Chiles Makes the Governor’s Race Interesting Again
Bud Chiles jumped into the Florida governor's race Thursday 20 years after his father was elected to the office, but unlike Lawton Chiles, Bud Chiles is breaking with the Democratic Party and will run as an independent.
The Tallahassee businessman and recent head of the Lawton Chiles Foundation said that both parties had lost their way and relied too much on big money contributors. His campaign will rely more on energizing voters, he said. He will be limiting contributions to $250.
“I don't need a big check; $20 will be fine,” he said.
Chiles made the announcement Thursday morning to the Tallahassee press corps with family members watching. He has not yet assembled a campaign staff and his daughter, a recent Columbia Law School graduate, is serving as an acting campaign manager.
He said the campaign will bring on staff in the coming days and will also release a draft of his positions on major issues. During his press conference, he widely decried proponents of oil drilling and pledged to build stronger schools.
He also largely played upon themes from his father's U.S. Senate campaign in the 1970s where Lawton Chiles walked around the entire state building grassroots support. Chiles said he has been walking around communities and that voters want a candidate not beholden to big campaign donors.
“They desperately need inspiration, they desperately need to believe that there's some hope coming from Tallahassee, that somebody is going to stand up and say enough is enough to this wild west pay-to-play system that we've set up, which has sidelined them,” Chiles said.
Chiles’ entrance into the race makes him one of several candidates making a late appearance in the political season. Republican Rick Scott has recently mounted a challenge to party favorite Attorney General Bill McCollum for the Republican nomination for governor and investor Jeff Greene jumped into the Democratic race for the U.S. Senate nomination recently.
Chiles' decision to run as an independent will allow him to bypass the August primary and give him more time to raise money and build name recognition among voters. His last name gives him an immediate boost, and he will appear as Lawton “Bud” Chiles on the ballot.
A spokesman for Chiles said that he has not yet changed his voter registration, but intends to in the coming days.
His campaign's biggest impact will likely be on presumptive Democratic nominee Alex Sink's election chances. They will be drawing mostly from the same pool of voters and a split Democratic electorate could send the Republican nominee sailing into office.
Sink, said prior to Chiles' announcement on Thursday morning that the election is a democratic process and “we'll see where we go.”
“I'm out there talking about what my plans for Florida are, and how we're going to get our economy turned around, how we're going to reform government and change this culture of corruption up here in Tallahassee,” Sink said. “And regardless of who the other candidates are, that's what I'm talking to the people of Florida about and my vision for when I'm the governor.”
Chiles resigned recently as president of the Lawton Chiles Foundation. He has been involved in a number of business deals over the past few years, some of which have turned sour. He founded GreenSteel Homes to build green friendly, hurricane proof homes in the Panhandle, promising the city of Carrabelle hundreds of jobs in return for the city's investment. Chiles ultimately sold his shares and the company is now in bankruptcy.