Ron DeSantis, Charlie Crist dig barbs in lone gubernatorial debate

DeSantis crist
The economy, abortion, immigration and 2024 took center stage.

In a night filled with insults, a jeering crowd, and two candidates who found little common ground, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist shared the stage for the first and only time of the 2022 gubernatorial campaign Monday.

Although both candidates shook hands at the debate’s conclusion, the barbs jabbed at each other are set to linger for the next two weeks until Election Day on Nov. 8.

DeSantis is the front-runner in the race and eyes a ticket to four more years in the Governor’s Mansion, running on a record of Florida’s economic strength and furthering conservative values. For Crist, a former Congressman and Republican Governor, Monday night’s debate was an opportunity to tell voters DeSantis lacks the demeanor to lead Florida and the willingness to commit to another full four years as Governor.

In the opening third of the debate, Crist directly asked DeSantis whether he would commit to four years as Governor, playing up widespread speculation that DeSantis intends to challenge President Joe Biden in 2024 for the White House. The Governor did not answer the question — and debate moderator Liz Quirantes of WPEC noted that the candidates agreed to not ask each other questions — but DeSantis hung a pregnant pause before delivering an answer in his own way.

“The only worn out, old donkey I’m looking to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist,” DeSantis said.

On numerous culture war issues, like immigration, schools’ handling of LGBTQ issues and gender-affirming care, Crist took aim at DeSantis’ ability to lead.

“I don’t know if you ever knew the golden rule, but clearly you have forgotten it,” Crist said. “You don’t have the temperament to be kind and decent to other people who don’t look like you, who don’t act like you, and don’t contribute to you.”

However, DeSantis didn’t spare Crist a lecture on treating people with respect. The Governor highlighted Crist’s comments the day after he secured the Democratic nomination rejecting the vote of people who support DeSantis saying, “if you have that hate in your heart, keep it there.” Referencing the comment, which dogged Crist at the beginning of the General Election campaign, DeSantis noted the support he holds from police, firefighters, truckers, nurses and farmers.

“The whole cross section of the state of Florida is backing me,” DeSantis said. “They do not have hate in their hearts because they reject Charlie Crist. They want to keep Florida going and they want to keep Florida free.”

While DeSantis and Crist battled over culture war questions, Hurricane Ian and the beginning of Southwest Florida’s recover is top of mind for many voters. Even the candidates’ responses to Hurricane Ian weren’t safe during the debate.

DeSantis touted Florida’s swift effort to recover and rebuild infrastructure in areas directly hit by the storm, which made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane. He noted the linemen deployed to restore power and the construction crews who reconnected Florida’s barrier islands to the mainland in a couple of weeks.

“You know what he was doing during this? He was hiding out in Puerto Rico. He wasn’t helping his community here,” DeSantis said. “Then when he got back, what did he do? His campaign was soliciting campaign contributions from storm victims. That is unacceptable, and that’s not what a leader would do in a time of despair.”

Crist, who had been in Puerto Rico to assess the damage from Hurricane Fiona, noted that he helped pass the infrastructure bill that helped fund Florida’s initial recovery. And while DeSantis hinted at the Legislature’s recent and upcoming efforts to address Florida’s skyrocketing property insurance, Crist laid that issue at the Governor’s feet. Crist said DeSantis hasn’t worked to regulate utilities, lower the cost of property insurance or lower taxes.

“Under the DeSantis administration, the middle class is getting crunched in Florida,” Crist said. “You can’t get an apartment, you can’t afford a house and you can’t pay your property insurance because he’s taken his eye off the ball over and over and over again.”

While abortion surged as a top issue for voters this summer after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the economy has retaken center stage as a priority, swinging polls back in Republicans’ favor.

On the economy, citing a letter to the Governor that Crist co-signed at the height of the pandemic, DeSantis said Crist would have shut down businesses and schools had he been in charge.

“I took a lot of flack in the process, but through it all, I was always more concerned about protecting your job than I was about saving my own,” DeSantis said. “I took the arrows so you wouldn’t have to.”

While DeSantis touted his position as pro-business and the number of people moving their lives and work to the Sunshine State, Crist noted the industries the Republican Governor has attacked throughout his term.

“I’m not the Governor who attacked Walt Disney World because they dared to express their point of view. I’m not the Governor who attacked the cruise industry because I just wanted to make sure that their customers weren’t sick before they got on the boat. That’s you,” Crist said, his words directed at the Republican incumbent. “You’re the most anti-business Governor I’ve ever seen.”

Crist also noted the 82,000 people who have died from COVID-19 in Florida, putting it in the top 15 per capita.

“When you look at the Thanksgiving table, one of those empty seats is probably one of those people for many families watching tonight,” Crist said.

Crist made abortion his theme of the night, constantly pivoting his arguments to a women’s right to choose and criticizing DeSantis for signing a 15-week abortion ban into law that doesn’t include exceptions for rape or incest. When asked about abortion, DeSantis said he was proud of that law and noted Crist’s history as a Republican who was once self-described as pro-life.

“Is this an honest change of heart or is this a guy that’s going to shift with whatever wind he needs to to try to keep his political career live?” DeSantis asked.

One place both candidates found common ground was that there is a problem at the nation’s southern border. However, the similarities on immigration ended there.

