There's one thing
guaranteed Tuesday in the Republican primary for
governor of Florida: For the first time since 1990, the
winner won't be Jeb Bush.
Voters heading to the polls have a clear choice
in their candidates. Atty. Gen. Charlie Crist ran as
someone who champions consumer causes and Bush's
policies, at least when it came to crime, taxes, and education.
Chief financial officer Tom Gallagher positioned
himself to come across almost exactly the same as Bush
all the way down the line, abandoning the more
moderate stance he had on social issues the last time
he ran for governor, now espousing far-right
positions opposing all abortions, same-sex marriage,
adoption by gays, and stem-cell research. He also
promised to outlaw billboards for adult businesses like
Crist, the candidate who was the favorite going
into primary day, wasn't afraid to step out of line
with the governor on some issues, criticizing Bush's
decision to intervene in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case
and saying that he wouldn't try to change the class
size limits that the governor tried and failed to put
back on the ballot.
Crist and Gallagher were both familiar to voters.
Gallagher was first elected to the state house
in 1974 and served for 12 years. He was also elected
as education commissioner and won three
treasurer-insurance commissioner races before
becoming the state's first elected CEO in 2002. He
also ran in the Republican primary for governor in
1994 and 1986.
Crist served in the state senate from 1992 to
1998, before challenging then-senator Bob Graham.
Crist lost badly but built a statewide base. He used
that support to win elections for education commissioner in
2000 and attorney general in 2002.
The campaign started out on friendly terms, both
candidates largely heaping praise on Bush's education
and economic policies and vowing to continue in his tradition.
It wasn't until late in the race, when Gallagher
started slipping in the polls, that the primary got
tense. Gallagher attacked Crist for not committing to
supporting a ban on abortion and compared him to Democratic
National Committee chairman Howard Dean because Crist said
he had a "live and let live" attitude toward civil
unions for same-sex couples.
Gallagher also criticized Crist for saying he
wouldn't try to put the class size limits voters
approved in 2002 back on the ballot and for not
campaigning with him and Bush against South Florida
referendums that eventually led to slot machines being
approved in Broward County pari-mutuels.
Gallagher also tried to show he was stronger on
policy than Crist, rolling out proposals on issues
like public safety and education months before most
people were paying attention to the race.
Crist took a different approach. He used his
personal appeal while campaigning. He approached
nearly everyone he could, often interrupting
conversations with white-collar supporters to greet
waitresses, doormen, security guards, and kitchen help.
He would lock eyes, keep an extended grip on his
handshake while placing his left hand on a shoulder or
forearm, and literally ask for a vote. He constantly
handed out bumper stickers and often asked if he could
"Crist-en" cars by personally applying one. Many car owners agreed.
But he too eventually acknowledged Gallagher's
criticism and fought back, calling Gallagher "Taxing
Tom" for supporting a 1% increase in the state sales
tax in 1994. He also pointed out that Gallagher attacked
Bush when running against him that year, particularly noting
a television ad in which Gallagher made the case that
Bush's position on foreign trade benefited Cuban
dictator Fidel Castro.
Bush won the Republican nomination for governor
in 1994, before narrowly losing to incumbent governor
Lawton Chiles. He then earned the governor's seat in
1998 and easily defeated Bill McBride to become the state's
first Republican governor to win reelection. (AP)