TALLAHASSEE — As an independent candidate for governor, Lawton "Bud" Chiles railed against the corrupting influence of special interest cash. Out of the race, he's supporting an establishment figure: Democrat Alex Sink.
At a joint press conference Thursday in Tallahassee, the pair said they agree on most matters and that Chiles will help on the campaign trail as Sink faces Republican Rick Scott.
"She and I are in synch on most of the things that are important," Chiles said.
Sink cited common goals on ethics reform, renewable energy and children's issues.
"You and I share a deep love for Florida because we know our state is at a crossroads," she said.
It is unclear what Chiles will do on Sink's campaign, but he said he "would be delighted" to help any way he could.
Both denied that Sink had offered Chiles a job in her administration in exchange for dropping out. Chiles said, "I have no idea whether that will come together or not." Sink said she "absolutely" did not offer him a job because "I just don't think it's appropriate."
Chiles, who had been steadily declining in the polls, said a lack of funding hampered his bid. He added: "Alex, I feel, has been in the last three months a much more clear, bold voice for the changes that need to happen in Florida."
In June, Chiles had criticized all of the candidates as uninspiring.
The pair danced around the issue of campaign funding. Chiles limited donations to $250 and banned political committee cash. Last week, he derided the system as tantamount to legal money laundering.
Sink has amassed a $4.6 million campaign war chest, including scores of contributions from special interests. And she has not ruled out using outside help such as political groups known as 527s.
"If my campaign decides to set up a 527, then the contributions will be fully transparent," Sink said.
The timing of Chiles' decision to withdraw was key given that county election officials begin printing ballots this week. In his formal letter to the Division of Elections, he said he wanted to "ensure my name is not included on the ballot," easing fears of some Democrats that he would attract voters away from Sink.
The decision also came only a few days after Chiles traveled to New York to talk with the Clinton Foundation about a humanitarian project in Haiti. Chiles is working with Goodwill Industries-Manasota Inc.
Chiles met with former President Bill Clinton's foreign affairs director to identify potential funding for a $3.5 million grant to open Goodwill stores in Haiti and create 400 jobs. No grant has been issued.
Chiles, who visited Haiti several times before he entered the governor's race, said the weekend's trip was completely separate from his political activities.
"It's something I've been working on for a long time," he said.
Times/Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report. Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.