If you watched the World Series Wednesday night, you had a better time than I did. The Florida gubernatorial debate was a stunning waste of time.
The hour-long event was nearly nonstop nastiness. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum opened with the traditional handshake, but there the cordiality ended.
There were only brief reprieves of policy discussion, which soon devolved back into a contentious affair, even as the candidates had to balance their attacks with flashes of geniality before the Broward College audience.
And no wonder. The whole thing was poorly organized and poorly executed. I expected better of the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida.
The mostly unoriginal questions let DeSantis and Gillum off the hook. Call it the deja vu effect. So samey were the questions that all the candidates had to do was parrot back the same answers they gave CNN on Sunday night.
Why didn't the organizers see pandemonium coming?
Thirteen days before the election -- when Democrat Gillum's job was to shake the bushes and drive his voters to the polls, and Republican DeSantis was scrambling outside the pocket, looking to throw a Hail Mary -- moderator Todd McDermott of WPBF-TV decides to start with an incendiary question on divisiveness in politics. What did he think was going to happen?
He was like a zookeeper poking a couple of bears with a stick.
After that it was all race, ethics and accusations.
McDermott couldn't control the candidates, couldn't control the audience, couldn't control himself -- the man is an air hog. His questions carried on so long and were so loaded with explanation that at one point, as McDermott was in the middle of a question about DeSantis' connection to accused racist David Horowitz, DeSantis began answering before the question finished getting asked. "I wish you had waited for the question ... the question is not what you think it is," McDermott told DeSantis after the candidate had finished.
Certainly I don't blame Gillum for crying foul over the 30 seconds he was given to answer, compared to the minute DeSantis took because he was allowed to spin out of control. Nobody's fault but the moderator's and the organizers' for failing to adequately plan ahead.
Policy be damned.
Did anything go right Wednesday night? Yes. Panelists Isadora Rangel from USA Today and Anthony Mann from the South Florida Sun Sentinel -- were pertinent, succinct and their questions effective. But given the chaotic debate format, their duty was limited.
Nevertheless, the debates are over. And neither Todd McDermott nor Jake Tapper of CNN asked candidates my No. 1 question: What qualities would you look for in a Supreme Court justice?
Too bad for me, I guess.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith