Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign is issuing ambivalent messages about whether he’ll participate In a forum for candidates for governor being planned by the Florida Press Association and Florida Society of Newspaper Editors.
The press groups’ event, planned for July 10-11, was to include appearances by Scott, Crist, potential Democratic challenger former state Sen. Nan Rich and possibly Libertarian Adrian Wyllie, depending on criteria the press groups will announce Thursday.
Crist and Rich have both accepted, but the Scott campaign has sent out two different responses -- one to reporters and one to the FPA/FSNE itself -- which don’t give a definitive answer.
The political problem at the crux of the situation: Scott doesn’t want to appear In a head-to-head debate format with Crist, thinking that would help Crist more than Scott; and Crist doesn’t want to appear In a head-to-head debate format with Rich, thinking that would help Rich more than Crist.
The format of the press groups’ forum might not be a head-to-head debate, but hasn’t been set yet.
Scott’s and Crist’s responses to the invitation come a week after the Florida Council of 100 cancelled a planned speech by Crist, which was to follow one by Scott at the council’s meeting in Orlando. Crist said the snub resulted from pressure from Scott on the business executives in the economic development group.
The press groups’ forums are something of a political tradition in Florida. In election years, their conventions always include a forum for candidates in top-ticket races, governor or Senate, and candidates usually participate.
Crist announced yesterday he will.
But in an emailed statement, Scott campaign manager Melissa Sellers said, “The governor will debate the Democratic nominee in the fall. Charlie Crist should stop playing games and stop hiding from Nan Rich. What is he scared of?”
That hints at a “no” from Scott. But Florida Press Association CEO Dean Ridings said the FPA just received a different response from spokesman Greg Blair, sayng the campaign “appreciates the invitation and will make decisions about debates and forums at an appropriate time.”
Scott’s campaign has been trying to draw attention to Rich’s challenge to Crist for the Democratic nomination, in hope of preventing Crist from having a smooth ride to the Democratic nomination. Crist, meanwhile, has been declining to debate Rich, while seeking to debate Scott.
Ridings said the current plan is for Crist and Scott to appear at a Thursday session of the convention and Rich Friday.