and to protect children in this case. I went and looked at these e-mails, and it was every parent' nightmare. My two sons are here tonight and the thought that somebody could have been engaging in that sort of Internet traffic just scares me to death.So Mark Foley is going to pay the price for what he did. He is not above the law. And the Republican leadership in Congress is not above the law, either. And there's an election coming and people are fixing to send a message to the Republican, not just in Washington, but also in the Tallahassee, which is that people want their power to be used to help them and not to advance a particular party or control of a particular agenda.
MATTHEWS: Are you saying they acted politically, rather than in caring for the young boys involved?
DAVIS: Absolutely. I watched the evidence long enough to come to that conclusion. And it's not just my conclusion. It's the conclusion of the American people. And I believe change is coming this year because people are tired of the Republican party, both in Washington and Tallahassee, using their power to advance their agenda, instead of in the case of Florida lowering property tax and standing up to this very powerful insurance lobby and the record prices and recorder profits in Florida. And I've got a plan. I hope we talk about that.
MATTHEWS: My. Linn, any reaction to that?
LINN: Yes, I think Jim Davis is right. That the people of Florida and Americans are tired of the Republican party because they've left all their traditional values.But Jim, what you left out, was they're also tired of the Democratic party. They're tired of a two-party system that doesn't represent the people anymore. It seems like the Democratic party is moving a 100 miles an hour towards socialism and the Republican party now is moving at 95 miles an hour.The fact is, the special interests, the developers, the insurance companies, they're all very well represented. They want to keep the status quo just as it is.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
LINN: It is we, the people, that want change. And that's what I represent.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Crist, the other thing that Florida is known for -- and I will turn to those property tax issues in greater detail later, Mr. Davis, and also homeowner's insurance. We will get into that thoroughly.But Florida is also known, beside the Foley case -- and these are unfortunate matters, obviously, and the Schiavo case, which is a tragedy in many ways -- for the 2000 presidential election count, and the way the presidency was decided in the year 2000 by the Supreme Court.Looking back at that, as an attorney, as a general -- as attorney general of this state, is it your view that that matter was handled well, that the Supreme Court played a proper role, that its decision was just?
CRIST: I think that the United States Supreme Court played the proper role. I think they met their duty.I think they did what they had to do, given the circumstances of that unique race, the closest race in the history of the country in a presidential campaign.I'm more concerned, frankly, about races in Florida. Obviously, I'm very concerned about this race for governor. And that's what we're here to talk about.And I appreciate the question, Chris, but I think the viewers at home understand how important democracy is. And I think that's the root of your question. We need to protect...
MATTHEWS: Well, let me tell you the root of the question. Can they count on their vote being counted accurately and fairly this time?
CRIST: Yes, sir, I believe that they can.And I think that the integrity of our democratic process is at the root of the foundation of our country. And making sure that we have that kind of integrity, that we do have a democratic process that you can have confidence in, is absolutely fundamental.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Davis, a lot of people in Florida, a lot of African- Americans, especially, have never been happy with the way the vote was counted, finally, in 2000. They continue, in everything I read, to have reservations about whether their vote will count this time. The whole process is up in the air, as far as they're concerned, whether it's worth voting.What is your view on that question?
DAVIS: It is broken. And we just heard why.Charlie just said he is more concerned about his own campaign for governor than he is the election system. And that's why we still don't have a paper trail. We should have been the first state in the country to have a paper trail. And now there are 26 states.Charlie stood side by side with Katherine Harris, when thousands of Floridians had their vote denied, including many African-Americans. And we still have problems with the election system. We're one of a handful of states that don't have automatic restoration.Charlie sat on the cabinet, sat on the clemency board, and said absolutely nothing while thousands of people waited to have their voting rights restored that should have been restored for this election.When I am governor, I'm going to appoint a secretary of state who believes in free and fair elections. We are going to have a paper trail. We are going to have random audits of computerized voting. We are going to have automatic restoration. I will do it through an executive order. And we are going to have an election that is going to make the country proud again.And that should have happened a long time ago. But Charlie Crist, as attorney general, has done absolutely nothing to improve our election system.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Crist, why do you oppose a paper trail for balloting?
