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Florida Is Ground Zero for 2002
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, July 6, 2001

Question: Is Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) really as vulnerable as the Democrats say he is? The polls show Bush with a comfortable lead over every possible opponent, a solid base of 48-49 percent support with double digits undecided. It seems to me that Bush even with all the baggage from the 2000 election is still a good bet to win re-election (especially since he is popular with independents and moderates). What is your opinion on what will probably be the most watched political race in 2002?
– Michael Harrington, Saint Augustine, Fla. <

The Dems' battle cry for 2002 -- and beyond. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: From the moment the presidential result went against Al Gore, there was no question that the gubernatorial race in Florida would be the premier contest of 2002. With Democrats crying foul over the process, complaining of a fixed election but no chance for retribution until 2004, their immediate focus turned to Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother and the alleged co-conspirator behind the fix. Even before the charges of voter intimidation, blacks were lining up against Jeb Bush over the governor's anti-affirmative action policies. No matter what really happened in Florida last year, no matter who was at fault, it was always a given that all eyes were going to be on the Sunshine State next year.

As for Bush's vulnerability, I wouldn't put much stock in the numbers that have been released thus far. Most of the horse-race matchups have been against former Clinton attorney general Janet Reno and frankly, I'm not convinced Reno is the strongest candidate the Democrats can put up, given her handling of Waco and Elian. In fact, I'm not even convinced she will run. As for Rep. Jim Davis and ex-Rep./ex-ambassador to Vietnam Pete Peterson, either of whom would (in my opinion) run a stronger race against Bush, they're not well-known statewide and their respective strengths/weaknesses can't be gauged at this time by the polls.

Republicans will dismiss the claim that they "stole" the election for George W. Bush last year in Florida, pointing out that (1) an overwhelming majority of the county election commissioners, who control the electoral machinery, are Democrats, and (2) there were considerable voting problems in other states as well, but because Florida was so close, the Dems are deliberately fanning the flames of suspicion. The GOP argument may be correct, but irrelevant really, since it doesn't change the larger point that Jeb Bush is the one Republican Democrats would love to beat in 2002.

For sure, he could use some help from his big brother in Washington; opening the Gulf of Mexico for oil exploration may not be the way to go about it. Still, despite the efforts to paint him as an ogre, he remains popular. It's the race to watch, but there's a long way to go before predicting an outcome. For all we know, the contest could be determined as much on local issues - say, water restrictions put into effect because of the drought - as on the now-famous chads and butterfly ballots.

Question: George W. Bush was governor of Texas at the same time that Jeb Bush was governor of Florida. I know that Nelson Rockefeller was governor of New York the same time his brother Winthrop was governor of Arkansas.

Are there any other examples of two brothers serving simultaneously as governors of two states? Are there any examples of siblings serving together in Congress?
– Timothy Smith, Washington, D.C.

Winthrop Rockefeller's Arkansas victory in 1966 gave the nation its first set of simultaneous gubernatorial brothers (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: The Bush and Rockefeller examples you cite are the only instances in which brothers served simultaneously as governors. The Bush brothers served together from January of 1999 until George W.'s resignation last December. Nelson and Winthrop Rockefeller ran their respective states together for a four-year period beginning in January 1967. Winthrop was elected in Arkansas for a pair of two-year terms until his 1970 defeat at the hands of Dale Bumpers (D), while Nelson led New York between 1959 and 1973.

There are far more instances of siblings serving together in Congress, including two current examples. The Hutchinsons (R) of Arkansas - Sen. Tim and Rep. Asa - have been on the Hill since 1997. Tim left his House seat to successfully run for the Senate in '96, with brother Asa succeeding him in the state's 3rd district. There's also Carl and Sander Levin (D) of Michigan. Carl is in his fourth term as senator (since '79), while Sandy has been in the House since 1983. Edward Kennedy was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts in 1962 and was joined two years later by his brother Robert in New York. They served together until Bobby's assassination in 1968.

Other examples include:

• Reps. Phil Crane and Dan Crane (both R-Ill.) served in the House together from 1979 until 1984, when Dan was defeated following his involvement with a congressional page;

• Sen. Thruston Morton (R-Ky.) and Rep. Rogers Morton (R-Md.) served together from 1963 through 1968, when Thruston retired;

• Rep. Ed Edmondson (D-Okla.) and Sen. J. Howard Edmondson (D-Okla.) served together between 1963 and '64;

• Reps. Phil Burton and John Burton (both D-Calif.) served together from 1975 through 1982;

• Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Mass.) and Rep. John Davis Lodge (R-Conn.) both came to Congress in 1947 and served together through 1950, when the latter was elected governor of Connecticut;

• Sen. John Hollis Bankhead II and Rep. William Brockman Bankhead (both D-Ala.) served together from 1931 until the latter's death in 1940.

Question: When, if ever, has there been a regular election cycle in which NO first-term House member was turned out of office in the general election? It almost happened last year, and would have if then-Rep. Steven Kuykendall (R-Calif.) had mustered a few thousand more votes in his race against Jane Harman (D).
– Nat Atkins, Mechanicsville, Va.

Answer: I absolutely love this question, but I can't give you a definitive answer. I went through every congressional cycle going back to 1900, and could find no year in which a freshman House incumbent was not defeated. If anyone knows the answer for this with certainty, please let me know!

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: junkie@washingtonpost.com

Ken Rudin, political editor at National Public Radio, is also the creator of washingtonpost.com's ScuttleButton contest.

© Copyright 2001 Ken Rudin


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