When Florida Gov. Jeb Bush set out to end race and gender
preferences in college admissions and state contracts last year, he
called his plan One Florida.
Perhaps it was wishful thinking on Mr. Bush's part. But his anti-
affirmative action plan has instead spotlighted two, quite distinct,
Floridas. On one side are those who favor the use of state
preferences to boost opportunities for minorities and women, and on
the other are those who oppose their continued use.
It is an increasingly acrimonious rift, one that is firmly
establishing Florida as the nation's next major battleground over
And, analysts say, one that could complicate the Florida campaign
of Bush's brother, George, in his anticipated run for the White
House this fall.
Nowhere has the divide in the state been more apparent than in
the capital, Tallahassee, earlier this week. On Tuesday, as the
governor delivered his State of the State address to a largely
supportive Republican-controlled state legislature, an estimated
11,000 protesters from across Florida stood outside in the sun-
baked heat denouncing the governor as an enemy of the civil rights
Many waved placards reading "Jeb Crow," and "Pharaoh Bush."
But if the governor was worried, he gave no indication.
Florida Republicans, including the governor, are counting on the
support of a "silent majority" of Floridians presumed to be
supportive of Bush's One Florida plan.
And some analysts suggest that, if the Republican Party holds
firm on the issue, it stands to gain from crossover Democrats and
independents who are also opposed to affirmative action.
But other analysts say that view is overly optimistic.
"Jeb Bush may have just cooked it for his brother in Florida,"
says Randall Berg, a Miami civil rights lawyer. "I think he grossly
underestimated the animosity he would generate from minorities and
Voters narrowly split on issue
While polls last year suggested that an overwhelming majority of
Floridians oppose the use of racial preferences in public education,
public employment, and public contracts, other more recent polls
show that likely voters in the state may be more closely divided on
A statewide poll released on Sunday by the Lakeland Ledger says
that 44 percent of Florida voters support Bush's One Florida plan,
while 40 percent prefer retaining affirmative action. Sixteen
percent had no opinion.
Bush's One Florida initiative grew out of an attempt by the
governor to sidestep a much more sweeping anti-affirmative-action
campaign by a black California businessman, Ward Connerly.
The Connerly campaign, a statewide ballot initiative, would
rewrite Florida's Constitution to bar any use of racial or gender
preferences by the state government, including college admissions.
Mr. Connerly, an opponent of affirmative action who has taken
his message on the road, has waged similar, successful campaigns in
California and Washington State. …