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A fair day for politics // Governor's luncheon settles on 'quality of life' issues

Even a gubernatorial campaign must come to a momentary halt when little girls can't decide what to do at the Florida State Fair. Ringed by constituents, Gov. Bob Martinez leaned solicitously over his 3 1/2-year-old twin granddaughters, Lydia and Emily Keen, when they were torn between riding in circles in rockets or riding in circles in cars Tuesday.

"I bet the governor doesn't have such tough decisions to make," called out one onlooker.

"You're right," Martinez responded with a big grin.

The girls quickly settled on the cars, and grandpa went back to shaking hands, signing autographs and trying to look his political best in the hot afternoon sun.

Lydia, Emily and about 1,200 other people had to get through a lengthy Annual Governor's Luncheon before they could get to the fun stuff, however. Politicians, lawyers and businessmen munched on roast beef, chuckled at the homespun humor of Fair Authority Chairman Doyle Carlton and cheered for the governor.

Following the theme set by his new TV commercials, Martinez focused on what he called "quality of life" issues in his luncheon speech.

The governor, whose popularity has been slipping, drew his biggest applause when he reiterated his pledge to seek the death penalty for major drug traffickers.

He also emphasized environmental issues.

He praised Jim Urbanski, vice president and general manager of the Tampa Tribune, who was named Tampa citizen of the year by the Civitans. And he applauded the Rev. Milton H. Clark for his work with a program to help find adoptive parents for black children.

But Martinez didn't utter a word about growth management, something that's been giving heartburn to Hillsborough business people. They're worried that the boom years will bust if they can't develop where roads and other infrastructure aren't adequate.

Asked if his budget, due to be unveiled Thursday, contains any money for new roads and other demands of growth management, the governor replied that local governments have the option of sales tax at their disposal. Hillsborough voters turned down the tax at the polls last year.

"Here comes the tax man!" shouted one man as Martinez walked by.

Martinez and his granddaughters rode around in a Flintmobile, a model of the vehicle that cartoon character Fred Flintstone drove.

Ever the politician, Martinez declined to say what he likes best about the fair, which he's attended since he was a child.

"I like the whole environment," he said before dashing off in pursuit of his granddaughters.