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    Bush goes door-to-door in Pinellas

    The governor tries to sway undecided voters in St. Petersburg and answers some pointed questions.

    By MIKE BRASSFIELD
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 27, 2002


    ST. PETERSBURG -- Spencer Colquitt is a Democrat on the edge. He voted for Buddy MacKay in 1998 and for Al Gore in 2000, but he can't decide whether to vote for Jeb Bush or Bill McBride on Nov. 5.

    He got a surprise Saturday afternoon when Bush showed up at his front door.

    Colquitt, a 39-year-old sales representative, stood in his driveway and discussed the issues with Bush, who sweated in the sun and sipped bottled water as he talked about education reform. He was flanked by his wife, Columba, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker.

    The governor spoke to two very different audiences Saturday during a campaign sweep through Pinellas County.

    First, he went door-to-door in a middle-class, predominantly African-American neighborhood in St. Petersburg's Pinellas Point area, looking for undecided voters to sway.

    Then he preached to the converted at a packed Republican rally at the Wagon Wheel flea market in Pinellas Park.

    At the rally, Bush handed out hundreds of hot dogs before he delivered his well-honed stump speech, highlighting his record on schools, crime and the environment.

    He received huge rounds of applause when he mentioned tough prison sentences for violent criminals, treatment for drug addicts, protecting the Everglades, preventing offshore drilling, and his plans to make reading even more of a priority in Florida schools.

    He hammered at McBride, calling his opponent's promises hopelessly vague: "He doesn't want you to know how high your taxes are going to go up."

    The audience was a bit tougher during Bush's door-to-door walk along 67th Avenue S in St. Petersburg. Neighbors asked polite but pointed questions.

    Colquitt, the sales representative and undecided voter, was still undecided when Bush left his driveway. His father was a teacher, and it worries him that Florida teachers aren't paid more. But some of Bush's answers impressed him.

    "I want to make an informed decision," Colquitt said. "But Jeb Bush came to my house to ask for my vote. Bill McBride hasn't done that."

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