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Published Oct. 18, 2005

The St. Petersburg Times offers candidates not recommended by its editorial board an opportunity to reply in print. Here are more of those replies. Jim Minter, Democratic candidate for secretary of state

"This race between Republican Jim Smith and Democrat Jim Minter is one between an experienced Tallahassee insider and a former journalist with good ideas and an excellent platform. If Minter could put into place the progressive election reforms he proposes, he would be an easy choice," the Times wrote in endorsing Smith.

So here's why Jim Minter is the "easy choice."

The Legislature has not passed even the mildest election reforms Smith proposes. And Smith is still waffling on what he wants. Early this month he told the Miami Herald he now joined me in calling for a ban on corporate and PAC donations and now advocated a $1,000 contribution limit for statewide races. (I say no more than $250).

The truth is that Smith hasn't done the job, doesn't know what he wants to do and obviously doesn't want to do very much anyway.

On the other hand, I pledge to lead a constitutional initiative petition drive to place my very specific, hardball campaign finance proposals on the ballot by November 1992.

Only that kind of "gun to the head" will move our money-hungry lawmakers to do anything real and substantial.

Calling Smith "the George Bush of Florida politics," the Times cites the long list of public jobs he has held and urges forgiveness for the "crass political deal" that made him secretary of state.

Faint praises.

The staff experience I've had with legislative, cabinet and executive agencies matches, if not outweighs, the experience Smith had when he first became a Cabinet member.

His environmental record weakens year by year. The Florida League of Conservation Voters, after an in-depth record check and interview, endorsed Jim Minter over Jim Smith.

He takes money he says should be banned. I don't.

If Smith is the George Bush of election reform, Jim Minter is the George Patton.

George Stuart, Democratic candidate for state insurance commissioner/treasurer

I read with interest your lukewarm endorsement of incumbent Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher for re-election which noted the public's low expectation of his role as insurance commissioner, and properly called on him to support serious insurance reforms, including an independent public counsel and long-term care for our elderly.

However, I don't agree that we should gamble on Mr. Gallagher's track record to meet these bold challenges. We need an insurance commissioner committed to fundamental changes in the system of insurance in Florida.

This campaign offers the voters a clear choice:

George Stuart does not accept campaign contributions from the insurance interests he is supposed to regulate. Gallagher has accepted nearly $500,000 from insurance companies and insurance-related interests. We must also stop the revolving door between the insurance industry and the insurance commissioner's office.

George Stuart has fought for an independent public counsel to represent consumers in rate cases. Gallagher opposes such a counsel.

George Stuart supports full public hearings on all insurance rate increase requests. Gallagher says it's "impractical" because there are so many. Maybe if the public had a voice, the number of requests would drop drastically.

George Stuart asked the Legislature for prior approval authority of all insurance rate increases. Gallagher supports the system, which allows companies to implement rate increases before they're reviewed by the Department.

George Stuart supports universal health insurance modeled on the current employer-based system, with a dramatically strengthened Health Care Cost Containment Board and tough new rules under which to operate. Gallagher makes vague claims about long-term nursing care, offering no specifics.

George Stuart will put the interests of Florida's consumers ahead of the profits of big insurance companies.

It's time to lift your expectations by voting for George Stuart for insurance commissioner/treasurer of Florida.

Charles Bronson, Republican candidate for state agriculture commissioner

First I would like to thank the St. Petersburg Times for its recommendation of my candidacy in 1986 and again in this year's Republican primary. These recommendations made something very clear: The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is in need of new ideas and new leadership, not the same old Tallahassee mentality. I believe my candidacy offers these new ideas and will bring the quality of leadership that has been seriously lacking in Tallahassee.

I feel, however, it is also necessary for me to address some statements made by the Times in its recent recommendation of my opponent. For example, the Times stated that my opponent has put together a carefully thought-out plan for the department. If you would carefully look at the record from 1986 and again this year, you will find that I have been talking about virtually all the issues the Times credits my opponent for engineering. I have been a strong advocate for tougher food inspection on imports for many years, for strengthening consumer protection measures, and have always supported streamlining the Department of Agriculture.

Finally, I must express my shock in the Times' mentioning my opponent's work for government in the "sunshine," and the failure to mention that my opponent was responsible, in large part, for the fact that the ethics bill failed to pass in the last session. The state of Florida has been in desperate need of ethics reform, as stories in your paper as well as many others across the state have shown.