In his bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Art Johnson is fighting more than Cliff Stearns. He is fighting the vice president of the United States, the law that allows congressmen to send mail for free and the entrenched system that helps incumbents consistently fight off challengers. Stearns, 49, an Ocala Republican, is concentrating on doing what he said he would in 1988, when he emerged from political obscurity to defeat former state House Speaker Jon Mills for the District 6 seat.
Stearns voted against a congressional pay raise and refused to accept it when it was granted. He has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to limit members of Congress to 12 years in office.
He has followed the lead of President Bush faithfully, although he recently departed from the administration by voting against the president's deficit-cutting budget compromise that would have raised taxes by $134-billion over five years.
His support of the president paid off recently with a campaign swing by Vice President Quayle through Stearns' hometown of Ocala.
Johnson, however, thinks Stearns' record reflects ignorance of the problems of poor people and willingness to waste taxpayers' money.
"Stearns spent about $75,000 of the taxpayers' money to inform you he voted against the pay increase," Johnson said.
Johnson says Stearns can afford to refuse the pay increase because he is one of the 35 wealthiest members of Congress.
The 45-year-old Gainesville lawyer knows he is waging an uphill battle against Stearns and has tried to campaign on high ethical standards. He has refused money from political action committees (PACs) and says he would not accept any if elected.
Stearns' campaign notes that the congressman has limited his PAC contributions to one-third of his total donations, something few congressman do.
Both candidates think they more closely represent the views of the district.
Stearns says more people stand by his staunch anti-abortion stance, his belief in a strong defense and his resistance to new taxes.
Johnson paints Stearns as a man who has never seen a new high-tech weapon he wouldn't vote for, or a bill to help poor people that he would support. He thinks most people in the district support a woman's right to choose whether to have an abortion.
The voters will decide who is right on Tuesday.
_ STEVEN DRUMMOND
U.S. House District 6 covers Hernando, Alachua, Citrus, Marion and Sumter counties and parts of Lake, Pasco and Putnam counties. The job will pay $120,000 beginning next year.
ART JOHNSON, 45, co-owns the Law Source, a Gainesville legal research and consultation company. He was born in Lawrence, Mass., and studied history at Boston University. He was in the Army two years, including service in Vietnam. He attended law school at Boston University and was a prosecutor and private-practice lawyer in Vermont. In the early 1980s, he moved to Florida, where he attended graduate school at the University of Florida and started the research business. ASSETS: Property in Gainesville, stock in legal research company. LIABILITIES: Mortgages. INCOME: Salary from legal research business, investments.
CLIFFORD "CLIFF" B. STEARNS, 49, has left the management of his Ocala-based hotel and restaurant management company to his wife, Joan, since his election in 1988. He was born in Washington, D.C., and graduated from George Washington University with a degree in electrical engineering. As a captain in the Air Force in the Space Systems Division in Los Angeles, he was project officer in the development of satellite video cameras and other communications equipment. Stearns has been a manager of Data Control Systems in Connecticut and a senior negotiator for CBS in Stamford, Conn. He moved to Ocala in 1977 and formed Stearns House, a management company that includes four motels and three restaurants in Marion and Alachua counties. Stearns lives in Ocala with his wife and their three children. ASSETS: Interests in companies, rental property, hotel and restaurant management company. LIABILITIES: Mortgages on several properties and businesses. INCOME: Congressional salary, investments, income from hotel and restaurant management company.