Editor's note: As campaign commercials are released in the governor's race, they will be analyzed by the Times.
Candidate: Jeb Bush, Republican
Opponent: Lawton Chiles, Democrat
Producer of ad: National Media
The ad: The commercial starts with a black-and-white crime scene with a police car. A victim is being loaded into an ambulance. Then the screen dissolves to a newspaper headline showing Florida still No. 1 in crime. "We live in a state of fear. How can we afford four more years of Lawton Chiles?" the announcer says. Sirens shriek in the background. "He's released 75,000 criminals early. Signed 90 percent fewer death warrants. Spent five times more on welfare than he spent to fight crime. Now he opposes criminals serving at least 85 percent of their sentences." With a picture of Chiles on the screen, the commercial then quotes columnist Howard Troxler of the St. Petersburg Times as other newspaper headlines flash on the screen. "Newspapers say Lawton Chiles is running a "low-rent, negative campaign' and making false accusations. We can't risk four more years of Lawton Chiles."
Analysis: This is yet another commercial from Bush trying to prove that Chiles is soft on crime, and it's just as misleading as earlier ones.
The facts are these: Early releases have almost been eliminated. Executions are holding steady, about two per year, the same under Chiles as previous governors. Welfare does outstrip spending on crime if you define "welfare" the way Bush does _ any kind of social service. Bush would like for voters to think that Chiles has been dropping welfare checks from airplanes. In fact, a governor can't control the number of poor people who sign up for help, and the number soared during the recession.
Because of new prisons and changes in sentencing guidelines, inmates will be serving 60 to 80 percent of their sentences by next year. Chiles doesn't want to push the percentage to 85 percent for all inmates because he says it would cost another $1-billion.