Below is our Florida Squeeze film on the 1990 Governor’s Race, where the team of Lawton Chiles & Buddy MacKay crushed Bill Nelson in the primary and then incumbent Republican Bob Martinez in the General.
Bill Nelson was the leading Democratic contender to take on unpopular incumbent Governor Bob Martinez. Nelson was running in the primary against George Stuart, a State Senator from Orlando. Nelson appeared deeply flawed as a candidate and many progressives didn’t trust him. Then as the filing deadline loomed, Chiles left retirement and mounted a campaign for Governor. Chiles had retired from the US Senate after three terms in 1988. MacKay was one of the Democrats that pleaded with Chiles to run.
Chiles and MacKay ran as a team, one a former decorated US Senator the other a former Congressman who previously had been one of the leading “doghouse” Democrats in the State legislature. The “doghouse” Democrats were reformers and progressives opposed to the rule of Dempsey Barron (D-Panama City) and his allies – conservatives in both parties.
Together they barnstormed the state, limited individual contributions to $100 a person, took no PAC money and restored faith in politics. In 1990, the people won.
Also our podcast on Governor Chiles political career can be found here.