The two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the U.S. Senate race in Florida faced off in a third debate on Tuesday.
U.S. Representative Kendrick Meek and Jeff Greene appeared in Orlando to discuss a range of issues related to the state of Florida and its national interests. Things eventually got heated between the two as they traded barbs about business and political dealings.
Meek attacked Greene’s perceived flaunting of his wealth. A yacht trip to Cuba involving Greene and others came into question. Greene has given various reasons for the trip throughout the campaign, including mechanical issues with the yacht and a humanitarian visit to Jews on the island. At one point, he said that he was not on the yacht when it docked in Cuba. The trip has raised several eyebrows because Americans are not allowed to visit Cuba, except for immediate family visits and other special circumstances authorized by the government.
The housing market, a sore subject for many distressed homeowners in Florida, was the next point of contention for Meek. He noted that Greene made millions of dollars from credit-default swaps, where investors bet against the success of the market for profit. When the economy tanked because of the real estate industry, investors made money.
Greene fired back highlighting a business deal where a company gave Meek’s mother, former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, a Cadillac Escalade. The company that provided the SUV then received a government kickback. Meek clarified that his mother was a consultant on a project and earned the vehicle.
“I’ve had it with this pay-for-play, get-along-to-go-along kind of attitude that Kendrick Meek is a central part of,” Greene remarked at one point during the debate.
Greene got even more personal with Meek about the business deal by suggesting the House Ethics Committee conduct an investigation on the Congressman, similar to those against Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)
“Everything that you brought up really doesn’t hold water when it comes down to the facts,” Meek clarified. “Mr. Greene, I have more integrity in my pinky than you have in your whole body.”
Meek clearly sets himself apart from Greene’s suggestion.
Tax cuts, health care legislation, and a ban on offshore drilling are areas where the two candidates did find some common ground. Greene and Meek want to remove tax cuts for the wealthy and shift more money into the hands of the middle class. Neither candidate supports offshore drilling, an important topic in a state hard-hit by the recent Gulf oil spill. Both men stand behind the health care overhaul plan passed by Congress and supported by President Obama earlier this year.
Recent poll numbers show the two candidates in an extremely close race ahead of the August 24 primary contest. A Mason-Dixon poll on Monday showed Meek leading Greene 33% to 29% with a 4% margin of error. A Feldman Group poll last week showed Meek barely leading with 36% of the vote to Greene’s 35% tally with a 3.5% margin of error.
Their latest face-off aired on Tuesday night in 11 total media markets in the state. The next debate will tape on August 15 in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area, according to Kendrick Meek’s website.