Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Party Not Big on Bid from Weinstein; Republicans Fear His Quest for the State Attorney's Office Would Hurt Bush

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Party Not Big on Bid from Weinstein; Republicans Fear His Quest for the State Attorney's Office Would Hurt Bush

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID DECAMP, The Times-Union

Former mayoral candidate Mike Weinstein has started flirting again with running to unseat State Attorney Harry Shorstein, despite some Republican dispassion in challenging the incumbent Democrat.

Weinstein, who fell short of Mayor John Peyton in the first election in spring, is president of Take Stock In Children, a mentoring and scholarship organization in Jacksonville. He was executive director of the State Attorney's Office for 18 years until he started a string of jobs in City Hall in the 1990s. He received a law degree from the University of Florida near the end of his state attorney's work, but never has prosecuted a case.

"The commandant of the Marine Corps doesn't carry a rifle, but he sure knows how to," Shorstein said. "It's just absolutely an essential element of leadership that you're able to do what my 90 lawyers do."

Weinstein said he intends to decide whether to run after Jan. 1, and others have approached him about a campaign in the largely Republican state attorney circuit. He declined to name them and said it's too early to have serious discussions about his backers.

"The leader of the office manages the office," said Weinstein, who has a master's degree in criminal justice. "The state attorney isn't there to try cases. The state attorney hires people to do that, and to make sure that everyone is treated the same."

But Weinstein's base of support may be an issue. Some of his top financial backers this year, such as Republican donors Tom Petway and Wayne Weaver, already have given money or support to Shorstein, as have other notable Republican donors. Top campaign aides Susan Wiles, Michael Munz and Bruce Barcelo were waiting late last week to hear from Weinstein. And Republican Party leaders have made no secret of their lack of passion to challenge Shorstein, fearing it would increase Democratic turnout in northeast Florida against President Bush.

"If I am asked, I would tell him it's not [a] wise political move to run against Harry Shorstein," Munz said.

Duval County Republican Party Chairman Mike Hightower, who is a big fund-raiser for Bush, said he spoke with Weinstein recently, advising him to somehow measure Shorstein's support before deciding.

But in another measure of the Republican leadership's disinterest with less than a year before the election, Hightower told the Times-Union, "It's not a priority for our party to find a candidate at this time. Our focus has been on the president and the U.S. Senate."

Weinstein in the summer decided against running after friend and former City Hall cohort Audrey McKibbin Moran showed interest. But she decided against running because of family concerns, not to mention facing the burden of the GOP's reluctance to get behind opposing Shorstein. …

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