Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chiles Chimes in on Governor's Race

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chiles Chimes in on Governor's Race

Article excerpt

Gov. Lawton Chiles is his wily old self in the governor's race.

The self-proclaimed "he-coon," the craftiest raccoon in the pine

forest, has emerged with a vengeance three weeks before the Nov.

3 election.

Chiles, who has been mostly quiet in the governor's campaign up

to this point, sent a caustic letter to 70,000 Democratic

contributors last week urging them to oppose Republican nominee

Jeb Bush by donating money to Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay's campaign.

After Tuesday's radio debate between Bush and MacKay, the

governor chided the man he defeated in 1994 for suggesting they

share the same view on a school prayer bill.

"I feel he is sort of using me," said Chiles, who is barred

from seeking a third term.

The governor, whose job approval rating has been more than 60

percent in recent polls, could be a detriment to Bush as

Election Day nears. He came from behind in 1994 to beat Bush in

the closest governor's race in Florida history by spinning old

cracker tales, such as the one about the he-coon's late-strike

capabilities.

"I think it could be significant, depending on how much time

he puts in on the campaign trail," said Jim Kane, who heads up

the Florida Voter poll. "When he speaks, what he has to say has

credibility with the kind of voters you want: non-partisan,

independent voters."

The Bush campaign said it plans no separate strategy to deal

with the governor's increased involvement and called his recent

statements not newsworthy.

"We are running against Buddy MacKay, not Lawton Chiles," said

Bush spokesman Cory Tilley. "He can try to hide behind Lawton

Chiles . . . but Buddy MacKay's record is clear."

The governor is using his personal time to lobby for MacKay,

his office said. Chiles was missing-in-action during much of the

summer as the lieutenant governor's campaign struggled. MacKay

trails Bush by as much as 17 points in the polls.

"I think people are now just beginning to focus on the race,"

Chiles said. …

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