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    Bush to run again

    The governor makes the decision after a weekend at Camp David with family members. He may face a tough campaign.


    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 8, 2001

    TALLAHASSEE -- After months of consideration, Gov. Jeb Bush has decided he will seek re-election next year.

    Friends said Bush has yet to schedule a formal announcement, open a campaign account or put together a campaign staff, but he will begin to answer questions about his decision today.

    Bush made the final decision Wednesday night, a few days after a weekend at Camp David with family members. Bush and his wife, Columba, joined his brother, President Bush, their parents and other family members last weekend for a family reunion at the presidential retreat in Maryland. He returned to Florida on Air Force One with his brother for appearances in the Everglades and a rally in Tampa.

    Although most of the state's Republicans have long expected Bush to seek a second term, some had questioned whether the bitterness of last year's presidential election might make him decide to return to private life. But Bush has always said being governor is the best job he has ever had and repeatedly tells people how much he loves the work.

    Friends say Bush had some doubts in the wake of some of the publicity that questioned his marital fidelity and cast an unwelcome spotlight on his wife.

    In mid-May, Bush took the highly unusual step of publicly denying rumors of an extramarital affair, saying he believed the rumors were "political in nature." He said he has always been faithful to his wife of 28 years. The rumors began circulating during the presidential recount but were not published until, a Web site operated by Democrats angered over the election recount, put the rumors in writing on May 7.

    Mrs. Bush has long supported a re-election bid, as did other family members.

    Bush, 48, is likely to face a tough battle in a state where many expected the popular governor to face easy sailing for a second term.

    * * *

    Democrats, angered by the bitter presidential election recount that helped his brother win the presidency, have vowed to defeat him.

    Several Democrats are considering the race. They include former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno; former U.S. Rep. Pete Peterson, who is stepping down as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam; Tampa lawyer Bill McBride; and House Minority Leader Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach.

    Whoever runs, the race is likely to be the focus of a lot of national attention because Democrats see it as their first chance to get even with the Republican who won the presidency.

    Bush also faces opposition from many black Floridians who are angry at his move to replace affirmative action in state contracting and college admissions. Bush initiated his "One Florida" program at a time when Californian Ward Connerly was pushing a voter referendum to end affirmative action.

    Recently, Bush angered state employee unions with a plan that makes it easier to fire state workers.

    But the governor remains highly popular with the average voter in Florida. In appearances across the state, he attracts warm, friendly crowds that want his autograph and urge him to pose for pictures.

    For months Bush has told supporters he would make a decision in June after he finished dealing with legislative issues. Today, when he gets the usual question during a press availability in Miami, he is prepared to say he has made up his mind.

    Friends say Bush wanted to make the first acknowledgement of the decision in Miami, his adopted hometown. He'll do that at Coral Park Elementary School, a facility that has dramatically increased its overall scores on the FCAT tests that are a hallmark of the governor's efforts to improve public school education.

    A more formal campaign announcement will be made once the governor opens a campaign account and appoints a campaign staff. His running mate will be Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan.

    Bush initially ran for governor in 1994 but was narrowly defeated by Gov. Lawton Chiles. He came back in 1998 and overwhelmingly defeated Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay.

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