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Bush team sizes up two Floridians

By Times staff and wire reports

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2000

Two longtime members of Florida's congressional delegation gathered some attention Thursday as possible contenders for jobs in President-elect George W. Bush's administration.

Retiring U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, who was defeated in this year's U.S. Senate race, confirmed that he visited the Bush-Cheney transition office Tuesday in McLean, Va. He talked with Clay Roberts, who is screening job applicants for the new administration.

The meeting was an informal greeting session, not an interview for any specific position, McCollum said Thursday. He and Roberts discussed potential administration jobs that might suit McCollum's interests and background, but McCollum declined to say which.

The Longwood Republican confirmed, however, that the post of "drug czar," overseeing the White House's efforts against illegal drugs, came up in the discussion. As head of the House Judiciary crime subcommittee and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, McCollum has worked on drug interdiction and policy issues in Congress.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that U.S. Rep. Tillie Fowler, a Republican who has represented the Jacksonville area since 1992, was being championed by Florida Republicans for secretary of the Navy.

"It would be an excellent fit," said Ander Crenshaw, who was elected to succeed Fowler in Congress. "I think she's so well respected for her service on the Armed Services Committee, she'd be an outstanding choice."

Fowler's district includes Mayport Naval Station and a Marine Corps facility, and some in northeast Florida fear her departure from Congress could hurt the area. She was credited with helping save area bases from closure in the last decade.

"We're a big Navy town," said Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney. "Clearly, we'd love someone in the Department of Defense that takes care of us."

The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville reported Thursday that Fowler was on a short list for the post, along with Navy veteran and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach.

Another outgoing member of Congress, Rep. Steven Kuykendall, R-Calif., a Marine Corps veteran, also has made his interest in the top Navy job known.

Fowler couldn't be reached for comment. She is retiring this year to honor a term limits pledge.

In another development, Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan told the Stuart News that it was unlikely he would become the next U.S. secretary of education.

"I'm staying," said Brogan, who had been touted by Gov. Jeb Bush earlier this week.

"I haven't spoken to anyone from the Bush team or the transition team," Brogan said. "The governor has, but I have not."

Political circles are abuzz with names of would-be Cabinet officials, but -- as Brogan's potential candidacy showed -- the nominees to the new administration still are uncertain.

For his part, McCollum emphasized that there were no job offers made or discussed. "I don't think they're ready to get serious" on naming a drug czar yet, McCollum said.

"I'm exploring a lot of options, both in the public and private sector," McCollum said.

He said he has spoken with law firms in Orlando and Washington as well as with trade associations. A senior member of the House Banking and Judiciary committees, McCollum is likely to find a private sector job in finance or law.

He said his search for new employment is in the preliminary stages. "When you ran a race for the Senate like I did, you didn't focus on leaving Congress," said McCollum, who was first elected to Congress in 1980.

- Times staff writer Mary Jacoby contributed to this report.

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