MIAMI — Vice President George Bush sailed to a whopping victory in Florida, but his coattails appeared too short to help Republican Rep. Connie Mack III defeat Democratic Rep. Kenneth (Buddy) MacKay for a U.S. Senate seat.
In a controversial referendum that stirred deep resentment among Latinos, Florida voted overwhelmingly to declare English the state's official language. With more than half the ballots counted, the measure was winning 83% to 17%.
In an extremely close race for the seat of retiring Democrat Lawton Chiles, MacKay was holding a narrow lead over Mack, conservative grandson of a Baseball Hall of Famer, and ABC projected MacKay would win.
Bush became the eighth Republican presidential candidate in the last 10 elections to carry Florida, a state that Michael S. Dukakis virtually surrendered in mid-campaign.
MacKay called himself the logical successor to Chiles. The single-minded strategy of Mack was to taunt the basically moderate Democrat with ads that said "Hey, Buddy, you're liberal." The strategy was based on Bush's large lead in the Florida opinion polls, and on President Reagan's popularity here.