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    Activist running without a party

    Bob Kunst is on the ballot, but his campaign has only about $16,000 to compete with Bush and McBride.

    Compiled from Times wires
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 24, 2002


    MIAMI -- Gubernatorial candidate Bob Kunst sleeps in his car and showers at the YMCA while he travels through the state.

    But the political activist, who gained prominence in the late 1970s for combating the antigay movement promoted by singer Anita Bryant, has accomplished one thing Janet Reno didn't: getting his name on the November ballot for governor.

    All Kunst had to do was pay the $4,806.84 qualifying fee to ensure that his name will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot along with Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and Democratic challenger Bill McBride . He's running as an unaffiliated candidate.

    The registered Democrat pulled out of the Sept. 10 primary in July and chose to go it alone.

    "The Democratic Party is too passive and won't fight back. They won't defend Florida or the public," Kunst said. "Vote for me to protest the Democratic and the Republican parties and show them you've had enough."

    Though Kunst barely registers 1 percent in the polls as a no-party candidate, he could be the Democratic spoiler come Election Day -- much like consumer advocate Ralph Nader was in Florida's cliffhanger presidential election in 2000.

    Nader got 97,488 votes in Florida; George W. Bush outpolled Al Gore in the state by just 537 votes, giving Bush the electoral vote total needed to win nationally.

    "Bob Kunst may be insignificant as a challenger but his insignificance makes him significant in a close race," said Dean Tarantalis, president of the Dolphin Democratic Club in Broward County, which like most gay and lesbian organizations in the state, is supporting McBride.

    "He will draw votes away from Bill McBride , and to the extent that it will be a close race, he will hurt the Democratic Party."

    McBride spokesman Alan Stonecipher acknowledges Kunst as a remote threat.

    "Conceivably even one-tenth of 1 percent could make a difference in a tight race. We saw that with Nader," Stonecipher said.

    Kunst staged a protest recently in downtown Miami. Campaigning by himself, as usual, he handed out fliers to commuters and offered them stickers.

    Kunst said he's held more than 400 protests across the state in the past two years, despite severe financial limitations. His 1993 Buick Park Avenue has logged more than 100,000 miles since, and the car is filled to the windows with campaign stickers, fliers and posters drawn in marker.

    Born and raised in Miami Beach, Kunst, 60, tried unsuccessfully to foil an antigay campaign by Bryant and the Rev. Jerry Falwell in the late 1970s.

    He ran for governor against Bob Graham in 1982, advocating legalizing marijuana and prostitution -- stances he still supports. Kunst got 61,000 votes with a $5,000 campaign budget.

    Now with nearly $16,000 in his war chest, Kunst has a new message: The problems that plagued the last two major elections in Florida need to be fixed. He advocates that every Florida county use paper ballots and scrap touch screen computers.

    Kunst's running mate is Linda Miklowitz, president of the National Organization for Women's Tallahassee chapter.

    A lawyer and married mother of two teenagers, Miklowitz said she agreed to run with Kunst because he's energetic and she agrees with most of his ideas.

    She is frustrated, she said, by their exclusion from the gubernatorial debates that have been broadcast statewide.

    "We would inject some real choice," Miklowitz said. "There is really not much choice between Bush and, as we like to call him, McBush."

    -- Information from the Associated Press and Knight Ridder Newspapers was used in this report.

    Robert 'Bob' P. Kunst

    Born: July 10, 1942, in Miami Beach.

    Education: Has no degree; attended the University of Miami, New York University, City College of New York and Harvard University.

    Experience: Political, gay rights and social activist. Works in sales and marketing.

    Family: Lives with Marvin Logan.

    Party: Unaffiliated.

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