by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
May 25, 2010
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BRADENTON, May 21, 2010 -- Lawton "Bud" Chiles, 57, the son and namesake of former Fla. governor and U.S. Senator "Walkin' Lawton" Chiles, will announce his own candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor at an event in Lakeland, Fla., next Saturday, a top elected official close to the Manatee County restaurant owner said Friday evening.
"He is definitely going to run," the source told a small group of friends at a fundraiser.
Chiles, vice president of the Hope International foundation for children, has been on a 600-mile walking tour of his own, reminiscent of his father's legendary 1,003-mile journey on foot across the entire state and his subsequent election as Governor in 1991.
The walks have been designed to bring attention to the Chiles family foundation's "Worst to First" education initiative for Florida's failing schools. The younger Chiles lives in Tallahassee, and a brother and other family members live in Manatee County on Florida's southwestern Gulf Coast, about an hour south of Tampa.
In elections from 1958 to the Florida House, State Senate and U.S. Senate and for two terms of as governor, once against now-U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in a primary and later against Jeb Bush in a general election, the elder Lawton Chiles was never defeated. He was born near Lakeland, in rural Polk County, in 1930 and died in office while exercising on Dec. 12, 1998. The Chiles family owns popular beachside restaurants on Manatee County's Anna Maria Island.
In the Democratic primary, Chiles is expected to face Florida's chief financial officer, Alex Sink, who has not been popular with voters since the state pension fund under control of a three-person board she heads lost hundreds of millions of dollars when the financial industry tanked in late 2008.
Sink, the former head of Florida Operations for Bank of America, took home a $19-million bonus and salary after firing 8,000 Bank of America workers, has answered most questions about those losses with a terse "no comment." Nonethless, she has a $6 million war chest, far outstripping Chiles' current resources.
Sink has lately been losing ground to Republican attorney general Bill McCollum, a conservative who is well-known throughout the state. McCollum has been heaped with ridicule in recent weeks after it was learned a man his office paid $120,000 to fight adoptions by gay couples in Florida later hired a male escort himself from a gay Website for a two-week trip to London and Madrid.
The Chiles name, partly through its charitable foundation, continues to bear substantial weight across North Florida's more conservative precincts, where so-called "yellow dog" Democrats hold sway in many counties. While he is not a conservative, he may have more appeal to those voters than Sink. Her husband, Bill McBride, lost to Gov. Charlie Crist in 2002.
Update: Chiles delayed his announcement by five days after meeting with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, and announced on Thursday, May 26.