The Primary Elections - STReport's Viewpoint

Florida Primary Elections: 2002 - "As I See It"


An Editorial by R. F. Mariano

Today, I see myself wondering when will this State's Politics Mature and become responsible? 'Tis a hard question to answer since it appears most political advisors and campaign managers still believe the average voter is an idiot. Better yet, when will the candidates take full responsibility for what is said and done in their campaigns?  The lies in the political ads and the vandalism perpetrated on display campaign material is abominable.  The candidates should be directly held accountable for the actions and statements of their supporters and in particular, the hot air they allow to be spread in their radio and tv advertisements.  After all, it does say "paid for & approved by"...  When is this going to be enforced by the various Ethics committees and the Elections Supervisors?  It is wrong and being allowed to occur regularly.  Once again, the Florida voters get "shortchanged". 

I've had the good fortune to become involved in a number of campaigns this year and in practically all of them the parties responsible for running the show.... have yet to take the working folks, the average guy and gal out there working hard to make ends meet and pay taxes seriously. I find this attitude incomprehensible. These are the people that make things happen. Yet they (The Campaign Managers) are seemingly oblivious to the working stiffs throughout the county. (The thinking seems to be the working people are too busy to be bothered.)

Then comes the media and radio talk show hosts.. all but a few have, time and again, clearly exhibited extreme bias. From the newspapers, TV News broadcasts, to the talk show hosts they seemingly leave a trail of battered, principles of "telling it like it is" to the listeners/viewers and have instead, apparently foisted their own likes and dislikes on the public. This appears akin to pure, blatant deception. The radio talk show hosts... again, all but a few are seen as the worst offenders, they tend to rant to an agenda designed to favor the candidate(s) the host plans to vote for. In reality, that is not fair to their listeners and sponsors. Not to mention the candidates.  These clowns put up polls that seem to default to the poll choice they prefer the user to choose.  Why not leave ALL choices blank and let the user really choose?  A shell game for sure.

Perhaps the most informative of all are the candidates themselves. Below, I'll point out a few of the perceptions I've gleaned from the various campaigns, statements, actions and personal appearances the candidates have made thus far.

Let's Begin With the Governor's Race:

We have three Democratic Candidates two of which must be taken seriously and one, in particular who is most promising. On the Republican side it's fairly obvious the incumbent, "Jeb" Bush is the only one to pay attention to. The Republican Party has a list that reads like a fairy tale out of Poe as far as candidates running against Bush in the Primary but we all know the outcome of that thing anyway.

So, let us take a look at the candidates that really matter.

Governor: The Candidates are Bill McBride, Janet Reno and "Jeb" Bush.

Bill McBride (D), a newcomer, shows the most promise in the democratic camp. McBride has earned the endorsements of political and labor groups, including Florida's powerful teachers union. Partly because of that support, McBride has raised more money than Reno and appears to be benefiting from millions of dollars in 'independent' expenditures on his behalf.

McBride is also getting a lot of support from the state's newspapers. He picked up two more major endorsements over the weekend: The Palm Beach Post and, more importantly, The Miami Herald, Reno's hometown newspaper. The Herald wrote that McBride has the "skill and vision to lead" while Reno would be a "solid caretaker as governor, though not an inspiring leader. Florida needs more than that." Having previously been backed by the Orlando Sentinel, Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times, McBride has swept the state's major editorial endorsements.

McBride was also endorsed Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, (D) Jacksonville. Brown is one of the state's three black lawmakers in Washington. "Governor Bush's education plan hasn't worked," Brown said. "We need a change in Florida. ... Bill's our best chance to change the leadership in Tallahassee." McBride faces former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and state Sen. Daryl Jones in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary. His campaign has gained significant momentum in the last sixty days and appears ultimately, to be pushing McBride toward victory in the primary. STReport recommends  you vote for McBride.

Janet Reno (D), Ex-US Attorney General most noted for the Waco Massacre in Texas and the Elian Gonzalez fiasco in Miami. Candidate Reno elects to ignore these two heavy weight factors thinking the voters will forget. Instead, she tries to portray herself as a "down home person" buzzing around the state in a little old red pickup truck and rowing a canoe in her TV ads. She's running a quirky campaign, driving around in a red pickup truck and holding dance parties. Talk about short changing the voter's intelligence and brashly trying to pull the wool over their eyes. It appears Reno has written the book on "smoke screen" politics. STReport can only see Reno as a loser.