CRIST: I didn't say that I opposed a paper trail for balloting. My opponent said that. He mischaracterizes things from time to time. But that's understandable.We have a week to go before this election. And I think a paper trail is fine. I get one when I go to the gas station, and I think it is a fine thing to have. The only concern I have with a paper trail is if there would ever be intimidation exercised that would have people have to be paid, or alleged to be paid, for a vote, when they come back to work.That's the only concern I have about it. Other than that, I think it would be fine. But we have to make sure that we have a democratic process that we can trust and we can believe in.
MATTHEWS: Rebuttal here?. Did you suggest having how you voted written on that receipt?
DAVIS: The paper trail confirms to somebody that their vote is going to be counted. Charlie Crist had four years...
MATTHEWS: It doesn't -- excuse me -- it doesn't say how you voted, does it?
DAVIS: It confirms that you have voted. And the information is available to check to see that the machine recorded your vote correctly.
MATTHEWS: But, just to clarify this, to make -- to make his point clear, he's concerned that you would go vote for five bucks. You would come back and show the receipt you voted for the candidate you were paid to vote for. Are you worried about that?
DAVIS: I'm not worried about that. What I'm worried about...
MATTHEWS: Why not?
DAVIS: Because I don't think that is going to be a problem, Chris.The problem is that Charlie Crist had four years as attorney general to argue for a paper trail. And, less than a week before the election, he finally says, we need a paper trail.
MATTHEWS: OK.I just want to clarify for the people watching who can't keep up with this. Are you proposing that you walk out of a voting booth, and it says, "I voted for Bush; I voted for Clinton"? It -- so, it won't say that?
DAVIS: What I am...
MATTHEWS: Will it say that?
DAVIS: What I am proposing is that Florida do what 26 states have done, which is to keep a written record of how the vote was the counted, so you're not just relying on a computer.And what I'm saying, as a Floridian and a candidate for governor, is, the attorney general of the state of Florida, one week before the election, six years after the 2000 election, practically, has never done anything until tonight. That's not the kind of leadership we need, if we are going to restore the ultimate civil right, which is a voting right for every Floridian, including a paper trail.
MATTHEWS: I don't know, Mr. Davis, what you mean. Do you mean have a receipt for how you voted, or that you voted?
DAVIS: The paper trail confirms how you voted... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: How you voted. And you're walking out of a machine with evidence of how you voted? Any local political character can come up to you and say, show me how you voted.DAVIS: The election supervisor has a paper trail that can be used to make sure that the computer is correctly recording your vote.
MATTHEWS: OK.DAVIS: And this is something that should have been done a long time ago in Florida. And it hasn't been, because the attorney general has refused to stand... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Do you want to react to this, Mr. Linn?
LINN: I will be simple.
MATTHEWS: Are you for a paper trail?
LINN: Oh, absolutely. Here's... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: And with the name of the candidate you voted for? (CROSSTALK) LINN: Yes, I'm here for a paper trail. And what the people...
MATTHEWS: And the candidate's name of who you voted for?
LINN: I'm for -- I want do make sure that the computers don't have control of it alone.And I don't want to -- I want to make sure that the people of Florida and the people of the United States feel secure in their vote, and, when they walk out of there, they don't have to worry about a computer manipulation. That's the bottom line, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And how do they do that, by having a receipt...LINN: We would sit down with the people and see what the laws are...
LINN: ... and make sure they feel more secure with their vote, because, right now, there's a lot of people concerned...
LINN: ... that their votes may be manipulated on the computer.MATTHEWS: And, Mr. Crist, you're concerned that people will be walking out of a ballot with a receipt for how they voted?
CRIST: That does concern me, because the integrity of our democratic process is the most important thing about this issue.I understand those who desire to have a paper trail. I get that. I understand it. You know, you go to the gas station, you get a receipt for the gas that you got. There is nothing wrong with that.The only concern I have, though, is, if it does say how you voted, if somebody might be persuaded to try to convince you to give money for that vote. And that's just wrong.
MATTHEWS: Let me start now with -- with Mr. Davis.How would you grade Jeb Bush as governor on a -- I know you don't like this, but A through F, the traditional grading system?
DAVIS: It depends on the issue.
