Democrat Lawton Chiles' challenge of Republican incumbent Gov. Bob Martinez picked up the support of five Florida newspapers Sunday. Nine days before Election Day, Florida Today, the Orlando Sentinel, the Pensacola News Journal, the Tallahassee Democrat and the Tampa Tribune all praised Chiles, a former three-term U.S. senator, for leadership and criticized Martinez for changing positions.
The St. Petersburg Times endorsed Chiles Oct. 21.
The Sentinel said that if Congress had listened to Chiles before his 1988 retirement, Washington would not have the kind of deficit problem it is struggling with now.
"But one legislator out of 535 cannot turn around the national government," the paper wrote. "Fortunately, one strong governor with determination can make a huge difference in Florida."
The newspaper also noted that Chiles, who has a self-imposed contribution cap of $100, has more than 58,000 contributors, compared with Martinez's 17,000.
The Sentinel blasted Martinez for not looking "any farther than tomorrow's popularity polls."
"He can switch policies to meet any contingency, satisfy any pressure group. No wonder his record often fails to match his rhetoric."
The Tribune, Martinez's hometown newspaper, did not endorse the city's former mayor, changing its 1986 position.
"Our disaffection with the governor, a son of Tampa whom we strongly supported four years ago, springs from his inability or unwillingness to tell the people of Florida about the grave needs of the state and the consequences of not meeting them," the Tribune wrote.
In contrast, the editorial praised Chiles for 18 years of "distinguished service" in the Senate.
"We are confident he will level with the people, explain to them their choices, make well-reasoned recommendations, stand fast with his agenda, base his appointments on merit and lead Florida into a new era of prosperity," the Tribune concluded.
Florida Today asked its readers to remember the question President Reagan asked voters in 1984: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"
"If the people of Florida honestly apply a similar type of measurement to the administration of Gov. Bob Martinez, they most likely will vote for Lawton Chiles for governor on Nov. 6," the Brevard County newspaper said.
The editorial criticized Martinez for a "lack of progress" on drug-related and other crimes, education, transportation, the environment and services to the state's young and old.
The Democrat saw the choice between Chiles and Martinez as clear-cut: "People vs. money. The public interest vs. private interests. That's the lineup in the Florida's governor race."
The News Journal, which endorsed Martinez four years ago, found two major faults with his record.
One was his choice for secretary of the Department of Environmental Regulation, Dale Twachtmann. The other was the fate of his 1986 anti-tax platform, which did not prevent "huge" tax increases.
The Panhandle paper wrote that it thought Chiles would be "a capable and effective leader for Florida in the 1990s."