GOP DEBATE in Tampa by Mitch E. Perry

08/23/06

Last night in Tampa, the 2 candidates for the Republican nomination for Governor, Tom Gallagher and Charlie Crist battled it out in front of a state wide television audience.

The front runner, Attorney General Crist, appeared to do nothing to lose his double digit lead over CFO Gallagher, who needed to make a strong impact to keep his struggling campaign afloat.

Gallagher is running for Governor for the 4th time, a statistic alluded to by Crist during the debate.

One of their more contentions discussions featured who was quoting President Bush more accurately regarding his endorsement of civil unions for same sex couples.

Although both candidates are against same sex marriage, Gallagher has been making an issue of Crist’s support for civil unions – which would give gay couples more legal rights than they currently have, but not nearly as many as if they were married.

First Crist spoke about Civil unions, and sounded as Rod Smith or Jim Davis would (roll tape# 1 “and I still am�)

Later, when the candidates got to ask questions of each other, Gallagher shot back at Davis on the issue (roll tape#2 o.q.�and I think that’s a good place to be�)

But Gallagher said that Bush had said that he was leaving that issue up to the states.

A look today at the record indicates that both candidates were right….Speaking to ABC News a week before the 2004 Presidential election, Bush said, “I don’t think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that’s what a state choose to do so�

Another issue that the 62 year old Gallagher has been hammering at Crist thoughtout the campaign but even stronger now is abortion….Gallagher, formerly pro-choice, says he is the Pro-life candidate in the race, and derides Crist as being pro-choice. Christ does appear to want to have it both ways on the issue, saying he IS pro-life, but does not not want to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on the issue, nor does he support a 24 hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion…

Last night, Gallagher attacked Crist on the issue (roll tape#3 o.q.�I will not let you down�)

Throughout the debate, the 50 year old Crist for most of the night appeared cool, calm and confident…And he was obviously prepared when the issue of Tom Gallagher’s ethics came up.

Last month, an ethics panel found probable cause that Gallagher violated ethics laws on 4 occasions when he traded stocks of 4 companies that were either regulated by or had contracts with his office…The Florida Commission on Ethics also found that at least a dozen other accusations were without merit, including that Gallagher used confidential government information to buy and sell stocks in other companies.

The question was raised last night by the St. Petersburg Times’ Joni James (roll tape#4 o.q.� .�over the next 4 years�)

There are still 13 days left in this election…Gallagher has around 2 and a half million dollars left in his campaign coffers –Crist nearly double that

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