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Spot check

Published Oct. 18, 2005

Editor's note: As the race for governor builds to a climax, Florida voters are being bombarded with advertisements for the candidates. As the ads appear, they will be described and analyzed by the St. Petersburg Times.Candidate: Lawton Chiles, Democrat

Opponent: Gov. Bob Martinez, Republican incumbent

Producer of ad: Greer Margolis Mitchell & Associates of Washington, D.C.

The ad: The ad opens with Pat Adams, a teacher at Edgewood High School in Orlando, standing in front of a school building.

"We've got a crisis in education," says Ms. Adams . "Dropout rates are soaring. The lottery hasn't produced. In the last four years, our share of the general revenue for education has fallen. It's time for a change."

Then the scene switches to Chiles in an office, wearing a tie but no suit jacket. "Education is the key to our future," he says. "We're going to provide the leadership to restore general revenue funding for our schools. Lottery funds are going to enhance education, and we're going to promote control in the classroom and real accountability.

"Working together I know we can provide for the future our children deserve."

Analysis: No one will call this snoozer a negative attack ad. Straight-forward and low-key, the spot highlights education _ an apple-pie issue that most voters care about and that every politician promises to improve.

Both campaigns have aired advertisements showing the candidates with groups of people or speaking to the camera; both have used footage of the opponent's ads. This is the first time either campaign has brought an ordinary citizen on camera to make an endorsement.

The ad sustains the debate over who would do more for education. In an earlier ad, Martinez boasts that the state's education budget has grown by 56 percent under his administration, but says "more parental power" and "school-based management" are needed.

Chiles sounds a similar theme of "control in the classroom and real accountability." The ad gives no elaboration on how Chiles would achieve those vague goals.

Chiles also revives the ongoing argument about the lottery and how much it has helped education. The debate has been going on since the lottery started in January 1988. The lottery has been successful beyond expectations, but the proceeds account for only a fraction of the state's $9-billion education budget.

The Chiles campaign spent about $280,000 to buy TV time last week and expects to make a $400,000 buy this week.