The candidates for governor aired all of Florida's dirty linen in a televised debate Tuesday night and blamed the mess on each other. Democrat Lawton Chiles, a former U.S. senator, said the problems are the result of a governor who fibbed about raising taxes and has the political convictions of a weather vane.
Republican Gov. Bob Martinez said he has spent four years undoing the damage wrought by Washington insiders like Chiles and his liberal buddies in Congress.
Martinez called Chiles a "Washington insider" seven or eight times in the debate _ the only debate to which Martinez agreed before the Nov. 6 election. Chiles made seven or eight demands for more debates.
Amidst the squabbling, they managed to talk about crime, taxes, the environment and abortion. They also criticized each other's campaign style and, in doing so, attacked each other's character.
Martinez is negative and hasn't been truthful with the people, said Chiles. Chiles is burned out and probably doesn't have the energy to be governor, said Martinez.
"You walked away. You left 18 years of service behind," Martinez said, referring to Chiles' decision in 1988 not to seek a fourth term in the Senate. "You couldn't cope with a budget that couldn't balance. Now you want to ask for a job that's full-time. Twenty-four hours a day. You walked away from one that's part-time. You campaign part-time on top of that."
But Chiles, who came out swinging in this debate, said his obvious energy ought to belie any concerns people have about his health or his need for the anti-depressant drug Prozac.
"I'm the guy that _ I've taken those drugs," he said, half-ducking behind the podium in mock horror. "Maybe (I'm) not strong enough to make it through the four years."
Then he turned to Martinez and practically shouted: "Strong enough, by golly, to want to stand here and talk to you about what we ought to be doing about this state. Because I love this state."
The debate in Orlando was sponsored by CBS network affiliates, and television journalists asked the questions.
Although the answers were limited to 90 seconds, the debate provided an overview of what the candidates have been saying on the campaign trail for months, both about their specific proposals and about each other.
On taxes: Hugh Smith of WTVT-Ch. 13 in Tampa asked Chiles and Martinez whether they were promising no new taxes.
"No sir, I'm not," said Chiles. "And I hope that anybody out there that's listening is not going to be fooled again."
Martinez, Chiles said, promised not to raise taxes and then presided over two tax increases amounting to $3.8-billion. Although Chiles has said in the past that he believes more tax increases are inevitable in the near future, he said, "I want to find out what he's done with the $3.8-billion that we've raised before we spend any more money."
Martinez hasn't promised no new taxes either, and said he wouldn't apologize for raising revenues to meet the needs of Florida. He said _ repeatedly _ that Chiles failed to prove any fiscal responsibility while he was chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
"He's never balanced a budget in his life," Martinez said. "I've been in office 10 years and I've balanced every one of my budgets."
(The Florida Constitution requires a balanced budget and does not allow deficits like the federal budget.)
On crime and prisons: Chiles outlined his proposal to build more prison beds, as Martinez has, but to combine that with better education, job training and drug treatment for inmates. "They should not get "gain time' for sitting around and watching television," he said. He wants work camps in counties and programs to keep first-time drug offenders off drugs and away from crime.
Martinez sneered at Chiles and his "liberal buddies. You fellas always believe that bad people ought to have another chance at the expense of people."
Martinez said he had to double the number of prison beds because previous Democratic governors neglected to do so. He said many of the programs Chiles talks about are already in place.
"If you've done such a great job," Chiles countered, "how come we're still number one in crime? How come we're number one in escapes? It seems like to me we aren't doing something right if a Donald Dillbeck can get out of prison and kill somebody."
(Dillbeck, an inmate working a catering job, escaped and was accused of killing a woman at the Tallahassee Mall in June.)
On abortion: Martinez confirmed that he opposes legal abortion, and Chiles repeated his familiar statement that women should be trusted to make the decision without consulting their legislators.
Then each man said the other had flip-flopped on the issue.
Martinez noted that Chiles voted for a constitutional amendment in 1983 that would have overturned Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
"He comes back home to Florida, gets involved in a political campaign and he changes. He leaves that conviction behind," Martinez said. "I'm saying to you, Lawton, you're not pro-choice. You're multiple choice."
The audience laughed, and so did Chiles.
"Bobby, I love that," Chiles said. "Because when I first met you, you were a labor negotiator and I was trying to keep you from taking the teachers out on strike. And you were pro-choice."
Martinez did lead teachers on strike in 1968, when he was executive director of the Hillsborough County Teachers Association. He also argued in 1975 that the teachers' medical insurance should cover abortion, but he said last year the action didn't mean he supported abortion personally.
On campaigning: Chiles said Martinez is running a campaign of negative 30-second commercials that distort Chiles' record. And he wouldn't let up about the debates.
"I want to tell you, if I'd been governor of this state for four years, I'd have enough pride to be willing to stand with my opponent," Chiles said.
Martinez said Chiles had run a campaign of hypocrisy. It was supposed to be low-budget with no consultants and no television, according to Martinez. In fact, Chiles has raised $4-million to Martinez's $10.2-million. Chiles has brought in people to make commercials and take polls at the urging of running mate Buddy MacKay. But Chiles never said he wouldn't use television. He only said he doubted he could afford it because of his $100 limit on campaign contributions.