(CNN) – The two candidates for Florida governor came out swinging in their final debate, which was co-sponsored by CNN, the St. Petersburg Times and the University of South Florida.
Accusations from both sides flew fast and early in the debate, moderated by CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, as both candidates immediately began leveling their now-familiar lines of attack in one of the most hotly contested races in the country.
Republican Rick Scott, a billionaire health care executive who's primary win surprised many in his party, immediately attempted to tie his opponent, Democrat Alex Sink, to President Obama's policies.
"The stimulus is a disaster. I think 'Obamacare' is going to be horrible for patients. It's going to be horrible for taxpayers. It's probably the biggest job killer ever.
I think his just - you know his belief that big government works, it doesn't. It's killing jobs. And my opponent that's - that's what she believes in," Scott said.
Sink, the state's chief financial officer, meanwhile repeatedly accused Scott of lying and "reinventing history."
"Every time you put that Obama liberal label on me, you just don't know what you're talking about. I have always been a fiscal conservative. "
The debate also turned hostile at times. After the first commercial break, Scott accused Sink of breaking the agreed upon rules for the debate.
Before answering a question directed to him, Scott said, "on the rules, our campaign staffers aren't supposed to give us notes, and during the break you got one on an iPad, an iPod."
Sink did not respond to the accusation but cameras captured the candidate being presented with a cellphone during the previous break. And a CNN debate official confiscated an Android smartphone.
Both candidates also leveled charges that the other had engaged in fraud during previous careers – allegations that have dogged both candidates throughout the campaign.
Scott accused Sink, the former president of Nations Bank, of supervising employees who used deceptive sales practices to direct senior citizens into high-risk investments in exchange for kickbacks. The bank was fined $6.7 million for its deceptive practices.
But Sink defended her tenure as president. "That case, the lawyer that brought that case - it was a class action case against another company – he even has said publicly that Alex Sink had nothing to do with the case, had nothing to do with the situation and didn't know about the problems. What more can I say?"
Scott also deflected questions about his controversial tenure as CEO of the hospital chain Columbia/HCA. Under Scott's stewardship, the company was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud.
But when asked why he refuses to release a transcript of a deposition he gave regarding the case, Scott retorted, "It was settled. It has nothing to do with running for governor. Has nothing to do with anything that we were doing. Look, this race is about one issue. This race is about jobs."
Sink also tried to turn the discussion to job creation, although the two again clashed on the specifics.
"You've got to reduce regulation, you got to reduce the size of government, you've got to focus on the size of government. You got to reduce taxes," Scott said. "Charlie Crist and my opponent did none of those things. All they did is grow the size of government and is killing jobs. It's killing jobs."
Sink hit back, "Let me clarify who has been in charge in Tallahassee. It's been one party, Rick Scott's party. It's been Tallahassee insiders who are now supporting his campaign for governor. So, it's been the governor and a Republican-controlled legislator," she said.
Though neither candidate had any major gaffes in the hour-long debate, both were stumped when asked what Florida's minimum wage is.
When asked by the St. Petersburg Times' political editor Adam C. Smith, Scott confidently replied "$7.55."
Smith then turned to Sink, asking "Ms. Sink is that right?"
Sink replied, "Mm-hmm. Yes."
Florida's minimum wage is $7.25, which corresponds directly to the federal minimum wage of the same amount.
In the most recent CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation poll, Scott and Sink were locked in a near tie among likely voters.
What a snippy "gotcha" article. Too typical of recent CNN coverage. It is interesting that there were four people on camera during this key debate, and only one of them was a woman. Three men to one woman. And the rather hostile seeming St. Petersburg Times man represents the point of view of his paper, one of the most right-wing newspapers in the whole state of Florida. They even publish rather "selective" political polls.
Republicans had a chance and they blew it. Rick Scott made his fortune billing Medicare. Hmmmm I wonder did he hate socialized medicine and big government while he was getting rich billing it? If you vote for Rick Scott you deserve what you get. Please Florida do not go back to failed policies!
How have things been going in Florida? If they have been going good then Re-Elect the Incumbent. If not Vote the Incumbent OUT! Time to clean up America, your choice people.
Rick scott is a crook!
If you think Florida was a laughing stock because of the hanging chads in 2000, imagine the joke on Florida if Rubio and Scott win.
They're both weak candidates.
Is there any republican candidate that campaign on anything other than, "I am against Obamacare", "I want to reduce the size of government", or "you are an Obama liberal". It's stupid, and the people who believe that garbage, are stupid.
"What do you regret?" Question posed by Adam C. Smith, Political Editor from St. Petersburg Times; I regret your wasting time with non-issue questions. Neither candidate knew the minimum wage – I should hope the jobs they are planning to bring to Florida are far above minimum wage. Adam C. Smith was an interruption in this debate.
Funny the Democratic candidate who is the state's chief financial officer did not know what the minimum wage was. Hard for me to believe that as the Economy sinks dure to the housing market people can still want to vot for a Democrat,when they have been pushing more and more banks to make less secure loans to people who have no busniess owning a house.
What kind of CEO, doesn't know there are 2 sets of books at his company? Oh, Rick, you must have known, or you were the worst CEO ever.
These morons wouldnt know the color of the sun, if they werent already briefed on it.
If this is the best the state has for governor, were screwed!
I hope she hasn't packed her bags... she ain't going anywhere,
It seems that Speaker Pelosi doesn't want to associated with President Obama or is it President Obama doesn't want to be associated with Speaker Pelosi during the mid term elections ?
Why is it that Speaker Pelosi was taking "Air Force One" back to Washington ?
How much $$ did the tax payers pay for this trip ? Was the trip necessary ? Why didn't she fly like the rest of us ?
A Florida over taxed payer
Like sink said, rick scott got 8 to 9 talking pts thats it. actually all the gop are saying samething, a noun, a verb and obama/spending, lol. its really not funny
I guest Mr. Scott wants deregulation so companies like People's Trust and come into Florida and finish ripping off homeowners and taxpayers. If Mr. Scott can guarantee, safe, fair, and good paying jobs, from the private sector, he would get a more favorable support. Taxpayers are afraid of private sector during business in Florida and allowing massive corporate thief and greed.
It is laughable to hear Scott claim he "learned" from his healthcare fraud "mistake." The only thing he learned is that next time he should work harder at not getting caught. Corporate predators like him do NOT change their spots. Vote accordingly.
Sink has not a clue; she is big spender and has no plans for JOBS in Florida. If elected, she will turn a bad situation into a disaster. I am voting for the pro biz. Agenda. I wish other states around the country, like Cali. and Nevada would wake up and smell the coffee. In the long run, it will cost the taxpayers less (bailouts).
both candidates are incompetent.
These are two people that I'm constantly seeing on tv saying what they can do to help Florida and what the other can't. Telling all the dirt they have on each other, but when asked how much is minimum wage in the state they're going to make so much change in, they couldn't come up with the right answer. I'm not sure if that's who I want Governing my state.