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If Martinez won't debate Chiles, heckler will

Lawton Chiles hasn't missed a chance lately to complain that Gov. Bob Martinez is hiding from debates. How eager is Chiles to debate? He is so eager that he invited a heckler on stage with him at a Panama City, Fla., fund-raiser to duke it out _ mainly about Chiles' vote to give control of the Panama Canal to Panama.

The reporters covering the event already had left, so there are no independent witnesses to judge the outcome of the debate. But Chiles' amused staff said the former U.S. senator ate the heckler for lunch.

Chiles' college education

wasn't part of "rationing'

In another audience last week, a youth wanted to know what Chiles would do to hold down state university tuition costs "that are scaring us kids to death."

Chiles agreed that state universities have become so expensive and so crowded that it amounts to "rationing college in Florida." And entrance requirements are only getting tougher.

"I couldn't have gotten in today," said Chiles, who has undergraduate (1952) and law (1955) degrees from the University of Florida. "I would not have had an average that I could get into any of our state universities."

The University of Florida requires freshmen to have a grade-point average ranging from 2.0 to 3.0, depending on the student's scores on college entrance tests.

Chiles' campaign office didn't have a copy of his high school transcript lying around, and an aide said Chiles surely was joking. After all, he was student body president at Lakeland High School.

Chiles' serious answer was that the state needs more junior colleges and community colleges to handle the crowds. He also said that southwest Florida could use a major university and that he would like to see cost-sharing or work programs to help youths afford college.

Chiles didn't hobnob,

but he did win straw poll

If Martinez campaign officials put any stock in straw polls, they had to look at one in Orlando on Thursday and murmur, "Uh-oh."

The Greater Orlando Chamber of Commerce takes a political straw poll during its annual Hobnob at an Orlando park. Although 59 percent of those casting a ballot identified themselves as Republicans, Chiles beat Martinez, 1,223 to 992, or 55 to 45 percent.

Chamber officials boast that the Hobnob poll has been accurate in predicting winners since its inception five years ago.

In 1986, Bob Graham defeated then-U.S. Sen. Paula Hawkins in the straw poll. That surprised the Orlando crowd because Hawkins was from nearby Maitland. That same year, the Hobnob voters favored Martinez over Democrat Steve Pajcic with 70 percent of the straw poll.

Neither Martinez nor Chiles attended the Hobnob. Running mate Buddy MacKay stood in for Chiles, while Allison DeFoor, Martinez's running mate, made an impression by leading an elephant around the park.

He can run, but

can he write?

The governor's race was one of the topics on NBC's Today show Friday. And sure enough, there was the governor.

The problem was, an on-screen graphic identified him as Howard Troxler, the bow-tied Tampa Tribune columnist.

"I'm not sure which one of usshould be more insulted," Troxler opined. Troxler also was interviewed on the show.

Martinez's barb-tongued campaign manager, J.

M. "Mac" Stipanovich, retorted: "Forced to choose between Bob Martinez and Howard Troxler, I'd take the governor's approval rating any day."

For the record, the latest poll puts Martinez's rating at about 45 percent.

When he's not slinging

mud in Florida . . .

Should we resist looking ahead to 1992?

Nah.

Bob Squier, close friend, adviser and tennis partner of Graham and a winter resident of Longboat Key, has been getting a blistering from political opponents and media critics. Squier, who is credited with inventing Graham's campaign staple "work days" in 1978, is in hot water for some of his media work in Texas and Michigan.

One Squier production might be a top nominee for this season's Hall of Shame.

The ad, for Texas gubernatorial candidate Ann Richards, shows a series of damaging headlines about her Republican rival, Clayton Williams. "Lawsuits allege Williams a "Deadbeat,'

" one says. Squier deleted the part at the end that read "Richards Discloses."

Squier also has provoked backlash for ads in Michigan.

Floridians should see plenty of Squier's craftsmanship in 1992, when Graham faces re-election.

An early proponent of the political ad critiques that some newspapers have instituted, Squier is finding that the critics often pan his work.

The Washington Post "is doing 10-second analyses of 30-second spots," Squier complained to the Post recently. "There's no context. You're worse than we are."

Ouch.

Voters will be singing

"Happy Trails' after this

At least one of the issues in the agriculture commissioner's race has gotten hot. Red hot.

We're talking about brands here, pardners. Or at least the candidates are.

Republican candidate CharlesBronson started it when he saidDemocrat Bob Crawford had no qualifications in agricultural, uh, fields.

To back up his claim, Bronson, a rancher, said he has his own registered cattle brand and suggested that Crawford doesn't.

Crawford, the Senate president, responded that he does indeed have a brand for the ranching operation he manages.

But it's in another name, he said.

Just in case you see any strays out there on the campaign trail, remember that Crawford's cows are branded with a "WJ" configuration. Bronson's carry a bar-11 configuration.

And be thankful that this trail ride only lasts two more weeks.

Don't you take this

personally, George

Seen lately in the Orlando area:bumper stickers announcing, "Honk If George Stuart Owes You Money."

Stuart, the Orlando state senator and Democratic candidate for state treasurer and insurance commissioner, has acknowledged that he has bounced about 25 checks in the last year and has other personal financial problems.

The creator of the stickers hasn't identified himself, and a spokesman for Tom Gallagher, the incumbent, disavowed any knowledge of the stickers' origins.

Richard Pinsky, Gallagher's campaign manager, said he has received a couple stickers, but doesn't know where they came from. "I have not put one on my car," he said, "because I don't want to say anything personal about George Stuart."

_ Compiled by Times staff writers Ellen Debenport, Bill Moss, John D. McKinnon and Charlotte Sutton.

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