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Keep Tom Gallagher

Tom Gallagher, Florida's treasurer and insurance commissioner, is one of those rare politicians whose performance in office exceeded the public's low expectations. When he ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1986, Gallagher, a Republican, seemed a pretty face with little substance behind it. During two years on the Cabinet, he has proved to be a pretty face with a solid record of performance. We recommend him for a full term over Democrat George Stuart. Stuart has been a disappointment, especially in the mismanagement of his personal finances.

Gallagher's experience includes 13 years in the House of Representatives, where he represented Dade County and rose in his party to become minority whip. He was Gov. Bob Martinez's first secretary of professional regulation, a job he held a year before seeking his present one.

As insurance commissioner, Gallagher says his main concern is the solvency of the companies. He claims credit for the improved financial condition of many of the Health Maintenance Organizations in the state.

We believe the process of administering insurance rate increases would be improved if an independent public counsel argued the side of consumers, much as is done in utility rate hearings. When that proposal came before the Legislature, Gallagher was successful in defeating it. He has appointed a consumer representative to perform that job under his supervision. Whether that will work is not clear. At least Gallagher is candid about his reasons. He says he is afraid of the politics of an independent counsel, who might work to oppose the elected insurance commissioner.

Gallagher now is interested in finding a way to provide the security of long-term nursing home care to every citizen. Again, he is candid about his thinking: "If I had been in Congress when Social Security and Medicare were considered, I probably would have voted against both. I don't want to be wrong three times. I think the public is ready for long-term care and that we are at a point where we can get public support for a sound program to assure it."

If re-elected, we hope Gallagher will continue with that kind of thinking.

Opportunity to reply

The St. Petersburg Times offers candidates not recommended by its editorial board an opportunity to reply in print. Candidates in today's races who wish to take advantage of that offer should send their replies of no more than 300 words to Robert Pittman to arrive prior to 9 a.m. Oct. 26.