By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog
TALLAHASSEE – With more than a year before Floridians head to the polls, election season is heating up behind the scenes.
The first gubernatorial debate date is all but set.
It will be hosted by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association, and likely will be televised statewide two weeks before the Nov. 4, 2014, election.
“Floridians will have a front-row seat in the most important dialogue about the future of our state as they see and hear where the top candidates for governor stand on the issues that matter most,” said David Armstrong, chairman of Leadership Florida and president of Broward College.
The debate partnership hosted “Decision 2012” last year featuring Florida’s two U.S. Senate nominees, incumbent Bill Nelson and challenger Connie Mack. Nelson won the election.
This time, the debate roster will be led by incumbent Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and which ever Democrat climbs to the top to challenge Scott’s run for a second term.
Other participants will have to poll above 15 percent leading up to the debate, according to a rule intended to include third party candidates.
Former state Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich is the only notable Democrat to have declared a gubernatorial bid, though former Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to run. Crist is a former Republican turned independent turned Democrat.
After Nelson publicly decided against running for Florida’s chief executive post, many state Democrats looked to Alex Sink, the state’s former chief financial officer who came within 1 percentage point of besting Scott in 2010.
Sink told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday that she will make her decision “in a matter of weeks.”
For his part, Scott will be waiting — with his millions of dollars in personal wealth and a much improved state economy in tow.
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