Republican candidates Rick Scott and Florida Bill McCollum met in Univision’s Miami studio on Monday to debate the issues that interest the Hispanic community. Mario Andres Moreno, the moderator, pointed to the fact that this is the first Spanish-language debate ever for two non-Hispanic Republican candidates.
Sandra Peebles of Univision, Manny Garcia of El Nuevo Herald and Bernadette Pardo of Univision Radio asked the questions.
Here’s some of what the Spanish-speaking community heard Monday night:
(Note: these passages are paraphrased, and for the most part do not include direct quotes).
Scott: Thank you Univision and to all of you. Our state is headed in the wrong direction. Unemployment, foreclosures – I am a conservative businessman I plan to create 700,000 jobs and eliminate tax in business.
McCollum: Florida has 1 million unemployed, we need to create jobs, my plan created with Steve Forbes is about jobs, we need a leader, and I understand voters are angry.
Q: The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Atlanta decided in favor of Scott who had filed a lawsuit to stop Bill McCollum from receiving public campaign money.
What do you have to say about the court’s decision and that people are worried about a candidate buying office?
Scott: I don’t think I should spend your tax dollars on my campaign, The 11th Circuit Court says my First Amendment rights have been violated.
McCollum: Campaign finance laws were created to avoid fraud, so people can’t buy office like Rick Scott is doing.
Scott rebutted: I cannot buy an election. You [the people] will vote.
Q: Unemployment in the U.S. is 9.6%, while in Florida it is around 11.4%. Mr. McCollum, you have said you will create 500 thousand jobs. What is your plan? Mr. Scott, you just said you would create 700 thousand jobs how will you do that?
McCollum: I plan to reduce corporate tax and for new business, the reduction would be for 10 years, but we also need to improve our education system. We need investment capital for small businesses.
Scott: I know how to reduce costs. We will not waste the state’s money. We will cut taxes on property and business.
McCollum rebutted: Rick, you took money from Columbia/HCA stealing from the elderly.
Q: Six of every ten Hispanics are worried because they don’t have money to pay their mortgage. How would you provide help for people in this situation?
Scott: we are going to fix this by making the economy grow, making companies come back to the state.
And I tell the audience Bill is lying about my past.
McCollum: there has been a lot of mortgage fraud; we will create jobs so people can pay. I have the support of Lincoln Diaz Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Scott: We need to think that if you want to create a business you need to hire someone with experience. I have created a business.
Q: How do you plan to replace the funds if you freeze the property tax?
McCollum: We need to cut taxes; we need to create the economic climate so the private sector can create jobs.
Scott: It is not right that people in Tallahassee tell the local government to cut taxes. The state government must reduce its costs and eliminate business taxes.
We must not rely on career politicians from Tallahassee like my opponent.
McCollum: You call me a politician and I am a public servant.
Q: From 2000 to 2003 Columbia/HCA was fined for fraud to Medicare and Medicaid. Mr. Scott, why should we trust you if your company committed this fraud?
Scott: People make mistakes and as CEO I take responsibility. We had great success at cutting costs and improving service.
McCollum: You said you took responsibility, but you only took $300 million.
Scott: People can see the quality Columbia/HCA achieved by reducing costs.
Q: Mr. McCollum, an ethics complaint was filed against you for using the state airplane for personal flights. How can we trust your lack of judgment?
McCollum: If you are not rich like Scott you need to use public services. Scott, you have told lies about me, what you’re doing is not right.
Scott: This is what career politicians do; the question was about the plane and he didn’t answer.
McCollum: I will not take responsibility for something I didn’t do. You stole from the elderly.
Q: Both of you support Arizona’s SB1070 despite the court’s last week decision. Why do you think this law is essential for Florida?
Scott: Our country was built on legal immigration. We have at least 700 thousand illegal immigrants, they cost us millions and they come and take jobs. We need that law and E-verify because the federal government is not upholding the law.
McCollum: I am in favor of and defend SB1070. I have fought against amnesty and in favor of legal immigration like the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Scott: When the polls change, you change.
Q: There are many illegal immigrants who have children born in the U.S., but there are many families that are being separated because of immigration enforcement. Would you help people in this situation?
McCollum: I want to clarify that I have supported SB1070. As far as helping to keep families together, if you came illegally you need to go back.
Scott: we cannot defend families if that results in amnesty. They need to go back and come back legally.
Q: Florida is 36th in public spending per student. How would you bring more money to Florida public education?
Scott: The best way is to have the best teachers; we need to pay teachers better and measure teacher and student success.
And it’s up to parents to decide where their children will go to school.
McCollum: I supported Jeb Bush’s education programs. We must also base teacher pay on merit.
Scott: to improve the education we need to invest more money, that is what my 7-7-7 plan is about.
Q: Census data shows only 13 percent of Hispanics have a college degree. How would you raise the number of Hispanic college graduates?
McCollum: We need to increase their reading and math skills in high school. Jeb Bush’s program in these areas has shown success.
Scott: The graduation rate for Hispanics is important; they should have the best teacher available.
Both of you oppose the Obama health care reform. At least 3 million Floridians do not have health coverage, how do you pretend to increase the number of residents with access to health insurance?
Scott: I favor patient’s rights, if we want more coverage we must reduce costs. Patients must have more choices, and that comes through more competition.
McCollum: The Obama health care reform is unconstitutional. Medicaid wastes to many resources and my plan has the support of the Florida Medical Association.
Scott: We need a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the implementation of Obama health care reform in Florida.
How would you attract the Hispanic vote?
McCollum: We are working with Lincoln and Mario Diaz Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, political leaders from this area. I am proud of my work for the Hispanic community and we will make our presence felt in the Spanish language media.
Florida is in crisis, I have a history of supporting legal immigration and I support SB1070, I filed a lawsuit against the Obama health care reform. Scott has no credibility.
Scott: I have Spanish language ads, you know I’ve done business in Miami, I know this community. You have the option to elect a businessman like me or a career politician like my opponent. I promise to make the economy grow.