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Florida Governor

Filing Deadline: July 17
Primary: Sept. 1
Primary Results

Nov. 4, 1998 — Political newcomer and Republican favorite Jeb Bush added one more name to the family political dynasty, defeating Democratic Lt. Gov. Kenneth H. "Buddy" MacKay. Bush won 55 percent and MacKay won 45 percent.

Issues: During the final weeks of the campaign, MacKay blasted Bush's business dealings and a recently settled lawsuit between one of Bush's former employees and a Nigerian water pump salesman. Bush dismissed the allegations in a letter to the Miami Herald.

They talked up their education plans, with MacKay focusing on reducing class size and Bush touting a plan to give money to schools or vouchers to families depending on students' test scores. They also went several rounds over fund-raising and the environment. MacKay accused Bush of taking money from Texas oil businesses, which outraged environmentalists who fear offshore drilling. Bush reminded MacKay about taking nearly $10,000 in oil contributions while running for Congress during the 1980s.

MacKay's bid suffered from Democratic infighting and a state party breach that stemmed from the ouster of Rep. Willie Logan, who was set to become the state House's first black speaker. Meanwhile, Bush reached out to traditional Democratic voters. The fight over Logan's departure sent African-American support over to Bush's camp, and polls showed him gaining support among Hispanic voters. A Jewish Journal editorial called Bush "a mensch who really cares about people."

Fund-raising: According to Sept. 30 disclosure reports, MacKay raised about $3.9 million, and Bush raised more than $7 million. President Clinton stumped for MacKay several times, including a state Democratic party fund-raiser on Oct. 29 while he was in Florida to watch Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) return to space. But Bush's fund-raising efforts outpaced MacKay, relying heavily on the connections of his father, former president George Bush, and full-capacity fund-raisers with Bush administration alumni and his brother, Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Polls: A Florida Voter poll conducted Oct. 21-25 showed Bush with 51 percent and MacKay with 43 percent – outside the 4.1 percent margin of error but closer than other October surveys. A St. Petersburg Times poll conducted at the same time showed Bush with 51 percent and MacKay with 40 percent. A poll conducted in mid-October by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research showed Bush with 51 percent and MacKay with 41 percent.

Advertising: Bush recruited Logan to appear in an ad praising Bush's work in the black community. Gov. Lawton Chiles made a pitch for MacKay, urging voters to support his "eight-year sidekick." MacKay television spots emphasized his experience and slammed Bush's stance on the issues, while Bush's radio ads attacked MacKay's 30 years in public office and emphasized MacKay-supported tax increases.

– Susan Heavey, washingtonpost.com

Susan Heavey can be reached at heaveys@washpost.com

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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