DAVIS: C.On education, I give the governor a D-minus. On homeland security, homeland port security, I give the governor an A. I have worked very closely with him. But I am a parent of two sons in public school. And our state is now nearly last in the country in graduation rate and SAT scores, because the FCAT is being used in this state to punish children, teachers and students, instead of providing the information that parents need.My sons take the FCAT. This is the kind of piece of paper I have gotten at home. It says what my son's scale score is, his national percentile rank.
MATTHEWS: I believe you're breaking a rule, sir.
DAVIS: What's the rule, Chris?
MATTHEWS: You can't bring props.
DAVIS: Well, I will put it down. Here's the point. We need to change the FCAT to a learning tool, so that parents can have the information about how their child is doing. Instead of testing, testing, testing, let's find out how our kids are doing...
DAVIS: ... and how they're doing better.
MATTHEWS: You just gave the governor a C.What grade would you give, Mr. Crist, to the governor?
CRIST: I would give a strong A.Governor Bush has been one of the most effective governors we have had. In education, he has led with conviction, with principle. He's done what he believes is right. He does believe in measuring our schools, to make sure that our children get the very best education possible. And so do I.I don't want to dumb down the system and not give grades anymore to our schools. I want to make sure that it is crystal clear how our schools are performing for your children. A through F, it's important. My opponent doesn't like having accountability. He probably doesn't like having a roll call taken...
CRIST: ... in Congress either, because he's got the second worst voting record.
MATTHEWS: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. You're out of time.Mr. Linn...LINN: Well, I was going to give...
MATTHEWS: ... a grade for the governor, please?
LINN: I was going to give Governor Bush a C. But, just before here, just coming back from the court that just overruled my case to get me in here, he gave me this pen and wished me the best of luck.And, Governor Bush, for that, I'm going to upgrade to you a B.
MATTHEWS: OK. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I want to give you another -- a follow-up question, and then I want to go. We're almost out of time.
LINN: Yes.Charlie Crist -- Charlie Crist, I understand, gives him an A. And that's because Charlie Crist has a reputation of being a rubber-stamper for the Republican Party. And that's not what the Florida citizens are looking for. They're looking for... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: What grade would you give, Mr. Crist, for -- for President Bush, same grading system, A through F?
CRIST: I think President Bush has done well. But I don't think he gets the A that I give to Governor Bush. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Well, give him a grade.
CRIST: A B. I think the president gets a B. But I want to give him high praise for being principled. You know, this family has done a lot for this country. And I had the honor of being with former President Bush just last week in Fort Lauderdale, and also in Ormond Beach. And I can't tell you how much respect I have for their father, for their family.And this great governor has done so much, especially for Florida in the wake of hurricanes. He has always been that calm, soothing voice that we hear in Spanish and English after those storms. He has been a great leader for our state.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Davis?
DAVIS: The president doesn't get as high a grade as the governor does. The president gets an F. And the president gets an F because he broke his promise not to drill for oil off the coast of Florida. I have been leading the fight in Congress to make sure that we don't drill off the coast of Florida.I asked Charlie Crist to join me in that fight. He didn't do so. I have been fighting this president when he wanted to privatized Social Security, which would be very bad for Florida.This president is about to get a message. And the message is, we don't want to stay the course. Charlie wants to stay the course in this campaign as well. He wants to continue to use the FCAT the way it's being used right now. He has no plan to lower insurance premiums next year. People want change, and they're fixing to send a message to George Bush. We need change.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Linn, grade for the president.
LINN: Well -- well, without a doubt, I would give our president a grade F.And the reason Charlie Crist gives him a higher score is because he's been at his $25,000-a-plate fund-raisers. And I think that's exactly the Florida people are sick and tired of politics as usual.
MATTHEWS: Was he paying or getting? What -- what is the problem?LINN: Well, I know Charlie has been going to a lot of those expensive fund-raisers.And I still wait for the question of how much he has received from the insurance companies, the companies he's supposed to regulate. And I know he has received over $5 million from developers. But the fact is, he's been at multiple $25,000-a-plate fund-raisers.But, to answer your question, I give our president an F. I don't think he's represented what he first stood up to represent the way... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK.Let's go back to a number of issues. I want to try to catch a lot of Floridian issues.You have a big crime problem down here. I mean, I just heard about this horrible case of a -- of a guy, a predator, burying alive a young 9- year-old girl in a Hefty bag. And she was buried alive. I don't think I have heard of worse human behavior than that.Does Florida have a serious crime problem? And why does it have it? You're attorney general.
