- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2001

Janet Renos announcement that she is considering a run for Florida governor next year has stirred the state electoral pot — and political analysts say that was the point.
Her mere interest in the race, and the possibility of a battle between surrogates for President Clinton — whom she served for eight years as attorney general — and President Bush, brother of incumbent Republican Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, have already made it the most-watched race for 2002.
"The benefit to her making this announcement is it generates national or international interest in the gubernatorial race in Florida, whether she runs or not," said state Sen. Daryl L. Jones, one of those also considering running for the Democratic nomination.
Miss Reno served 15 years as the elected prosecutor for the Miami-Dade area before joining the Clinton administration. She would be a strong candidate in a primary, given her high profile, her ready base of support in her home area and a change in the way Florida conducts primaries. She also could tap into money that other candidates couldnt.
But shell still have to contend with voters in the rest of the state who may only know her from her federal role, the Waco raid and the Elian Gonzalez raid, and analysts and pollsters say she doesnt stack up well to the incumbent governor.
"I dont know that Reno represents as strong a challenge to Bush as some others might," said J. Bradford Coker, managing director at Mason-Dixon Polling.
Mr. Coker said he hadnt done any specific polling on Miss Reno — her announcement was such a surprise that nobody had polled to gauge her support — but he and others said she would be a polarizing figure in a state where capturing the 17 percent of voters who dont belong to either party is decisive.
Miss Reno must know the odds, analysts say, so they ponder other reasons she might be floating her name.
One scenario explains her announcement as a way to push other candidates out of the field, or to encourage other strong candidates to enter the race now.
That may already be happening.
This week Douglas "Pete" Peterson, a former Florida congressman who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, then later returned to serve as ambassador, announced he is interested in a run for the nomination.
But Democrats say they take Miss Renos announcement at face value.
"Just like anybody else, I think she sees Jeb Bush being vulnerable, and she sees many of the policies that Bush has promoted are ones that shes not happy with, nor are many other Democrats," said Bob Poe, chairman of the state Democratic Party, who has spoken with Miss Reno about her announcement.
Florida doesnt have exploratory committees for state campaigns — a candidate is either in or out. So far, no Democrats have officially announced for the race, though there are at least 10 potential candidates.
The one man who Mr. Cokers poll showed leading Mr. Bush was Sen. Bob Graham, who has said he wont run.
The next closest competitor was state Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who trailed Mr. Bush but not overwhelmingly.
Democrats say one reason for the crowded field of candidates is that so many folks think Mr. Bush is vulnerable.
"A year ago, or say six months ago, everybody was saying, 'Gee, nobody wants to run against Jeb Bush. Thats not really true," said Lois J. Frankel, minority leader in the Florida House and one of those considering a run for the Democratic nomination.


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