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Democrats target Bush with TV ads

The governor says the ads accusing him of favoring the rich while cutting services are "plain wrong."

Florida's Democrats are getting a head start on the 2002 election with a series of television ads denouncing Gov. Jeb Bush.

Bush doesn't like anything about the ads _ even his photograph, which is the centerpiece.

The latest ad accuses Bush of squandering a $1-billion surplus and cutting taxes for millionaires while cutting services to the elderly, the poor and children.

The new ad begins with a framed black-and-white picture of Bush in the center. The picture gradually falls out of the frame as a voice accuses the governor of squandering money and cutting service to Floridians.

"They are wrong, just plain wrong," Bush told reporters Monday. "It is the same scare tactic they've been using with varying degrees of success for years as they try to worry the state's elder voters."

Bush said the ads ignore the support of 90 percent of the Democrats in the Legislature for the tax cuts approved during the past two years. He also said the state has increased funding for education, health and human services, care of the elderly, child care, and environmental protection and created a reserve that is approaching $3-billion to use for emergencies.

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe said the ads are part of an attempt to show Floridians that the governor's tax cut plan will hurt working families.

The ads started running Sunday in Tallahassee and Orlando in advance of President George W. Bush's visit to Orlando to support his own tax cut.

"George, excuse me, President Bush is going to Orlando, so they decided to spend money there, and the Legislature is in session so they are spending money in Tallahassee on ads that go to half of Georgia too," the governor said.

Republican Party officials say the Democrats are desperate to maintain the level of anger that developed during the presidential recount until the 2002 election.

Gov. Bush has not announced his own re-election plans, but several Democrats are considering the race.

At the end of the Democrats' new ad, a voice urges viewers to call, toll free, 1-866-728-3352.

During business hours, the telephone number is answered by a person taking a survey who asks the caller to rate the governor on a score of 1 to 10. Then the survey taker asks whether the caller would vote to re-elect him.

A Republican Party spokesman accused the Democrats of making "highly negative attack ads" because they have no leadership to offer the state.

"It looks like the Democrat leadership is so anxious to go on the attack, they're willing to smear everyone in their path, including their own members," said GOP Chairman Al Cardenas.