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Reno, Harris point to an intriguing election

Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno answered questions for more than an hour during a town meeting this week at Tallahassee City Hall.

Although she used her hands a lot as she talked, they did not shake.

Sometimes Reno's hands shake so much from Parkinson's disease that anything she is holding wobbles back and forth.

This night was different.

What happened to the shake? It was near the end of a long campaign day that included a hike up a hill in the midday sun with a horde of breathless reporters trailing behind her.

"I'm still exhausted from following a 64-year-old candidate up the hill," complained the Tallahassee Democrat's Bill Cotterell.

Asked about the absence of the shaking, Reno said she's being more meticulous about taking her medicine these days. She took a couple of pink pills shortly before standing up to speak to a crowd of state employees.

For Reno, it was one of many chances to prove she is hale and hearty enough to be governor. Her dance party last week didn't hurt, either. More than 160 reporters signed up to cover it. That's more press than her opponents have seen all year.

She is clearly defying those naysayers who tried to get her out of the race and befuddling those who thought her fainting spell earlier this year was a signal that she could not make it through a tough campaign.

Reno was highly sympathetic to state employees. They are as mad as a bunch of wet hens at Gov. Jeb Bush, who wants to cut the number of public employees and privatize some services long performed by state government.

She wants career service back and insists there are important services that government should continue doing.

Reno also wants to rejuvenate the Florida Democratic Party and says she'll reach out to the grass roots level and encourage young people to step forward and serve.

She wants Floridians to see public service as something they aspire to and believes the Democratic Party can be revitalized.

It's hard to see how that can happen in a state where Republicans control the Legislature, the Cabinet, the governor's office and the congressional delegation.

But that could change if Republicans keep making idiots of themselves.

The latest comedy of errors came out of Secretary of State Katherine Harris' office this week. First she had legislators, Republicans and Democrats, screaming bloody murder.

Four members of the Senate's elections committee were among those who had to scramble from Denver to ante up an additional $43.20 filing fee.

I stood next to Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, Monday at the Division of Elections when officials told him his filing fee and paperwork were in order and he was qualified.

A day later elections officials discovered their mistake. But Lawson and others were on their way to Denver for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Lawson spent much of Tuesday stranded in Atlanta because of storms, only to discover after arriving in Denver at midnight that he wasn't legally qualified.

For a time, Lawson thought he and his wife, who is his campaign treasurer, would have to return to Tallahassee. After using two different overnight mail services and appointing himself as campaign treasurer, Lawson persevered. He's legally qualified.

Stunts like this give no one confidence in an elections process that desperately needs it. And it only got worse as the week ended.

Attorney General Bob Butterworth apparently completed his "Hamlet phase" by deciding he wants to be a state senator.

Democrats have pushed Butterworth to run for almost anything, from governor to dog catcher, but he seemed ready to leave state government and go home to Broward County.

Who could blame him? It's lonely being the only Democrat in Tallahassee.

Now he wants to remain on the stage. It'll be an interesting year.

_ You can reach Lucy Morgan at (850)-224-7263.