"Jeb" Bush (R) Now Governor of Florida and brother of President George "Dubya" Bush. Convinced that voters would rise up in outrage over the machinations that put his brother in the White House, the Dems believed that Jeb was in serious jeopardy. But, it appears the Florida Chad Fiasco is not a strong issue at this time. Catherine Harris' obvious bias in the decision making process during the last election and her subsequent follies have had little if any effect on "Jeb" in this campaign.

Republicans began an advertising assault against McBride a few weeks back in hopes of discrediting the candidate and ensuring a GOP-friendly Bush-Reno match up in the fall. But Bush's ads appear to have given undecided Democratic voters and donors a reason to believe McBride is the candidate the Bush campaign fears most, and therefore, a reason to support him.

Bush apparently agrees that McBride would be his most formidable opponent this fall. The Republicans already have unleashed statewide attack ads that distort McBride's record as managing partner of Holland & Knight. In truth, McBride's record of professional and civic accomplishment in the private sector dwarfs that of Bush or anyone else on this year's ballot. However, this year's gubernatorial campaign should be about public issues, not personal resumes.

Attorney General: The Candidates to consider are Buddy Dyer (D) and Charlie Crist (R).

Buddy Dyer (D) As a legislative leader representing the minority party, Dyer has stood for principle when appropriate. However, he also has shown an ability to work with Republicans in support of important education and law-and-order initiatives. That recent experience in forging bipartisan consensus sets Dyer apart from his Democratic rivals. In the Democratic primary, state Sen. Buddy Dyer of Orlando stands out as the best choice in a strong field. Dyer, who served as Senate Democratic leader from 1997 to 2000, has the best combination of legal expertise and political skill to carry forward the work of the attorney general's office in ways that reflect the best interests of Florida citizens.

Dyer also has the legal credentials for the job. A graduate of the University of Florida College of Law, Dyer was editor-in-chief of the law review and received the highest grade on the Florida Bar Exam in 1987. He has 15 years of experience in commercial litigation and has received the highest rating for an attorney, AV, from the Martindale-Hubbell rating service.

Dyer says his top priority as attorney general would be to crack down on corporate crime, and he promises to be even more aggressive than Butterworth in targeting Medicaid fraud and civil rights violations. He also says he would avoid one of Butterworth's rare missteps -- serving as a state chairman of Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign -- by keeping his office removed from any entanglement in partisan politics. In the Democratic primary for attorney general, STReport recommends Buddy Dyer.

Charlie Crist (R), the apparent front-runner in the Republican primary for attorney general, has come under attack by an obscure group with ties to a former top state GOP official. The Alliance for Public Safety sent out mailers criticizing Crist and directed recipients to a Web site, www.cristfacts.org, that provides links to negative articles about Crist. The alliance was formed in June and lists as its registered agent John Wehrung, former political director of the Republican Party of Florida who now runs a political consulting firm with former Florida GOP head Tom Slade. The alliance's street address is the same as the Florida Professional Firefighters, a 16,500-member union that endorsed Crist opponent Locke Burt and has a link to Burt's campaign on its Web site and numerous Burt signs outside its Tallahassee headquarters.

Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Andy Michaud (D), Mary Barley (D) and David Nelson (D).

Michaud, 43, an Orlando-area veterinarian, has a strong technical background for the job. He spent part of his youth on a dairy farm and worked with cattle and horses before opening an animal hospital near Orlando. He promises to bring a sense of balance to the commissioner's duties, enhancing the consumer protection duties of the office while still promoting agriculture. And he would bring fresh ideas to the job, such as his interest in reviving the cattle industry by focusing on the quality and purity of the meat.

Michaud's criticism of the way the department has handled the citrus canker threat shows a nuanced understanding of the ag commissioner's responsibilities. Current Commissioner Charles Bronson has been an aggressive proponent of the eradication program -- which calls for the destruction of all citrus trees within 1,900 feet of an infected tree -- and he is right to protect the citrus industry from a potentially devastating disease. But Bronson's tactics have been heavy-handed, and the result has been a legal backlash that has slowed the program. Michaud would seek cooperation first. "You do not tread on constitutional rights, and you do not insult people," Michaud said. "If you don't get the people to help you, you're going to have failure."