CRIST: Sure.Safety and security are the most important thing I do as your attorney general. We're at a 35-year low in crime in our state today. I had the honor, when I served in the legislative branch, of sponsoring a bill called STOP, Stop Turning Out Prisoners, to mandate that they serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. And I think that has gone a long way to reducing the crime in our state.But we do have room to improve. We do have a high murder rate in Jacksonville and in Orlando. And I have an anti-murder bill that I think would help address that, and hopefully stop it.Some of the crimes I'm most concerned -- concerned about are the ones that affect young girls in our state, Jessica Lunsford, Carlie Brucia, Sarah Lunde, right here in Hillsborough County.This anti-murder bill would go after the monsters that have committed these crimes. They were all out on probation, after they had served time in prison, when they committed these heinous crimes. This anti-murder bill that I would like to sign as the first bill as you next governor would say, if somebody violates probation, like these monsters did before, they would have to go back to jail, and stay locked up, so that you are safe.
MATTHEWS: OK.Mr. Davis, is that true?
CRIST: My opponent doesn't even talk about...
MATTHEWS: We're out of time here. I'm sorry.Mr. Davis, is that true, that violent crime, or crime has gone down in Florida?
DAVIS: We have had some success.But what Charlie neglected to mention is, over the last six months, our murder rate has increased almost 30 percent. And Charlie, while he has been campaigning for governor, hasn't done anything about this. He talks about the anti-murder act.We need to enforce the law on the books. I have been out meeting with victim of families in these neighborhoods in Miami and other parts of the state. And we need to get to the bottom of this. We need to put more cops in the neighborhood, something I have fought for in Washington and Tallahassee. We need to make sure they have the gear they need. And we need to find out what the community activists need to take back their neighborhoods.As governor, I will stand up to reduce the murder rate in the state, something Charlie Crist has failed to do.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Crist, did you say that the -- that crime has gone down, and led us to believe that violent crime has gone down, when violent crime has gone up?
CRIST: Crime has gone down in our state.
MATTHEWS: But violent crime?
CRIST: Violent crime has gone down in our state as well.
MATTHEWS: Murder has gone down?
CRIST: The only violent crime that is up is murder. But it's... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Well, that's what Marion Barry used to say in D.C., when I was there. He would say, crime is down. Sorry, murder is up, the only exception.To most people, murder is the big one.
CRIST: It is the biggest one. It's the most important one.
MATTHEWS: Well, why didn't you say that? Why did you say that crime has gone down, when you knew that murder had gone up?
CRIST: Because crime has gone down.
MATTHEWS: That's a technical point.
CRIST: That's -- it's not technical point. Crime in our state has gone down. It's a 35-year low right now. I'm telling you the truth.
MATTHEWS: I'm sorry. The only reason I'm saying that is because it's exactly what Marion Barry said after his years in D.C. Crime is down.
CRIST: Well, I'm -- my name is Charlie Crist. I'm not Marion Barry.
MATTHEWS: I know. I know. I know. It just rang similar. Let me...
LINN: Chris, you're going to have a tough answer getting on -- getting a straight answer from a career politician.The fact is, crime is a terrible thing. And we need to pay our police officers more money, number one. And we need to pay them the money they deserve. We need to hire more police. And we need to get good, quality policemen.
LINN: And we're going to do the best we can on a year-to-year basis to make sure crime is at a minimal...
MATTHEWS: Mr. Davis?
DAVIS: We need an attorney general who is focused on doing his job, and not an attorney general who is arguing about how you define violent crime. Here's the fact. The murder rate has increased almost 30 percent in this state over the last six months. And, as governor, I will do something Charlie Crist is unwilling to do. I will get out in the community, meet with local law enforcement, meet with the families of these victims, make sure that we develop the programs that help keep our neighborhoods safe.This is something that is entirely unacceptable. As governor, I will put a stop to it.
