Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Graham Opts for Senate Choice Opens Up Governor's Race

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Graham Opts for Senate Choice Opens Up Governor's Race

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- U.S. Sen. Bob Graham's decision yesterday to seek

re-election could set up a free-for-all in the 1998 governor's

race.

Graham tantalized Floridians for years with hints that he might

return to seek the governorship he held from 1979 to 1987, but

the Democrat announced in Opa-Locka that his seniority and

committee assignments had convinced him to run for a third

Senate term instead.

With Graham out of the way and Gov. Lawton Chiles barred from

seeking re-election by term limits, the governor's race makes an

inviting target for ambitious politicians of both parties.

If Miami businessman Jeb Bush runs for the Republican

nomination as expected, however, it could dissuade many of the

potential GOP candidates from making the race.

Bush, who said yesterday he was surprised by Graham's

announcement, indicated it was too early to make any decisions

about running.

"I need to organize myself," Bush said. "Senator Graham may

have made it a little easier, but who knows?"

Graham's decision also came as good news to Lt. Gov. Buddy

MacKay, a fellow Democrat who is already in the race for

governor, but had found his candidacy taking a back seat to

speculation about Graham in news coverage.

MacKay said Graham would have been a formidable candidate and

he was glad not to have to run in a primary against a longtime

friend and colleague.

MacKay's fund-raising had lagged, at least in part because many

Democratic contributors were waiting to see what Graham would

do, although MacKay said he was also hurt because he had to

spend so much time raising money for the party in the 1996

elections.

"I feel that now that's cleared and Senator Graham's intentions

are clear, I think I can develop a lot more momentum," MacKay

said.

But other Democrats, such as Attorney General Bob Butterworth

and Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson, could be tempted to get

into the governor's race. …

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