2002 Weekly Planet Primary Elections Guide

Politics and Pragmatism
by Rochelle Renford

Democrats can't afford to vote their race or conscience in the gubernatorial primary. If they want to boot Bush, they have to think strategy.

Let's face it, the best person for the job of running Florida isn't in the race and never will be. And that's just as well, because nobody would vote for the poor S.O.B. anyway.

He (or she) would lack charisma, money and the ability to break complex issues down into cute little sound bites. Voters would be promised better schools, decent health care, a cleaner environment and all of the other things that would improve their quality of life. But they'd have to help pay for them, with higher taxes, less consumption and general self-sacrifice at such a high degree that it would actually burn.

Nobody, not even corporations and the rich people who love them, would get something for nothing.

But this is America. What we get instead are the three candidates in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

There's something wrong with all of them.

Tampa attorney Bill McBride has never held public office, state Sen. Daryl Jones has the slick veneer of someone who's too long held public office, and Janet Reno ... it's hard to even know where to start with Janet Reno.

The core question isn't which one of these candidates would make the best governor, which actually makes the choice easier.

The only real question for Democrats is this: Who can beat Republican incumbent Jeb Bush?

Democrats are still seething over the presidential election debacle. An indictment against Jeb is an indictment against the big brother they believe stole the election. Add to that Bush's slaughtering of affirmative action, a Democratic sacred cow, his endorsement of vouchers for private schools, his penchant for privatization of government functions, and there's a whole lot of anger going on.

The answer to the question has much more to do with money and name recognition than with character or qualifications. But we'll look at those anyway, just for fun.

Janet Reno: Too Much to Explain

Reno, with her red truck tour and handmade South Florida house, genuinely loves this state. That's no small thing.

She has compassion for Florida's elderly and she respects the environment. Her sincerity is so apparent that she feels virtually no need to actually spell out a plan on how she plans to govern her favorite place.

Like the other candidates, she wants to improve our public school system by increasing teacher's salaries, reducing class sizes and holding schools accountable. How's she going to find the money to do those things? We're supposed to elect her and trust she will find a way.

She has mentioned trimming waste from the budget but given no specifics. Hasn't she spent enough time trucking around the state to be able to point out a few things by now?

Her plan for providing health insurance for indigent children and adults offers a range of initiatives that include such common-sense measures as offering low-interest loans to cover the cost of COBRA payments and increasing public awareness of Florida KidCare, a healthcare program for low-income children. Reno's plan to lower prescription costs for seniors is also laudable.

To accomplish anything, however, she'd have to form a relationship with a Republican-controlled Legislature that's non-combative or, at the very least, not all-out war. Reno has been unwilling to even listen to her own party, which likely did everything but threaten to hold her hostage to get her not to run.

Reno's no-nonsense attitude worked for her as attorney general, but as governor it may not work at all.

Not that she's unwilling to compromise. She has already made a disturbing compromise by admitting that she's personally against the death penalty but is willing to enforce it anyway.


Given her personal views, it defies reason that she'd be unwilling to at least consider a moratorium on the death penalty while working to ensure it's applied fairly.

However, the real problem with Reno is not that she wouldn't be a good governor. The problem is that she can't get elected governor.

Bush's entire campaign would be about attacking Reno and she would need more than a few 30-second ads to defend herself.

Televised debates wouldn't be good for her, either. Unfortunately for Democrats, Florida didn't get the dumb Bush brother.

Gov. Bush can articulate his plans clearly with dizzying detail. He'd probably trounce Reno in a debate, assuming she'd actually agree to one. Next to Bush, Reno's shaky hands from Parkinson's disease and halting speech would make her look weak; her lack of attention to detail would make her seem uninformed.

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