Crist criticized DeSantis for flying Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, calling it a political stunt. DeSantis didn’t attempt to solve immigration during his years in Congress, he claimed.

“You want to keep this issue alive, you want to have it as a wedge issue and you want to pull political stunts like you did with the taxpayers dollars of the people of Florida,” Crist said.

Both also agreed that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter, whose life was spared by a South Florida jury this month, should have received the death penalty. DeSantis promised to have the Legislature change state law to prevent one juror from having veto power over the death penalty.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


  • Tom

    October 24, 2022 at 8:56 pm

    DeSantis could rape a woman on live TV and Florida idiots and grifters would still vote for him. Just like people would still vote for snake oil salesmen and crook Donald Trump even after his crime spree. These people have no standards. They’ve lost it.

    • Tom

      October 24, 2022 at 9:00 pm

      Despicable pig Joey alias Corsin.
      Mind of serial killer clown.

      • The Real Tom

        October 24, 2022 at 9:14 pm

        👆 Triple posting from THE FAKE TOM. Too incompetent to work a device…too incompetent to vote. Typical Florida neanderthal.

        • Tom

          October 24, 2022 at 9:24 pm

          Kiss my ass.
          I’ll post 10x, you Dumtards can’t reminded enough.

          • The Real Tom

            October 24, 2022 at 9:50 pm

            Just show everyone some competency every once in a while and use the internet properly for Christ sakes.

        • Tom

          October 24, 2022 at 9:24 pm

          Kiss my ass.
          I’ll post 10x, you Dumtards can’t reminded enough.

    • Tom

      October 24, 2022 at 9:00 pm

      Despicable pig Joey alias Corsin.
      Mind of serial killer clown.

    • Tom

      October 24, 2022 at 9:00 pm

      Despicable pig Joey alias Corsin.
      Mind of serial killer clown.

    • Impeach Biden

      October 24, 2022 at 9:02 pm

      And if Andrew Gillum was there tonight he could be snorting coke, injecting heroin and getting freaky with his boy toys and you would still vote for him.

      • The Real Tom

        October 24, 2022 at 9:17 pm

        I didn’t vote for Gillum or DeSantis. Unintelligent assumptions have this country in a mess..for example the Trump flim flam debacle.

  • Tom

    October 24, 2022 at 8:58 pm

    Crisp was terribly condescending, disparaging and rude. Gov defended his 4 yrs well. He emphasized the accomplishments that made Florida survive the past 4 yrs.

    Overall Gov won. Crisp didn’t hurt himself overall. Not enough to make a difference.

  • David In Shoreline

    October 24, 2022 at 9:05 pm

    DeSantis won, Charlie lost, and progressive tears floweth over. Expect a repeat in November.

    Then, while Governor DeSantis is rebuilding Florida from the impacts of Hurricane Ian, Charlie can spend a few weeks considering which political party he wants to join next.

    • Tjb

      October 25, 2022 at 4:07 pm

      Why is DeSantis only doing one debate with Charlie? DeSantis in his November fundraising ad spoke about the “big pair that he had”. Looks like he lost them and he is now afraid to debate . Is he afraid that the voters will see him as a fraud who really doesn’t care about Floridians as he continue his journey as a Presidential candidate.
      If DeSantis has time to campaign, he has time to debate..
      Be a man Ron and debate Charlie

      • marylou

        October 25, 2022 at 10:31 pm

        Desantis is afraid. He doesn’t want to answer whether he plans to stick around for 4 years if re-elected.

        Desantis is also refusing to answer questions about his cruel abortion ban that fails to protect children or rape and incest victims, or explain what he means by: “I understand not everyone’s going to be born in perfect circumstances, but I would like to see EVERYBODY have a shot.” That is an extreme no-exceptions abortion ban from conception.

        Desantis wants to take away women’s rights even though “ABORTION IS THE #1 ISSUE AMONG 18-29 YEAR OLD WOMEN IN 2022 ELECTION” –Poll at ~

  • Brandon

    October 24, 2022 at 9:06 pm

    Charles knows this is a lost cause. The question is how well do Republicans do here in Florida.

  • Phil Morton

    October 25, 2022 at 4:38 am

    At least 83,000 Floridians have died from covid and over half of those were preventable and that does not include the thousands of tourist who died. Ron DeSantis does not care. Charlie Crist cares!

    • Yamki

      October 25, 2022 at 11:48 am

      “Thousands of tourist (sic) who died.”

      Got a source for that, ace? Seems a little sketchy.

    • Tommy

      October 26, 2022 at 8:55 am

      Because they didn’t get the Vaccine. We the people were the experiment for the vax, no studies were conducted for safety and efficacy. My doctor told me she didn’t trust the mRNA vaccine: Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca. They have found crystals in the vaccine vials and in the blood of people who received that vaccine.

  • Virginia D

    October 25, 2022 at 8:17 am

    DeSantis will lead us farther down the road of insults and obliviousness.

  • Darlene Sam

    October 25, 2022 at 9:22 am

    DeSantis is the best Governor Florida ever had. I was born and raised here. Crist is a LIAR and once was enough.

    • Tommy

      October 26, 2022 at 8:56 am

      I agree.

  • Ocean Joe

    October 25, 2022 at 5:56 pm

    Darlene, you must be under 24.

Comments are closed.


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