(NEW YORK) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic candidate Charlie Crist faced off on issues including the economy, the state’s abortion ban, and immigration in the first and only gubernatorial debate.
Crist, who spoke with ABC News’ GMA3 about his campaign and how he felt the debate unfolded on Monday night, also attacked DeSantis’ decision to send a plane of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard and speculation about a possible presidential run for DeSantis in 2024.
Crist, who is currently trailing in the polls, discussed his own political history and the issues most important to his campaign with GMA3.
GMA3: Joining us now is the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, former Florida Governor and Congressman Charlie Crist. Welcome to “GMA3.” So, yes, you had the debate last night. You did have a lot of ground to make up according to the most recent polls. How do you think you did? Did you think you moved any numbers there? Did you sway any voters over to your side?
CRIST: Well, we’ll find out. I felt very good about the debate, though, I can tell you that. Because I wanted to point out the differences between Ron DeSantis and myself and the fact that, you know, I want to protect a woman’s right to choose. He’s already signed a bill that takes that away. It’s a 15-week ban, and it doesn’t even have any exceptions for rape or incest, which I think is just cruel and unconscionable. So, I thought that was important.
I also thought it was important when I asked whether or not if he’s reelected, would he commit to serving a full four-year term? He wouldn’t. He was like a deer in the headlights. Wouldn’t answer the question because he’s rumored, as you’re probably aware, to want to run for president in 2024.
So, he’s asking the people of Florida for their vote for governor and wouldn’t even say or commit that he will serve the full term as their governor. That’s not right. Florida deserves better and it should be more honest, frankly.
GMA3: Well, Mr. Crist, I’ll give you an opportunity there to answer what many would find as hypocrisy. You’re sitting here right now because you left your seat in Congress and didn’t finish your term because you wanted to run for governor. How is that different?
CRIST: I did the same thing DeSantis did. As soon as we both got the nomination for governor from our respective parties, we did that to focus on the governor’s race. So, you know, I don’t apologize for it at all. I did the right thing. I wanted to make sure, because I’m trying to save my state, frankly, from his horrible leadership, to be focused on this campaign and to try to win for my fellow Floridians. They deserve a better governor and a governor who’s got a heart.
GMA3: Governor, to your point there about DeSantis, you said you’re trying to save the state. Do you feel pressure? Are you maybe even getting it behind the scenes from someone– party insiders, other Democrats? But do you feel pressure now it’s on you to stop Governor DeSantis? Because many see him continuing to rise in the ranks, if you will, and the Republican Party. And, yes, rumored to want a 2024 run. Most polls show you behind, sometimes outside of that margin of error. Are you feeling that pressure, even hearing that pressure that it’s on you now?
CRIST: Well, I look, I love Florida. I’m running for governor of Florida because I know that the state deserves better leadership than we have right now. I mean, he wouldn’t evacuate Lee County when Hurricane Ian was coming in until it was too late. We lost over 100 people. You know, he won’t, as I said earlier, respect a woman’s right to choose, which I think is unconscionable.
You know, he tries to meddle in our school board decisions in all 67 counties of our state. He recently removed a sitting state attorney because he said something that wasn’t in the same line of view that Governor DeSantis holds. That’s gross, overpowering and unconstitutional, what he’s doing to my state.
He pits, you know, gay against straight, white against Black, young against old. He’s a divider. I’m a uniter. I want to bring Florida together. He is tearing my state apart. That’s the pressure I feel. I love Florida and I want her to have a better governor. And that’s why I’m running, to give the people a choice in this race.
GMA3: Congressman, at last night’s debate, you called Florida unaffordable for most of our citizens. I’m curious, if you were elected governor again, would you do things differently? Would you lead differently as a Democrat rather than a Republican as you were before?
CRIST: I would lead as Charlie Crist. I’m the same person I’ve always been. And what I did before as governor as it relates to affordability– we had a property insurance crisis when I served. I called a special session. We lowered rates by 10%. He called a special session. They didn’t lower rates for our people at all. Our utility bills are through the roof in the Sunshine State. I fought the utility companies.
He’s bought and owned by the utility companies, just like he is the NRA. He doesn’t fight them. He doesn’t stand up for the people. And if people want something better, they ought to go to CharlieCrist.com and help me win. It’s important for the future of our state and frankly, the future of our country.
GMA3: What is the– what is your polling showing you? We’ve used a couple here– eight points, we’ve seen seven points. But what is it showing you right now about your chances and how much ground you need to make up in here in the closing days?
CRIST: Well, I’ll share a couple with you. About 10 days ago, we saw a poll that had me up by six. About a week ago, one that had me down by one. Listen, this race is always the way Florida is. It’s going to be tight. It’s going to continue to close, frankly. And I think it’s up to the will of the people. An awful lot of people are early voting already in Florida. I’m very glad about that and encouraged.
They’re motivated, particularly women, because the right to choose is on the ballot in Florida. I mean, the next governor, it’s either going to be me or Ron DeSantis and the legislature is going to send that governor a piece of legislation that will be an outright ban to abortion in Florida. I will veto it as the next governor. He will sign it. That’s a difference in this race.
GMA3: Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, we appreciate your time today. Thank you so much for being with us.
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