If it’s any indication of what the next five weeks will be like in the race for the U.S. Senate in Florida, you’d better strap yourself in for a bumpy ride. Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson took off their gloves and came out swinging in their first of two debates in the race for U.S. Senate.
The debate was recorded Tuesday morning at the Telemundo 51 studios in Miramar and rebroadcast Tuesday evening.
Each candidate repeated common themes throughout the hour-long debate. Scott accused Nelson, who turned 76 over the weekend, of being confused and ineffective during his decades in public office. While Nelson questioned Scott’s trust and integrity, accusing Scott of telling “whoppers.”
“Senator Nelson is confused,” Scott claimed of Nelson, who has spent four decades in public office.
“It’s nice that the senator believes in things. What we all know is nothing will get done,” said Scott, who is 65.
Nelson fired back saying, “You know, governor, you just can’t tell the truth.” He called Scott, a multimillionaire whose investents have been questioned at times, “a walking conflict of interest.”
The issues ranged from immigration and Cuba, to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation, to red tide and algae blooms.
On the issue of immigration reform, Scott claimed Nelson “has had 40 years to do something about immigration and he has done nothing.”
A claim that Nelson fired back at by saying that he voted for a comprehensive immigration package that passed the Senate six years ago but the proposal failed in the House.
“The governor keeps coming up with one whopper after another. Apparently you never got your mouth washed out with soap for telling a lie,” Nelson said.
Telemundo has a large Hispanic viewership and many of the questions dealt with Cuban-American relations, Central America and the recovery in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria last year.
Both sides have courted voters of Puerto Rican descent. Scott pointed out he has visited the island eight times to provide guidance to the government there on how to deal with the recovery efforts. Scott sent National Guard troops and state law enforcement officers to help with the recovery and took steps to provide relief to refugees who sought shelter in Florida.
“It was never about politics, it was about helping our fellow citizens,” Scott said.
Nelson, meanwhile, was critical of the U.S. response to the storm and suggested President Donald Trump has treated people of the island like second class citizens, even though they are U.S. citizens.
Nelson is seeking his fourth term in the Senate, while Scott must step down as governor due to term limits after serving for two terms.
Most polls have shown the race to be close. RealClearPolitics, which averages public opinion polls in political contests, shows Nelson with a narrow 1.1-point lead, 46.1 percent to 45 percent.
The two candidates are scheduled to meet again in a debate sponsored by CNN on Oct. 16.