ATLANTA -- Florida's incumbent Gov. Lawton Chiles coasted to a Democratic primary victory last Thursday, while Republican Jeb Bush is headed for a runoff against Secretary of State Jim Smith.
With nearly all precincts counted Friday, Chiles had bested challenger Jack Gargan, a businessman from Cedar Key, by a 72%-to- 28% margin.
Jeb Bush, son of former President Bush, led a field of five other major candidates, with 46% of the vote, but failed to win the majority necessary to be his party's standard-bearer in November. Accordingly, there will be a runoff on Oct. 4 between Bush and Smith, the second place Republican finisher.
Trailing Smith, who garnered 18% of the vote, were: Tom Gallagher, Florida's treasurer, with 13%; Ander Crenshaw, a state senator and investment banker, with 12%; and Ken Connor, a Tallahassee lawyer and antiabortion activist, with 9%.
In his primary campaign, Bush has run on a platform stressing spending cuts, no new taxes, and more money for fighting crime. The Miami businessman, who has never run for office before, served as commerce secretary under former Republican Gov. Bob Martinez.
Smith also pushed crime and government waste as his top issues. Florida's secretary of state since 1987, Smith switched parties in 1986 after losing a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Chiles has set his "priority" issues as "safe schools, safe streets, and safer communities."
Analysts said Friday that Chiles continues to be vulnerable to Republican charges that he has not sufficiently addressed the state's crime problem and failed to follow through on promises of government reform.
But they added that the incumbent has gained ground in recent polls because he urged President Clinton to intercept refugees from the Caribbean island and return them to Cuba. On Aug. 19, in a reversal of U.S. foreign policy, Clinton heeded that recommendation.
During his 33 years in state and national government, Chiles has yet to lose an election. Before becoming governor in 1991, he was a popular U.S. senator from 1973 to 1988. Before that, he served 12 years in Florida's legislature beginning in 1959.