TRUTH TEST HEADQUARTERS, Florida - With all the noise out there this political season, it's sometimes tough to tell which voices to listen to. But 10 News' Truth Test aims to separate fact from fiction so you, the voter, can make a more educated decision on Election Day.
WATCH: Kendrick Meek's "Only One" ad
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In the three-way race to be Florida's next U.S. Senator, Democrat Kendrick Meek launched a recent ad that tries to distinguish himself from Independent Charlie Crist and Republican Marco Rubio. We break down each claim in the 30-second spot and issue a grade.
Claim 1: "I'm the only one who's fought against developers draining the Everglades"
Meek has a track record of supporting Everglades restoration and he's clearly making a jab at Crist's signing of SB 2080 in 2009.
The St. Petersburg Times' Editorial Board was one of several across the state to rip the governor for signing the bill, saying, "Gov. Charlie Crist's sellout to developers is now complete...developers and big industry will be able to more easily drain Florida and pave over what's left."
However, Crist has also supported a number of measures aimed at restoring the Everglades, including the purchase of land to restore natural water flow in South Florida. It's enough for a campaign spokesperson to call him "the leader in the state of Florida" for the cause.
As for Rubio, Meek's campaign points to the 2007-2008 budget the senator voted for, where environmental protection funding was decreased. But Rubio has also voted for restoration bills over the years, including Everglades Restoration Bonds in 2008.
Claim 2: "The only one against off-shore drilling before - and after - the BP spill"
Meek has a consistent track record of opposing offshore drilling, including helping to pass an amendment to HR 5386 in 2006 that would make it harder for oil companies to get new offshore drilling leases.
Rubio's been consistent too, saying both before - and after - the BP spill that all energy options need to be on the table.
Crist, meanwhile, was against offshore drilling when he ran for governor in 2006, but with gas prices soaring in 2008, opened the door to drilling if it was "far enough...safe enough...and clean enough." He also endorsed John McCain's plan to lift the federal moratorium on offshore drilling when Crist was considered McCain's possible GOP running mate.
After the BP spill, Crist said he was convinced there should never be offshore drilling in Florida and his pragmatism makes this one a close call. But, at the time of the BP disaster, Meek was the only candidate to firmly oppose offshore drilling.
Claim 3: "The only one against privatizing Social Security"
Meek says, "while Social Security faces long-term financial problems, it is not going broke anytime soon...recent Wall Street losses prove that privatizing Social Security would be a dangerous gamble."
Rubio's camp says he too is on-the-record opposing privatization, but only after indicating earlier this year that "Social Security should include private accounts."
As for the governor, Meek's campaign could only point to a 1998 candidate survey where Crist said of Social Security "maybe a very small percentage (1 or 2) percent could be privatized only if current recipients will continue to receive 100 percent of what they have been promised." Hardly a ringing endorsement of privatization. In fact, Crist's campaign said the governor is now against privatization altogether, enough to reject this claim.
Claim 4: "The only one who's pro-choice"
Meek's consistent pro-choice record earned him key endorsements from women's groups like NARAL. On the other side of the argument, Rubio makes no bones about his pro-life beliefs. As for Crist, a campaign spokesperson explained the governor doesn't want to overturn Roe v. Wade or change any of the current abortion laws on the books. However, Crist says, personally, he is pro-life.
Claim 5: "(The only one) who took on George Bush"
One opposing campaign spokesperson said of Meek's claim, "I don't even know what that means." We assume Meek is referring to votes cast and speeches delivered as a Congressional Democrat against many Bush policies.
And while Rubio and Crist are both on-the-record opposing some Bush policies themselves, as Republicans, they sided with their party way more than they "took on" the sitting president. Crist even said in an Oct. 2006 debate on MSNBC that he thought Bush deserved a "B" grade through his first five-and-a-half years in office. That's enough to earn Meek a better grade on his claim.
Claim 6 "(The only one) who's fought for middle class tax cuts"
This claim is open to interpretation. Meek is referring to the votes he cast on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, where tax cuts specifically targeted those making less than $250,000 a year.
Republican Rubio has been critical of the administration's bill, while Crist has supported it at times but also said on CNN, "I didn't endorse it. I didn't even have a vote on the darn thing."
More important to this claim is the fact that Crist and Rubio have taken much stronger anti-tax stances over the years, supporting several tax cuts for all people. Rubio even suggested eliminating all property taxes on primary homes in favor of a flat tax on sales. Democrats argue the cuts favor the wealthy over the middle class, but an across-the-board tax cut does include the middle class as well. This also includes Florida's "Save Our Homes" program, which lowered property taxes for millions.
We get what Meek is trying to say in this claim, but he's leaving out half the story.
Claim 7: "(The only one who's fought) against high credit card fees"
This makes sense, since this is more of a federal issue than a state issue. As a member of Congress, Meek cast a number of votes for somewhat controversial legislation (HR 627 in 2009, HR 5244 in 2008) that limited credit card companies' ability to charge consumers. Neither Crist nor Rubio would have had this opportunity.
Claim 8: "(The only one who's fought) to raise the minimum wage"
Like credit card fees, the legislation Meek supported (HR 2206 in 2007) originated from the federal level, not the state level. But in 2004, Floridians voted to raise the state's minimum wage by a dollar and Crist, as attorney general, chose to pick his battles and "not take a stand" on the issue, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
Claim 1 - F
Claim 2 - B
Claim 3 - F
Claim 4 - A
Claim 5 - A
Claim 6 - C
Claim 7 - A
Claim 8 - A
FINAL JUDGEMENT: C
Kendrick Meek doesn't seem to stretch the truth when it comes to his own record, but conveniently forgets some of the stances his opponents have taken over the years. As a result, The Truth Test can't score the ad as well as Meek would have liked since voters aren't getting 100 percent of the truth.
Follow 10 News reporter Noah Pransky on Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky or Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky. You can also get more on The Truth Test on Facebook.
Kendrick Meek's "Only One" ad