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Gallagher announces 4th try for governor

The state's chief financial officer offers an agenda directed at conservative voters in his bid for the GOP nomination.

By LUCY MORGAN
Published May 19, 2005


TALLAHASSEE - Tom Gallagher formally jumped into the governor's race Wednesday, bidding for the conservative base of the Republican Party with a call for more school vouchers, tax cuts, lawsuit limits and a gay marriage ban.

Gallagher, 61, announced his fourth bid for governor standing on the steps of the state Capitol with his wife, Laura, and 6-year-old son.

Trying to shed his GOP moderate image, Gallagher stressed his experience as insurance commissioner, education commissioner and chief financial officer and that his new life as a family man better equips him to lead the state now.

His son, Charlie, filed the paperwork for him to run, Gallagher said. He last ran for governor in 1994.

"The last time my hair was a little less gray," Gallagher noted. "With age comes experience, and that experience helps define me."

Once considered a playboy, Gallagher cited his time as husband and father as the "very personal reason" behind his decision to run.

"We must continue to improve our business climate, we must continue to cut taxes, we must continue to do away with unnecessary regulation and we must enact meaningful lawsuit reform," Gallagher said. "As governor I will defend the values that keep our families strong."

Gallagher is the second high-profile Republican to enter the race to succeed Gov. Jeb Bush, who must leave because of term limits. Polls put Gallagher slightly behind Attorney General Charlie Crist in the GOP race. Republican Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings has hinted at running but many political observers do not expect her to join the race.

Gallagher ran for governor in 1982, 1986 and 1994. He withdrew early the first time, was defeated in the 1986 Republican primary by Bob Martinez, who went on to become governor, and by Bush in 1994.

He served seven terms in the Florida House and has won statewide office three times.

Two longtime political friends were on hand to support Gallagher when he announced: former Rep. Peter Dunbar from Pinellas County and former Republican Secretary of State Jim Smith.

Dunbar, who managed Gallagher's 1994 campaign, praised his longtime friend for developing a deeper level of compassion and understanding.

Once a supporter of abortion rights, Gallagher now is an ardent abortion opponent. He also said he wants a state Supreme Court that will "respect the separation of powers and the rule of law." And he called for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Gallagher said he'll fight for more tax cuts, including eliminating taxes on stocks and bonds. In 1994 Gallagher pushed for a 1 percent sales tax to expand prison space and stop the early release of prison inmates.

Asked if he has shifted more to the right, Gallagher said he has always considered himself conservative.

He also praised Bush's tenure as governor and defended school vouchers. All Floridians deserve choices when faced with failing schools, he said.

"I am prepared to lead and to define my vision for Florida. We have come a long way under Gov. Jeb Bush's leadership, but the actions we take over the coming years will determine the opportunities for future generations," Gallagher said.

Responding to reporters, Gallagher said oversight of insurance after four hurricanes will not hurt his campaign.

"I think I did a great job of protecting people, keeping rates low and helping people with their claims," Gallagher said. "These were unprecedented storms, nobody expected them. People had trouble with every insurance company."

And Florida is way ahead of where it was after Hurricane Andrew devastated part of Miami-Dade County in 1992, he added.

Brett Doster, executive director for the 2004 GOP Florida presidential campaign, is Gallagher's campaign manager. He also worked on the 2000 presidential campaign and the 1994 and 1998 campaigns for Gov. Bush.

Doster said Gallagher has not decided whether he will use public campaign financing, available to statewide candidates who agree to limit contributions and cap expenditures.

Democratic candidates include U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa, state Sen. Rod Smith of Alachua and former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox.

Library research assistant Mary Mellstrom contributed to this report.

[Last modified May 19, 2005, 01:01:29]


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