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THE NATION

Florida Governor's Contest Tops Slate of Key Primaries

September 10, 2002|From Associated Press

MIAMI — Janet Reno made a last-minute pitch to voters Monday as she tried to stop political novice Bill McBride from pulling off a major upset in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor of Florida.

The winner of today's primary will face first-term Republican Gov. Jeb Bush in November.

In all, 12 states will select candidates for governor, House and Senate on the busiest day of the election season yet.

McBride, a Tampa lawyer, went from obscurity in January to a dead heat in the polls against former President Clinton's attorney general.

McBride has been more successful raising money and has bought more television time than his opponent. He also gained a reputation of being the candidate Bush least wants to face; Republicans have spent millions of dollars on ads attacking McBride.

Although Reno has high name recognition, many Democrats fear she cannot beat Bush, who is unopposed in the primary.

Reno spent Monday wrapping up her second pickup-truck tour of the state and trying to push aside doubts about her ability to win today and in November.

Besides the Florida contest, there are races in New Hampshire, Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

In North Carolina, the Senate seat held for 30 years by retiring Republican Jesse Helms drew crowded primaries, with Elizabeth Hanford Dole leading seven candidates for the GOP nomination and former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles among nine Democrats.

The New York governor's race simmered down last week when Andrew Cuomo dropped out of the Democratic primary, clearing the way for state Comptroller H. Carl McCall to take on Republican Gov. George Pataki this fall.

In Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony Williams was dropped from the Democratic primary ballot because of petition irregularities. He is running as a write-in candidate, as is his chief opponent, the Rev. Willie Wilson. In Providence, R.I., four Democrats are vying for the nomination to replace ousted Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci Jr., who was sentenced to prison last week for corruption.

Several House seats also drew attention, including a bid by former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris for a safely GOP House seat, and Kennedy cousin Mark Shriver's run for the Democratic nomination to challenge eight-term GOP Rep. Constance A. Morella in Maryland.

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