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Logan steps into Senate race as an independent


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 30, 1999

TALLAHASSEE -- Armed with the media consultant who helped put Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura in office, state Rep. Willie Logan on Wednesday jumped into the race for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Connie Mack.

Logan, a black Opa-locka Democrat who was tossed out of a leadership role by white Democrats in the House, will run without a party affiliation, a move that will put him on the general election ballot without having to go through a party primary.

"What I have learned in my years of public service has taught me to think independent," Logan said. "I have come to realize that it is in the best interests of the people I represent to get out from under partisan political games, consider each issue on its own merits and then do what is right for the people of Florida -- not what one political party or the other wants me to do."

The appearance of a well-financed, fairly well-known candidate running as an independent is a first for Florida voters. He would be the first black person elected statewide since the Reconstruction in Florida.

Logan, a House member since 1982, created an exploratory committee to look at the race last May. Logan said he planned to raise $100,000 to explore the race, but raised twice as much.

Logan said most of his initial money comes from South Florida friends and family and "a lobbyist or two" like Ronnie Book, a Miami lobbyist who represents dozens of clients, including Republican businessman H. Wayne Huizenga. Logan said he expected to raise $2-million to $5-million for the race.

Logan's entry into the race could have the most negative impact on the candidacy of Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson, the leading Democrat in the race. U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum and Education Commissioner Tom Gallagher are expected to seek the Republican nomination.

The Florida Voter poll, released in July, showed Nelson beating McCollum whether Logan is in or out of the race. It showed Logan getting 5 percentage points.

Charles Whitehead, chairman of the Democratic Party, said Logan called him Tuesday night to tell him he was running and wanted him to know that he would not spend time bashing Republicans or Democrats.

"I told him that I see us being friends when this is over," Whitehead said. "I don't ever intend to make demeaning or derogatory remarks about Willie."

Florida Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas said he was one of the few Republicans not celebrating Logan's entry into the race. He said much of Logan's money could come from Republicans, and he would prefer to see that money earmarked for the Republican candidate.

"I don't know what the end game will be," Cardenas said of Logan's impact on the general election. "I would just as soon leave it at one-on-one."

On Wednesday, the major candidates in the race were not saying anything bad about Logan.

"Willie Logan has been my friend for 12 years," Nelson said. "Him being in this Senate race is not going to change that."

U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, D-Miami, said she wished Logan had run as a Democrat. Meek said she would support the party's nominee and said she thought most black voters in Florida would do the same.

Logan announced his candidacy during stops in Tallahassee, Tampa and Miami. He was joined by his wife, Lyra, his children and his mother, Ruth Logan, as he spoke. Three Miami businessmen wearing Logan campaign buttons also accompanied him: Stuart Meyers and Jorge Lopez of the Cornerstone Group, low-income housing developers in South Florida; and Alicio Pina, a Miami land investor and lawyer who earned his law degree in the United States after arriving as a Mariel refugee from Cuba in 1981.

Logan already has established a campaign site on the Internet: The site offers "Logangear" for sale, urges supporters to join "Logan's heros" and promotes a live chat that Logan will conduct at 3 p.m. Friday.

Also accompanying Logan was Bill Hillsman, president of North Woods Advertising in Minneapolis. Hillsman is credited with masterminding the low-budget, innovative advertising campaigns that helped elect Ventura and Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone.

-- Researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.

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