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Lobbying group brushes up on candidates' "green votes'

A statewide lobbying group that said it wanted Florida's gubernatorial candidates to show their true colors on the environment gave the candidates some help Tuesday. Members of the Florida Public Interest Research Group (FPIRG) slapped lime-green paint onto cardboard cut-outs of Republican Gov. Bob Martinez and Democrat Lawton Chiles to indicate how environmentally conscious they thought the candidates were.

Chiles was "green up to his armpits" and Martinez was "kind of a question mark," said Athan Manuel, campaign director for FPIRG.

The non-profit group based its color coding on candidate responses to a questionnaire on five specific environmental policies.

Chiles endorsed four out of the five, Manuel said. In turn, FPIRG members colored him 80 percent green. Martinez did not respond to the survey, Manuel said, so his cardboard likeness wore a green question mark on its chest. The group brushed the colors onto the cut-outs at Tampa's Lowry Park.

The environmental policies are: A 100-mile ban on offshore oil drilling, a deposit on beer and soda containers to encourage recycling, phasing out industrial use of toxic chemicals, phasing out cancer-causing pesticides and increasing car mileage standards to 45 miles per gallon.

During a two-week "green voter" campaign, FPIRG collected post cards from 15,100 residents who said they would support candidates who endorsed the five measures.

"Both candidates definitely showed a reluctance to be pinned down on the issues," Manuel said. "They didn't want to give a yes or no answer."

Martinez's camp "told us they had more important things to do," Manuel said.

Martinez campaign manager J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich said Martinez doesn't sign pledges as a matter of principle.

"Life in government is a little more complicated," Stipanovich said. "We don't sign pledges where people grossly oversimplify issues."

The group had to badger Chiles for an answer, too, and received it just before the Friday deadline, Manuel said.

Chiles supported all but phasing out toxic chemicals in industry, Manuel said.

FPIRG also announced the responses from candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives:

4th District: Rep. Craig T. James and Democratic challenger Reid Hughes endorsed all five measures.

6th District: Rep. Cliff Stearns endorsed the oil drilling buffer zone, phasing out cancer-causing pesticides and the 45-mpg fuel standard. Democrat Art Johnson supported all five.

7th District: Rep. Sam Gibbons didn't respond. Republican challenger Charles Prout supported the oil drilling buffer zone and the 45-mpg standard.

9th District: Rep. Michael Bilirakis supported an oil drilling buffer and phasing out toxic chemicals. Democrat Cheryl Davis-Knapp endorsed all five items.

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.