When it comes to political organization and influential backing, Michaud may not be able to match his main rival, Mary Barley, who is best known for the successful effort, along with her late husband George Barley, to promote Everglades restoration and the unsuccessful effort to make the polluters (particularly sugar growers) pay for the cleanup. A third candidate, David Nelson, is not running a serious campaign.

Barley, 56, a wealthy developer who lives in the Keys, got off to a shaky start, switching parties and launching her campaign at the last minute. A lawsuit with the apparent backing of her Republican detractors accused Barley of letting a political consultant forge her name on a loyalty oath required of all candidates. While the suit initially appeared frivolous, Barley complicated the issue by being less than forthright about what really happened. Barley swore under oath this week that she had personally signed the oath. That ended the lawsuit, but it hasn't erased questions about her candor in this matter.

That's too bad. Barley has raised some legitimate questions about the exaggerated influence the agriculture industry has over state government, and that should be part of the debate in the general election. But she also needs to distance herself from the perception that her candidacy is a grudge match with certain agriculture interests, particularly the sugar industry. The importance of agriculture to the state of Florida is clear, not only for our economic well-being but also as a buffer to aggressive development of environmentally sensitive land. The candidate best able to raise such issues and to bring balance to the Department of Agriculture is Michaud, who will appear on the ballot as "Dr. Andy" Michaud. STReport recommends him in the Democratic primary for agriculture commissioner.

Now, to Local Scene and the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Race.......

There are two Candidates for Judge: Daniel F. Wilensky (NOP) and David M. Gooding (NOP). Neither profess any political party affiliations. (By Law)

Dan Wilensky, (25 years of legal experience) comes to the table with considerable courtroom experience, general law, criminal law, family law, mediation experience and human experience. Wilensky has had an active and highly successful Law Practice for years. He has been approved by the various Judicial Nominating Committees time and time again for appointment to Judge by the Governor. Unfortunately, both Chiles and Bush managed to appoint known cronies and fellow party members during their administrations. Not once did it appear that the governors put actual qualifications first and politics second. Now, at last for the voters, the opportunity presents itself. The voters can put the very best qualified man on the bench.

Wilensky's qualifications are far too numerous to list here so instead, we point to his Web site at www.danwilenskyforjudge.com and ask that you read the articles contained therein and see for yourself just how qualified this candidate is to be an experienced, honest, fair and well informed Judge. You, the voter, will now able to make an informed decision as to just who should be Judge. STReport chose a candidate like Dan Wilensky who is fully experienced and in tune with the times. Therefore, STReport is compelled to recommend you vote for Dan Wilensky for Judge in the Fourth Judicial Circuit.

David M. Gooding, A previous store manager for Winn-Dixie and then, after schooling, became an attorney in 1988. Gooding comes forward with a strong approach to "old values", hanging his hat on the "wonderful" judicial decisions of yesteryear. One in particular of his father's, Judge Marion Gooding, who gained some notoriety for ruling not to allow Elvis Presley to "wiggle" on stage at a Jacksonville concert years ago. Presley, for the record, went on to become the most successful entertainer in the history of the music world despite the apparent discriminatory judicial decision by Gooding's father that could possibly have harmed Presley's career.

Gooding has had his fair share of "bouts" with campaign ethics one of which, went all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. Also, it appears his family members are busy offering testimonials about and for him at political rallies and fund raisers. Both of which, are also in the questionable area as far as ethics go since a Judicial Candidate may not be affiliated with, show or display any political party preferences.

Speaking of such, this reporter was present at a Pace Rally recently where a number of local candidates and Candidate Gooding spoke. Amazingly, Gooding managed to profess his love of unloading trucks filled with cases of canned goods. (I believe that was mentioned to "warm up" to the audience which was mostly city workers) He then went on to make it perfectly clear about his political preferences when Gooding stated, "I am not allowed to say what I am (Republican or Democrat) but I assure you, I believe in "old fashioned" ideals and I am an ultra conservative (wink - wink)." Talk about skirting the rules. One can only wonder what rules of law will be skirted or how heavy handed he may be on the bench as a Judge.

This candidate seems to be living in the dusk of yesteryear, pledging to surround himself in the values found in the 1950's. We all know there is no way possible to do such and remain fair in the year 2002 and in the years to come. As such Gooding, in our editorial opinion, is not at all qualified to be a Judge.