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Daniel Tilson: Charlie Crist’s electric fan short-circuits Rick Scott’s re-election plan

Gov. Rick Scott’s remarkable bid for re-election in 2014 likely got blown away Wednesday night.

If you haven’t heard about “Fangate” and the stunning early minutes of Wednesday’s gubernatorial debate against Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, check out the video. Words alone cannot describe it.

What’s remarkable is that a governor with a history of questionable ethics and conservative extremism went into the debate with any hope at all of winning a second term – much less a 50-50 shot at it.

But the fickle finger of fate has a funny way of ferreting out the truth about people in the most unexpected of ways – especially elected officials.

And so after a long, bitter campaign battle, the outcome of Florida’s 2014 gubernatorial election may turn on the whirring blades of an electric fan.


Because for that small percentage of eligible voters – mostly “No Party Affiliation” independents – who remain undecided, Gov. Scott’s reaction to Crist’s fan was … revealing.

It’s one thing to encounter media coverage about an atmosphere of paranoia, pettiness, stubbornness and secrecy permeating the Scott administration.

It’s another thing to see such unpleasantness in action all at once, right before your eyes.

Sadly, Scott & Co. seemed ready and waiting to pounce, if and when they felt a breeze coming from Crist’s podium. They knew Crist liked having fans keep him cool at public-event podiums. Florida, steam bath season, packed rooms and outdoor venues … hello, why wouldn’t you want a fan?

Apparently, the Crist campaign’s sign-off on debate rules included a caveat — “with the understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan if necessary.” Debate organizers didn’t respond, so Crist used a fan. Meanwhile, Team Scott thought debate rules prohibited both candidates from using any electronic devices, including fans.

First thing wrong is that on the people’s time, when the public came looking for answers from Scott on the economy, education, climate change and more, he was willing to waste their time by trying to pull a “Gotcha!” and make Crist sweat.

Second thing wrong is Scott’s decision-making and behavior under self-imposed stress.

As governor, as leader of the state, you cannot pout backstage for the first 6-7 minutes of scheduled debate time, just to prove a point.

That’s not what you’d call … statesmanlike.

What it may be is evidence of the dark underbelly of the “Rags to Riches” persona he keeps pushing.

Yes, he worked his way up from humble beginnings to become a multimillionaire businessman. But the mentality and behavior we saw the other night is that of a guy who thinks money and power grant him control, license to do and have things his way, regardless of repercussions – and get away with it.

We’ve seen it for a long time. From the record-breaking Medicare fraud of his health-care company and his escape without prosecution, to years of evading legitimate press questions and avoiding operational transparency as governor.

Note that when Scott finally came out of the shadows and joined Crist, who had been onstage since the first minute or so of confusion, the debate moderator asked, “Why the delay?”

Inexplicably, Scott said exactly this:

“I waited to be, till we figured out if he was going to show up, he said he wasn’t going to come to the, uh, uh, he was, he said was gonna come to the debate. So why come out until he’s ready?”

Funny thing. Growing up in a little Bronx apartment with no air conditioning in the summer, Mom repeatedly caught me and my brothers getting too close to one of several fans running 24-7.

She’d shout, “Get away, stay away from that fan, you could lose a finger!”

Who knew you could lose an election?

Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses. Column courtesy of Context Florida.


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