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Tom Gallagher, former rival of Gov. Charlie Crist, may run for Florida CFO

TALLAHASSEE — Republican Tom Gallagher, one of Florida's most durable politicians, said Friday that he is weighing a comeback, eyeing the chief financial officer post being vacated next year by Democrat Alex Sink.

Gallagher was CFO from the job's creation as a Cabinet post in 2003 until losing the Republican primary for governor three years later to Gov. Charlie Crist.

The 65-year-old Gallagher has been dividing his time since then between Tallahassee and South Florida, running a small insurance agency and consulting.

Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, is expected to announce his candidacy for the CFO job next week. But Gallagher said that would not influence his decision to run.

"That's not how I operate," Gallagher said. "I'm just really concerned that we are losing such history and memory on the Cabinet next year. I think that could be very bad for us as a state."

Gallagher said he has no immediate timetable for making a decision.

"I've got to see if this is right for me and my family," Gallagher said.

"I've been talking to some people. And some say I should do it, and others say I must be out of my mind to even think about it."

Sink has announced her candidacy for governor and is expected to be joined in the race next week by fellow Cabinet member Bill McCollum, the Republican attorney general. Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, who is term-limited, is considering challenging McCollum in a GOP primary.

The three-person Cabinet is poised for a complete makeover next year — and with a new governor, too, since Crist is running for the U.S. Senate.

Before losing badly to Crist in the primary, Gallagher had been one of Florida's most consistent statewide vote-getters. He had served on the Cabinet as state treasurer and insurance commissioner and as education commissioner. He lost Republican primaries for governor in 1986, 1994 and 2006.

Including his time in the Legislature, Gallagher's career spans four decades of Florida politics.

Gallagher was insurance commissioner when Hurricane Andrew slammed into Florida in 1992 and also served on the Cabinet during the record 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons.

He was instrumental in creating both the state's Insurance Catastrophe Fund and Citizens Property Insurance Corp., measures that evolved following those storms.

Tom Gallagher, former rival of Gov. Charlie Crist, may run for Florida CFO 05/15/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 15, 2009 10:52pm]
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