Saturday, September 07, 2002
Reno for Governor

The party primaries for Florida's gubernatorial election are being held this coming Tuesday. The choices in the Democratic primary are former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, lawyer Bill McBride, and Florida state representative Daryl Jones.

I'm going to vote for Reno. First and foremost, I think she'd make a better governor than Jeb Bush, I think she'd make a better governor than the other two Democratic candidates, and I think that, even with her high negatives, she'll make a better candidate than the other two Democratic candidates.

The last point is, in Democratic circles, the likely point of contention. McBride, from Tampa, has the support of Democratic leaders in much of the state, even, I think, in south Florida. He has the endorsement of the Florida Education Association. While that is taken by many as evidence for supporting him, I think it would be a great big millstone around any candidacy he might have in the general election.

There seems to be somewhat of a consensus in Florida that primary and secondary public schools need something, but what that something is very few seem to know. My gut feeling is that by-and-large, folks know that the problems with public schools start from two distinct points: One is gutting of education budgets at the federal and state levels: blame for that falls pretty much at the feet of the Republicans from Reagan and George H. W. Bush and Newt Gingrich and a sequence of Republican-controlled congresses.

The other, though, is the teachers' unions, both at the national and state levels. The teachers' unions have resisted fundamental change in primary and secondary education too often. The teachers' unions have made it difficult to remove educators who don't perform. The teachers' unions have supported an expansion of pointless educational bureaucracy.

Lots of people know how bogus the teachers' unions claims to be concerned about education are. They know that the concerns of the teachers' unions are, first, the officers of the teachers' unions, and second, the educational bureaucracy in Washington and the state capitals and the school boards. There's almost no evidence that the teachers' unions are concerned about educating tomorrow's citizens, and a broad swath of people know that.

And that means that Jeb Bush will be able to use that as a major hammer against any possible McBride campaign.

Reno, on the other hand, while making some of the same noises toward education as McBride, has something that McBride doesn't. Independence. There's little reason to believe that if the FEA tries to jerk Reno around that she'll respond with anything other than the good will she shows all, regardless of what their positions are. And if they try to jerk her around too hard, she's likely to call them on the table for it.

McBride would, instead, be in their pocket. I don't think that's a desirable position for a governor to be in, and I'm pretty sure that the Jeb Bush team would make great political mileage out of it.

I believe there are other reasons to be for Reno besides McBride's being a toady to the FEA. Those include her experience in Washington, where she demonstrated she could work with the opposition, behind the scenes, if need be, when the opposition is bashing her in public. Mc Bride is a political neophyte. There's little reason to believe he would know how the levers of government work to the degree that Reno could.

There are ample people that I respect who intend to vote for McBride. Their reason's don't convince me. While there's some reason to believe that Reno might energize the Republican base to vote for Bush, there's also reason to believe that she could energize aspects of the Democratic base that otherwise might sit out the election. The idea that she would demoralize Cracker Democrats in the Panhandle and technoDemocrats along the I-4 corridor seems specious to me, especially when you compare it to McBride's bland style which is unlikely to energize anyone. Besides, my own gut feeling is that those Cracker Democrats yapping about voting for Jeb Bush if the Dems nominate Reno are going to vote for Bush anyway.

So, if you're in Florida and going to vote in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, I encourage you to vote for Janet Reno. And should McBride win the nomination, I welcome you to watch how the Bush hardball team disembowels him between now and the primary. All this business about Bush attacking McBride backfiring on Bush by increasing McBride's likelihood of winning the primary and beating Bush in the general is a scan. The whole reason for the Bush team to attack McBride now is to get him some press and increase the chances that McBride will be the nominee. If he wins, they'll take him apart, starting with his kowtowing to the teachers' union.