- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 5, 2001

Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno entered the Florida gubernatorial race yesterday, a contest that could eventually pit her against President Bush's brother, Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.

Paperwork was filed in Tallahassee establishing Miss Reno's friend and adviser, Gary Barron, as her campaign treasurer. The move allows Miss Reno, 63, to raise money for her campaign.

Miss Reno, who met with reporters in front of her Miami home yesterday, said she can best serve the people of Florida by winning the governorship.

"I've spent the last three months talking to people all across Florida and I think they share my vision for Florida building the best educational system in the country, preserving our environment, managing our growth and standing up for our elders," said Miss Reno.

The announcement galvanized state Democrats, who are still angry about the presidential election, which they believe was "stolen" from them. Their ire extends to the governor.

"The Democrats are very excited about this chance to beat Jeb Bush," said state Democratic Party spokesman Tony Welch. "Things are now very different than they were a month ago, when they tried to say that the race was already over. We've now got a really solid field."

Miss Reno's first obstacle to the governor's mansion will be a September 2002 primary.

Other Democrats who have filed to run include former Vietnam Ambassador Pete Peterson, state Sen. Daryl Jones, House Minority Leader Lois Frankel and lawyer Bill McBride.

"They will have to fight it out," said Republican consultant Randy Enwright. "They will now spend the next year figuring out who their candidate will be."

Mr. Enwright, former executive director of the state's Republican Party, was hired in June by the Republican National Committee to oversee election efforts in Florida, which many now see as a harbinger of the 2004 presidential election.

Miss Reno is a Florida native who was appointed in 1978 as state attorney general for Dade County. She was elected to the office of state attorney in November 1978 and was returned to office by the voters four more times.

She served in President Clinton's Cabinet as U.S. attorney general from 1993 to 2000.

But she now carries what could be considered a liability in Republican-dominated Florida a liberal reputation. Her ties to President Clinton and her handling of Waco and the Elian Gonzalez case furthered that perception. The Elian case enraged many Cuban-Americans, who account for around 5.2 percent of the state's 16 million residents.

Those issues, while perhaps playing with voters, will not be exploited if Miss Reno wins her party's nomination, said Mr. Bush's campaign manager.

"We intend to run on the governor's record," said Karen Unger. "We will run on the issues that Florida voters care about. He will go head-to-head with the Democratic candidate when the time comes. "

Mr. Bush, 50, defeated Lt. Gov. Buddy Mckay in 1998 to become governor. He lost his first bid to become governor in 1994 to Lawton Chiles, a Democrat. He is attempting to become the first Republican governor to win re-election in Florida.

Polls have shown Miss Reno beating other Democratic candidates in the September 2002 primary but losing to Mr. Bush, who announced his re-election bid in June.

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