Jeb Bush Takes to Campaign Trail
May. 15, 2002
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Gov. Jeb Bush didn't waste any time hitting the campaign trail in his first chance at politicking since a combative and protracted legislative session ended earlier this week.
Bush began dedicating more time on Tuesday to a newly intensified campaign. The Republican governor had limited his re-election activities until after lawmakers finished with the state budget during a special session that ended Monday.
Bush faced tough questions at an Orlando high school, courted votes from Orlando's Puerto Rican community and chatted with students in Spanish at an elementary school near Tampa.
The destinations were along Florida's central belt, located between St. Petersburg and Daytona Beach, an area considered to be a swing region.
Democratic candidates vying to challenge Bush in the November election made no public appearances Tuesday. Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, was in New York. Bill McBride, a Tampa attorney who is getting the backing of most of Florida's Democratic power structure, made fund-raising and political calls and met with supporters in his campaign office.
The other Democratic candidates are state House Democratic Leader Lois Frankel, state Sen. Daryl Jones and Miami activist Bob Kunst.
At Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Bush spoke to about 200 students.
Senior Ben Connors said that the governor's emphasis on standardized testing has depersonalized the education experience. The results of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests are used in giving letter grades to schools to determine if they're improving.
Bush told Connors that the test is needed to measure school standards.
``I don't know how you can measure what you know without tests,'' Bush said. ``Should you teach to the test and sterilize the education experience? No, you shouldn't.''
Senior Katie Farney asked why her Advanced Placement summer school classes were canceled because of budget cuts from last year, while remedial summer school classes were left in place.
``Aren't you rewarding bad behavior?'' Farney said.
Bush told Puerto Rican business and political leaders in Orlando that he intended to win the Puerto Rican vote in the state.
Orange County is the biggest Puerto Rican stronghold in the state, with 9.7 percent of its 896,000 residents listing themselves as coming from that island, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
Bush also paid a visit to an elementary school near Tampa that turned around its academic fortunes despite its population of migrant families and children who barely speak English.
At Wimauma Elementary School, Bush chatted with children in Spanish and shared a song with 5-year-olds learning how to read and write.