Three candidates for U.S. Senate meet in final debate
The three candidates for U.S. Senate in Florida met in a debate this week, just days before the November 2 election. Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Representative Kendrick Meek, and former state Representative Marco Rubio all want to fill the open U.S. Senate seat in the Sunshine State.
I attended the debate inside the NBC WESH studio in Orlando on Friday. It was the last of a series of debates in this race. The candidates were allowed two minutes to answer each question, which resulted in a fast-paced exchange. The topics included the foreclosure crisis, the unemployment rate, and social security.
Current Florida Governor Charlie Christ was attacked with rapid-fire questions and comments as to why he had changed his party affiliation from Republican to Independent.
“I am running as an Independent in this race because I believe the parties are broken,” he said. “I did not change, the Republicans did.”
“I’m a Democrat. You can count on that,” he said.
Meek focused his remarks on the economy and the national debt. When I talked to Meek after the debate, I asked him about his education policy.
“I will stand up in the United States Senate and continue to fight for education funding in this state,” he told me. “We need to be sure to challenge not only students and teachers, but business communities and policy makers like myself to do better.”
I know there are many different viewpoints between Democrats and Republicans. People have to understand both sides to make a compromise, so I asked him to name one valid point that he agrees with Republicans on. He had to think for a minute before he answered.
“I think it’s the accountability in the education system,” he said. “You hear the Republicans talk about accountability a lot, but the policy makers who mold the type of system we have, we have to take just as much responsibility—the Democrats and the Republicans—as the teachers in the classroom.”
“Our ancestors faced their problems themselves and left the world better off for their children,” he said. “This will be the first time that our children will inherit a country in decline.”
Rubio was not available for a comment after the debate, so I caught up with him a few days later when his bus stopped in my hometown of Lakeland, Florida. My initial question was about why he running for Senate in the first place. What did he like best about it?
“We’ve gotten to meet people from all walks of life,” he said. “It shows how special America is and how we need to keep it that way.”
I reversed my question for Meek to ask Republican Rubio what he thinks is a valid viewpoint he shared with the Democrats.
“Unfortunately we have a war going on in the Middle East and the fact is that Iran should not be allowed to have a nuclear weapons,” he said. “Those are the issues I think we can work on together.”
I also asked what he would tell voters about his viewpoint on education.
“Education really belongs at the local and state level and the federal government shouldn’t be interfering,” he said.
PHOTOS: (TOP) Kid Reporter Shelby Fallin and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida, Kendrick Meek at a debate in Orlando, October 2010. (Bottom) Kid Reporter Shelby Fallin with Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate Marco Rubio, center, his 10-year-old daughter Amanda, and Shelby's mom Cindy, at a campaign stop in Lakeland. (Photos Courtesy Shelby Fallin)