Campaign ’86: Florida Governor’s Race Could Be Expensive, Bitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Florida’s Sept. 2 primary for governor will probably do little more than set the stage for a runoff in both parties four weeks later.
The five Democrats and four Republicans in the contest have spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours on the campaign, but no candidate appears likely to garner the 50 percent necessary to win the nomination outright.
″You have quality candidates there so I anticipate a runoff,″ state GOP spokesman Mike Zotti said.
Mike Hamby, executive director for the Democratic Party, said, ″I guess it’s safe to say that whenever you have three or more Democratic candidates you’re pretty much in a runoff situation.″
Not since 1970, the year that Reubin Askew was elected, has Florida faced runoffs in both parties.
Bob Martinez, a third-generation Hispanic who left office as mayor of Tampa to run for governor, is running neck-and-neck with 12-year state Rep. Tom Gallagher for the Republican nomination. A recent poll gave them each 21 percent, with 39 percent undecided.
For the Democrats, former state Rep. Steve Pajcic is the front-runner but he is unlikely to collect a majority in the primary over his closest opponent, Attorney General Jim Smith. Fifty percent of the voters were undecided in a recent poll; 29 percent favored Pajcic, and 11 percent were for Smith.
The stakes are high: Both sides calculate that the next governor, like outgoing Democrat Bob Graham, should be able to serve two four-year terms at the helm of a state projected to soon be the nation’s fourth largest.
Republicans, who say they’ve registered two people for every Democrat recently, think they have their best shot at winning the office since Claude Kirk was elected in 1966, the first GOP governor since Reconstruction. Democrats, however, still hold a 3-2 edge in voter registration.
The candidates are equipped financially. They already have raised more than $15 million, making this the most expensive race for governor in state history.
Martinez was elected mayor of Tampa in 1979. After being courted by the White House, Martinez made a much-ballyhooed party switch from Democrat to Republican in 1983. He was thought to be the front-runner for the GOP nomination for governor, but some party regulars felt he had not paid his dues and encouraged others to run.
Gallagher would like to claim the large Republican vote in populous Dade County, an area he has represented during his 12 years in the state House.
Lou Frey, a member of Congress from 1968 to ’78 and part-owner of several television stations, is making his second run for governor. He lost the first race in 1978 to Republican Jack Eckerd, who later lost to Graham.
Chester Clem, who served in the state House and in the state GOP as a vice chairman, is appealing to the Christian right with a platform of moral and family issues.
On the Democratic side, Pajcic, a lawyer educated at Princeton and Harvard, served 12 years in the state House. He is trying to portray himself as the natural person to continue Graham’s programs. He and running mate Sen. Frank Mann of Fort Myers, a former candidate for governor, lead all candidates in fundraising with $4.1 million.
Smith is serving his second term as attorney general. He flirted with switching to the Republican Party last year but decided against it. And at one point he agreed to be state Senate President Harry Johnston’s running mate but backed out to run for governor himself.
Johnston, an attorney who has served 12 years in the state Legislature, is trying to portray himself as the middle-of-the-road candidate with Smith on the right and Pajcic on the left. Johnston runs a poor third in polls.
Two lesser-known candidates have been active in politics at the local level, Tavares attorney Joan Wollin and Mark Kane Goldstein of Gainesville.
Few issues have surfaced in the campaign except how to manage Florida’s rapid population growth and how to lower the crime rate.
Pajcic has charged that Smith, as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, has not done enough to cut crime.
Smith countered that Pajcic sponsored bills that would have weakened the death penalty law. He attacked Pajcic’s personal objections to the death penalty, saying, ″It won’t be acceptable to the people of Florida to say, ‘I don’t like it but I’ll sign the warrants.’ I like it.″