“Can 89% Be Wrong, Ever?”

It is not often that anyone can get 89% of any American group to agree on anything. In Florida, today, recent polling has concluded that 89% of Florida Democrats want to see a debate among Democratic candidates for Governor.
Debates became the norm among candidates after the 1960 Richard Nixon—John F. Kennedy debates changed the course of American political system. In fact, listeners of the first Nixon/Kennedy debate on radio were convinced that Nixon won it. On the other hand, people who watched it on television, the first televised debate, resoundingly declared Kennedy the winner. Unfortunately for the favored Nixon, more people watched him with his “5 O’clock Shadow” whiskered face and sweat running down his face and dripping off his chin. Kennedy squeaked through and that paved the way for civil rights laws (that Nixon would have pursued as we experienced when he became President) and a ruinous war that Kennedy started, Lyndon Johnson pursued and lost and elected Nixon in 1968 and gave us future Presidential candidates John McCain and John Kerry.
Given that, why are 89% of Florida Democrats demanding a debate between Democrats running for Governor? Isn’t a debate de rigueur since 1960?
This is a good example of an election with national consequences that the political world is paying particular attention to as millions of dollars are being raised and spent. Of deep political interest is the fact that the front-running Democrat candidate for Governor, Charlie Crist, is the former Republican Governor of Florida (2007-11), former Republican Attorney General (2003-07), former Republican State Education Commissioner ((2001-03) and former Republican State Senator (1993-2000). He is now a Democrat by detour through the Independent ranks which he joined when the Marco Rubio tornado swept Republican U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Crist into a contemporary ashcan of Florida political history.
Charlie Crist, Democrat candidate for Governor, refuses to debate his opponent for the Democratic nomination for Governor – Nan Rich, former Democratic Leader of the Florida State Senate, who was, in fact, the leading statewide Democrat at the time. Charlie ignores her.
Several local county Democratic committees have voted to ask for debates but Charlie Crist ignores them. Democrats do not know what Charlie stands for other than he is running against Governor Rick Scott as the “Peoples’ Governor.”
Where does he stand on revising the infamous “Stand your ground” law that Nan Rich wants to revise? Where does he stand on state construction of better port facilities to serve the forthcoming Panama Canal expansion? How would he have handled the $400 million reduction in auto registration fees under Scott; would he have opposed or supported that? Should charter schools be expanded as Scott advocates? Would he champion teacher unions over school children? Would he defend his previous positions against Gay marriage, on higher taxes, on charter schools like he did as governor? Would he brag about his inconsistency on abortion that confuses even his supporters? Would he brag about the Terry Schiavo case (pulling life support by husband without written proof of her desires) in which he managed as Attorney General to be on both sides of the issue at the time? He deftly ignores such issues and question while campaigning as the “peoples’ candidate” but would be unable to evade and dodge these issues and questions coming from a face-to-face opponent in debate on our flat screens.
A debate is needed because Charlie is fantasizing joining Hillary Clinton on a Clinton/Crist 2016 ticket and will undoubtedly be considered because women over 35 like him (according to surveys). To allow Charlie to ignore Nan Rich, a real Democrat during the remaining 90 days of the campaign is reprehensible, undemocratic and reflects a disdain for a real Democrat, a lifelong Democrat and a woman.
Charlie Crist’s war on Democrats and women, who would have thunk that?
On top of all that, the percentage of Florida Hispanics who will vote in the Democrat primary August 26 are being cheated as well. No one knows what Charlie considers to be Hispanic issues and how he would approach them because he goes out of his way to ignore Hispanics. His call for backing off the Kennedy Embargo pleases some but is virulently opposed by a large cohort of Cuban Americans which are the largest percentage of Florida Hispanics. He publicly sided with comedian Bill Maher that Florida Cuban Americans who traditionally support the embargo and voted Republican until Charlie was governor are a small group of political bully cavemen because they oppose the bloody, repressive, evil Communist dictatorship that has jailed, tortured and murdered countless Cubans for crimes such as asking for free elections, working for a free market and free speech.
Florida Cuban Americans would really like to see Charlie comment in a face-to-face on those thousands of dead and imprisoned Cubans whose children, relatives and friends live and vote in Florida.

Contreras formerly wrote for the New America News Service of the New York Times Syndicate