MATTHEWS: We will be back with the concluding segment of this debate for governor in Florida. We're here in Tampa. We have got three candidates tonight.We will be back in two minutes.
MATTHEWS: We're back with the Florida governor's debate.We have Max Linn here, who is a third-party candidate, Jim Davis, Democratic candidate. He's also a U.S. congressman from down here. And Charlie Crist is attorney general.We're getting close to the end.The biggest issue down here in Florida -- and I'm a newcomer today -- the man who drove me in said his homeowner's insurance has gone from 800 bucks a year to something like $3,400 a year. He can't afford a mortgage, because you have to have property insurance, homeowner's insurance, to deal with that. Mr. Davis, how can you help the person out there, the regular person, deal with this spike in homeowner's insurance?
DAVIS: I have a plan.And it is a plan that will lower the cost of insurance next year, and force insurance companies to immediately pass those savings along to their policyholders. In the case of many policyholder, there could be a reduction as much as 40 percent.My plan also has protection for the taxpayers, a cap on the fund. And it will put citizens out of business. I will stand up to this very powerful insurance lobby, something Charlie Crist has failed to do for four years as attorney general.These companies have record profits and record prices. And Charlie Crist has done absolutely nothing to stand up to them. As a matter of fact, what he has been offering on the campaign trail, Governor Bush recently described as a plan that sounds good, but won't work. We need to put an end to these insurance premiums that are driving people out of their home, out of their business. I will do something Charlie Crist has been unwilling to do. I will stand up to these insurance companies. I will say something to them they haven't heard in Tallahassee in years: No.
MATTHEWS: Same question to you, not follow-up. You get the full minute.
CRIST: Great. Thank you.I think it is very important that we stop the cherry-picking that you suffer from as a -- as a resident of the state of Florida. And what I mean by that is, national insurance companies will decide that they want to sell auto insurance here in our state. And, if they sell property insurance in other states, they should be required to sell it here, too.Number two, we have to stop what I call the shell game. Again, national insurance companies will set up a Florida subsidiary. That Florida subsidiary will take their story of woe, if you will, to the bureaucrats, and say, look, we have had two tough years -- which they have -- and, as a result of that, you have got to give us 70, 80, 90 percent rate increases.But the reality and the truth is that the national company has been enjoying record profits, billion of dollars in profits. We need to make sure that that act that was made legal about 12 years ago in Florida, when Jim was serving in the House, is made illegal, so they can't do that anymore.And, finally, we need to make sure we get a national catastrophic health -- plan on insurance, rather. That's something that my opponent has talked about, and he's done absolutely nothing to do it.
CRIST: And one of the reasons is, he doesn't go to work. He has got the second worst attendance record in the United States Congress, the worst attendance record of the Florida delegation.
CRIST: You can't stand up, Jim, if you don't show up.
MATTHEWS: Jim, Mr. Davis, why did you run for Congress this term, if you knew you would spend the whole time running for governor?
DAVIS: I ran for Congress to stand up for Floridians.I have been fighting George Bush and stopping privatization of Social Security, standing up to these oil companies. My voting record was 97 percent attendance before I got into the campaign for governor. It is now 93 percent.Charlie has got these funny campaign commercials with the empty seat. The reason the seat is empty is because I don't sit down. I stand up. And I will stand up to these insurance companies, something Charlie Crist has failed to do.Now, the plan Charlie just described is the plan about cherry-picking that Governor Bush says sound good, but won't work. We need a governor who is going to start working for insurance -- not for insurance companies, but for Floridians.The insurance companies have put $2 million into Charlie's campaign, because he wants to stay the course. He has no plan that is going to reduce insurance premiums. I do. We need somebody that is going to stand up to these insurance companies. I will as governor. Charlie Crist didn't as attorney general.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Linn...
LINN: Right. Well...
MATTHEWS: ... homeowner's insurance. Can a man in the governor's office actually reduce the cost of homeowner's insurance?
