Published Online: January 30, 2002
Published in Print: January 30, 2002, as State Journal

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Teachers Snub Reno

When the Florida Education Association interviewed this year's candidates for governor, few thought the union would choose Tampa lawyer Bill McBride as its favorite.

But Mr. McBride, a Democrat, won over the union, whose leaders voted to endorse him over former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, a Democrat too, and Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican.

Janet Reno

The choice stunned Ms. Reno's supporters, and may have done the GOP incumbent a favor: a heated race for the Democratic nomination might help Mr. Bush's chances at re-election.

Reaction from Ms. Reno's camp was tempered, however. The campaign expects to do well with teachers and others in the field, spokeswoman Nicole Harburger said. "Education issues are going to be the center" of Ms. Reno's platform, she added.

Gov. Bush had little chance of winning the endorsement after he failed to appear for the union's interviews despite the union's attempts to accommodate him, FEA leaders said.

Maureen S. Dinnen, the FEA president, said union officials were impressed with Mr. McBride's engaging personality and knowledge of education issues.

"He really gives a very convincing argument that education decisions ought to be made as part of a partnership," she said.

The union says it has felt left out at times, as the Bush administration has turned to business leaders, mostly, to revamp the state's education system. "[Mr. McBride] wants all the players at the table," Ms. Dinnen said.

Mr. McBride is a decorated Vietnam veteran who lives in Hillsborough County with his wife, a former bank executive, and two children. But can he win? The union thinks so.

"They thought this is the man who has the fire in the belly to win," Ms. Dinnen said.

—Alan Richard

Vol. 21, Issue 20, Page 19

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