FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Former Governor Charlie Crist and Governor Ron DeSantis traded shots about abortion, election integrity and the future of Florida during the lone debate that took place during this year's gubernatorial race Monday.

It was originally planned for Oct. 12, but Hurricane Ian pushed the event back. 

What You Need To Know

  • The race for governor ends on Nov. 8

  • Early voting began in some counties Monday

  • The debate is the only debate scheduled for this year's election

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The discussion began with a question about housing and inflation. Floridians across the state are dealing with rising insurance prices and rising rents. Crist was quick to assign blame to the current administration. 

“Housing is an incredible issue. We have a housing crisis in our state. Good luck buying a home, good luck renting an apartment.” Crist said during the debate. “That is because Governor DeSantis has taken his eye off the ball. He’s focused on running for president in 2024, and as a result, we have lost things in our state budget, specifically, the housing trust fund that has hundreds of millions of dollars that he and the legislature have cut, I would restore it.”

DeSantis pushed back by connecting Biden with Crist. 

“You said that people are flocking to Florida, that would not have happened if Charlie Crist had his way. He wrote me a letter in 2020 saying that you need to shut down the state of Florida, you need to have people shelter in their own homes.” the governor said. “That would have destroyed the state of Florida, that would have caused our tourism industry to go in the toilet, it would have locked out millions of kids from school. I rejected Charlie Crist’s lockdown letter, I kept this state open, and I kept this state free.”

Crist later argued that the governor was running for president in 2024. 

“Ron, you talk about Joe Biden a lot, I understand. You think you’re gonna be running against him. I can see how you might get confused, but you’re running for Governor,” he said. 

DeSantis quickly responded. 

“The only worn out old donkey I'm looking to put out is Charlie Crist,” he said. 

The debate also touched on the topics of Hurricane Ian and the recovery, as well as recent Florida education laws that have been supported by DeSantis. 

The governor won the election in 2018 against Andrew Gillum. He earned 49.6% of the vote, with a margin of just over 32,000 votes. He gained national attention when he signed several bills into law that dealt with education. The Parental Rights in Education law bans teachers from Kindergarten to third grade from teaching ideas related to the LGBTQ+ community. 

In addition, He signed the “Stop WOKE act.” This banned teachers from using critical race theory ideas in the classroom. 

Crist currently represents Florida’s 13th congressional district in Washington. He won his election in 2020 with 53% of the vote. He ran for governor in 2014, but lost to former Governor Rick Scott, earning 47.1% of the vote that year. Before then, he ran against Senator Marco Rubio in 2010 but came in second with only 29.7% of the vote. 

The top issues on Crist’s website are defending reproductive freedom, ensuring voting access, clean water for all, and justice for all. He pledges to veto any anti-choice legislation across his desk, as well as to prohibit state agencies from infringing on the Roe decision. 

Crist also wants to reverse limits on mail-in ballots and wants to automatically register people to vote when they update their driver’s licenses. 

Spectrum News recently conducted a poll with Sienna College. That poll revealed that 55% of likely voters in Florida said that the state was on the right track, compared with 34% who said that the state was headed in the wrong direction. 

That same poll revealed that 50% of respondents had a favorable view of the governor, with only 39% indicating an unfavorable view. Those numbers changed when voters were asked about Crist. Only 34% had a favorable view, and 39% had an unfavorable view of the former governor. 

The poll was conducted from September 18-25 and included 669 likely voters in the state of Florida

More recently, Florida Atlantic University released a poll that showed DeSantis ahead by ten percentage points.