Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate Jeff Greene and Kendrick Meek met Tuesday night in Orlando for their only statewide debate — organized by Leadership Florida.
Michael Putney (from channel 10 Miami), Mary Ann Lyndley (the Tallahassee Democrat), and Darryl Owen (the Orlando Sentinel) asked several questions of each candidate.
The first was about job creation.
Meek responded saying he would “incentivize businesses already in Florida.”
Greene responded he would “rebuild and revitalize our infrastructure. We need tax cuts for small businesses and payroll tax holidays.”
Michael Putney asked both candidates how they let the campaign turn into a series of accusations against each other. “Mr. Greene, you called Mr. Meek corrupt, and Mr. Meek you called Mr. Greene a meltdown mogul.”
Greene responded saying, “I called Meek the first day I entered the campaign to tell him we should keep this on the upside. He never responded and attacked me and I had to retaliate.”
Greene then brought up the Dennis Stackhouse case, which involves Meek, and reminded the audience the St. Petersburg Times has called for a House ethics investigation into Meek’s dealings with Stackhouse. He also mentioned a Wackenhut issue, accusing Meek of receiving money from special interests.
Meek replied to Putney’s question saying, “This is why Greene is a bad man. The Wackenhut issue is a lie. I am a public servant. The St. Petersburg Times editorial page today called on people to not vote for Greene.”
Meek then added it was true Greene invested in “uncovered credit default swaps” in reference to his ad accusing Greene of making billions while people lost their homes.
Greene responded about his involvement in the sale of a California property that he didn’t “skate on the ethical edge. I sold a building. I am also using this guy.”
Mary Ann Lyndley: What prepares you to remain honest and productive in health care?
Meek responded, “I will pull together issues to save money and increase services for all Floridians.”
Greene answered, “We need to get costs reduced so all Americans can get health care.”
Darryl Owen asked about changes to make Social Security more sound.
Greene: “I don’t agree with raising the eligibility age. We need to grow our economy. We need to get people working. I will not allow Social Security funds to be used for other expenditures.”
Meek: “I was against the Bush privatization of Social Security. How do we get Social Security beyond 2037? It’s important to know that 40 percent of Floridians will go into poverty without Social Security. … We need to create a commission in Congress to protect the sovereignty of Social Security.”
The candidates were then allowed to ask each other a question.
Greene asked if Meek would agree to a House ethics investigation into his dealings with Dennis Stackhouse?
Meek responded saying the money involved did not go to him but to official entities in Miami-Dade County and that “no one has questioned me because there is nothing to ask.”
Meek commented on how his opponent has bragged about how he made his money, and then asked Greene, “Why didn’t you go to California senators and tell them the housing bubble would burst?”
Greene said, “I would not allow the big banks to destroy all I had built. … In your district you had Countrywide. We had a housing crisis because politicians like you didn’t regulate the banks.”
Meek said, “You dealt in uncovered credit default swaps and made a profit but didn’t alert Congress.”
Greene responded, “I couldn’t tell politicians that we were benefiting from the bank money.”
Asked about the Obama Administration’s announcement on Tuesday of $10 billion in funding to rehire teachers, both candidates agreed on the importance of funding teachers and education.
Greene vowed to support Meek if Meek wins the Aug. 24 primary, and attacked Meek — who has said he will not endorse Greene.
Meek said he has no belief Greene will win, and mentioned Obama and Clinton have both endorsed his campaign.
In closing statements, Meek summarized his career and achievements and Greene offered himself as an alternative to “career politicians.”