Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mortham Pick Brings More Grief to Bush

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mortham Pick Brings More Grief to Bush

Article excerpt

Secretary of State Sandra Mortham looked like a solid choice

two weeks ago when Jeb Bush picked her to be his running mate in

next year's governor's race.

A tough campaigner and able fund-raiser, she's proved she can

win statewide.

As a supporter of abortion rights, Mortham could even help Bush

with female voters, a group that increasingly has shied away

from Republicans lately and tilted elections to the Democrats.

Early on, however, she's drawing the kind of negative attention

that has plagued Bush family campaigns.

In the 1988 presidential race, Dan Quayle turned out to be such

a liability to George Bush's candidacy that the Bush campaign

tried to keep him home. Failing that, the campaign sent Quayle

primarily to remote areas with few voters, so he would do as

little damage as possible in the final weeks of the election.

In the 1994 gubernatorial race, Gov. Lawton Chiles handed out

wanted posters with Tom Feeney's picture on them, claiming Jeb

Bush was trying to hide his running mate from the public.

Democrats were doing their best to portray Bush's running mate

as a right-wing radical. Chiles did his part by pointing out one

of the resolutions Feeney had introduced as a member of the

Legislature called for Florida to secede from the United States

if the national debt got too high.

Now comes Mortham, who looked like a sure bet to help Bush,

not hurt him.

And here come the Democrats, eager to keep the BushMortham

ticket off balance.

Mortham spent last week responding to questions about a $60,000

contribution she solicited from Philip Morris Cos. for a state

museum and then used as a slush fund to throw staff parties and

pay for office trinkets and a promotional video.

The contribution and expenses came to light in a story first

reported last weekend in The Tampa Tribune. Later, it was picked

up throughout the state.

Mortham has staunchly defended the expenses, of which about

$15,000 went for commemorative items she gave to visitors in her

office and $10,000 went for employee picnics and a Christmas

party. …

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