LINN: Absolutely.Under my plan, what I want to do is, I want to ensure homes valued at $500,000 and below, excluding real estate. The fact is, this has been a huge windfall for developers, most of the people who are funding my opponents. So, it is hard for me to believe that either of my opponents, when they receive money from developers and insurance companies, how they can really regulate them, and represent the people's interests.The fact is, Florida doesn't belong in the insurance business. No one should be ensuring high-risk coastal properties on fragile beach lands. It just doesn't make sense.And my opponent Charlie Crist, Charlie, it just doesn't make sense. You can't go to insurance companies that have one type of business, like auto, like Geico, and say, if you are going to come here and write insurance, auto insurance, you are going to write homeowner's. That's ridiculous. And...
MATTHEWS: Why can't you do that?
LINN: But they're not in that business.What right does the government -- this is what I mean. The government is too involved in our lives. We want government out of our lives. My two opponents want government more involved in our lives.And a national catastrophic fund is not something I would support. It is just more socialism -- America and Florida at a big crossroads.
LINN: We have to decide if we're really going more socialism, or we're going to stay the course with -- as a capitalist society.
MATTHEWS: U.S. Congressman Jim Davis, you get the first response, first end -- closing statement for tonight.
DAVIS: Thank you for the chance to be with you tonight.The choice in this race is very simple. Between Charlie Crist and me, Charlie wants to stay the course. He has no plan to lower insurance premiums. His plan to lower property taxes is not to do anything for four years. And he wants to stay the course with the FCAT.I believe we can do better. I believe we need change. I was born and raised here, as was my wife, Peggy. We're raising our boys here. We want them to have a better life than we have had. That's why I want to change the way the FCAT is being used. I want to stop the increase in property taxes, the increases in insurance premiums that are crushing business and crushing homes.We can do better. And I will, as governor, stand up for the parents in this state, who want more out of our schools for their children, for the property owners who want property taxes lowered next year, not in four years.And I will stand up to this very powerful insurance lobby, who, together with the Republican Party, has allowed our policy premiums to go through the roof, something Charlie Crist has failed to do. As governor, I will help lower our insurance premiums next year.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Linn.
DAVIS: Thank you.
LINN: I would like to leave our viewers with two simple questions.And that is, are you truly happy and satisfied with the current political system that your children and grandchildren are going to inherit? And, number two, do you believe the current political system needs new direction and fresh ideas? It seems like, to me, over the last 20 years, these two gentlemen have been in office, and it seems that, if they were going to provide any new ideas or fresh ideas, it would have happened by now.You know, Jim, I traveled up to Washington, and I looked for you some -- for fresh ideas. And, as Charlie said, unfortunately, all I found was an empty chair.But, then again, I traveled up to Tallahassee, Charlie, and I looked for new direction from you. And all we found was an empty suit.As your next governor, I promise that I will donate my entire salary to charity, because, like our founding fathers, I think political office, elected office, should not be a career or a profit center. It should be a service.So, God bless you, and God bless America.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Linn. Mr. Crist, final statement.
CRIST: Thank you very much for watching tonight.I want to talk about what this race is all about. I have a record, as your attorney general, of fighting for you. I fought the price-gougers after the hurricanes came through our state in record numbers. I fought the big utility companies to make sure that your power bills wouldn't continue to go up. I fought for you against the phone companies to keep those bills down, too.Listen, I understand what you care about. I have, in fact, fought the insurance companies. I took them to court. And we won. I'm the guy who is fighting for you and watching out for your best interests. You know what I have done as your attorney general. You can take that record of accomplishment, unlike my opponents, and, then, you can understand what I will do for you as your next governor.No one will work harder. No one will do more. And no one will show up for work as much as I will do every single day, with a happy heart, and make sure that I'm doing everything I can to continue to make this great state even better.Thank you for watching.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Crist. (APPLAUSE) MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Davis.Thank you, Mr. Linn.This has been the final governor's debate here in Florida.Thank you, and good night.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.
- Black Bear Hunting Could Become Legal in Florida This Summer
Fri., July 17, 6:35 p.m.
Fri., July 17, 8 p.m.
Sat., July 18, 5:35 p.m.
Sun., July 19, 5:05 p.m.
- Activists Plan Candlelight Vigil at Miami Seaquarium Executive's Home
- Fort Lauderdale Tech Company Helps New Mexico with Marijuana Sales