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Chiles pounds state garnering support

Published Oct. 8, 2005

It was changes in latitudes and changes in attitudes for Lawton Chiles on Wednesday.

Heading into the stretch of his re-election campaign, Chiles held wide-ranging events in Tallahassee, the Everglades and Fort Lauderdale.

He met privately for 15 minutes with Jimmy Buffett and won a commitment of support from the Keys troubadour, manatee defender and longtime friend.

Buffett skipped a fund-raiser to attend a Miami Heat basketball game but said he will travel with Chiles the day before the election.

"Why would that be? All you got to do is just look at Jeb Bush's view of the environment," he said. "There really isn't any choice as far as I was concerned. His view is from the golf course of one of his condominiums."

Chiles exploited the power of the incumbency, riding on a state plane, a helicopter and an airboat to "rescue" starving deer in the flooded Everglades.

A noisy herd of 19 airboats skipped over the water and descended like a rodeo roundup upon the islands where starving or weakened deer had taken refuge.

Flood waters have driven the herd to high ground and many are starving from an inability to forage.

As five camera crews on nearby airboats and three more in choppers overhead made pictures, Chiles snipped a few willow branches and left them on one of the islands for the deer. Wildlife biologists say feeding the deer natural vegetation may save a few, but they expect many more to perish.

"We counted up to 50 deer as of yesterday out of 450," said Everglades regional director Dan Dunford of the Game and Fish Commission. "They are isolated on these islands and can't get off. So you can expect many more that we didn't find. The alligators found them or something else found them."

Throughout the day, Chiles was in full counterattack over Bush's ad portraying him as soft on the death penalty.

"I call it the Willie Horton repeated, so to speak," Chiles said. "An ad in which a poor woman who has lost her child is talking about us being soft on the death penalty," he told supporters in the Broward County public defender's office. "I have had to use the death penalty the same number of times as Martinez but it's not something we try to make a lot of PR on."

Later, at an outdoor fund-raiser under the canopy of two huge banyan trees at the Arizona 2400 in Fort Lauderdale, Chiles lit after Bush and the ad again.

"The best poll I've seen came out today and that's that despicable ad," he said. "That's what I call sheer desperation, sheer terror. They can feel those footsteps coming up, coming up, coming up."