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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 03:46 GMT
Jeb Bush secures sunshine state
Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush is set for a second term as governor
John Ellis 'Jeb' Bush has fought off a strong Democratic Party challenge and become the first-ever Republican to win a second term as governor of Florida.

His victory over Bill McBride - by a comfortable margin - is likely to help the re-election campaign of his elder brother, President George W Bush.

Correspondents say the result is also a sign that in Florida at least, the Bush family has emerged unscathed from the chaotic outcome of the 2000 presidential election.

Three weeks ago the Florida race had appeared far from certain, with an MSNBC/Zogby opinion poll giving Mr Bush 48% of the vote compared with 45% for Mr McBride - a statistical dead heat.

President George W Bush and Florida Governor Jeb Bush
The Bush brothers have clashed on environmental issues
But elections are rarely clear-cut in Florida.

Mr McBride himself only narrowly beat former Attorney General Janet Reno for the Democratic nomination after a poll marred by voting difficulties.

The ballot was thrown into confusion by problems with the equipment, despite $32m spent on new touch screen voting machines.

It all brought back uncomfortable memories of the turbulent vote count in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.

That debacle led to Jeb Bush being subpoenaed to appear before a civil rights commission investigating voter irregularities.


I didn't emulate Bill Clinton, but I do admire his awesome listening skills ... It's really important to listen to people

Jeb Bush
Its conclusion was that he and Secretary of State Katherine Harris had chosen "to simply ignore the mounting evidence" of serious problems on election day.

However, the commission "did not find conclusive evidence that the highest officials of the state conspired to produce the disenfranchisement of voters".

Although George W Bush eventually won Florida - and thus the White House - by 537 votes, many analysts predicted that the fiasco would end his younger brother's political career.

Family problems

Jeb Bush's problems did not end there.

In May 2001, he was forced to issue a public denial of rumours that he had been having an affair with a political appointee, Cynthia Henderson.

Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush bluntly denied rumours of infidelity

Dismissing the reports as "sickening", he said he had never been been unfaithful to his Mexican wife Columba Garnica Gallo, whom he married in 1973.

Only a few months later, his daughter Noelle - one of three children - was arrested for allegedly trying to obtain a controlled drug with a fraudulent prescription.

She subsequently broke the terms of a court-ordered drug treatment programme, and was jailed for 72 hours on a charge of contempt of court.

In September, 25 year-old Noelle was in trouble again, after being found in possession of cocaine at her drug rehabilitation centre.

But Jeb Bush has shown himself to be a resilient politician.

He is an avowed subscriber to the political "Third Way" - in contrast to the president's more traditional conservatism.

Born on 11 February 1953 in Midland, Texas, Mr Bush graduated from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American Studies.

After moving to Miami in 1980 he helped form what would become a successful real estate company, the Codina Group.

Jeb Bush entered politics in 1984, when he was appointed Chairman of the Dade County Republican Party.

Former governor Bob Martinez later put him in charge of the state's commerce department.

In 1994, Mr Bush ran for governor against a popular incumbent, Lawton Chiles, losing by a small margin.

'A politician transformed'

He ran again four years later, but this time focused on issues normally regarded as Democratic Party territory - public school education, urban renewal, and medicaid funding, among other social issues.

In his successful second run, Mr Bush was described as "a politician transformed," in contrast with his 1994 candidacy, in which most commentators agreed he came across as mean-spirited.

former US president Bill Clinton
Bush admires the former president's communication skills
His approach has sometimes brought him into conflict with less moderate Republicans, including his brother.

Last year, the two men clashed over plans to allow oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

But more moderate Republicans see his easy, relaxed style as an example to his whole party of how to escape their reputation for zealotry without abandoning their traditional philosophy.

Many political observers believe Mr Bush is even seeking to emulate an arch Republican foe, former President Bill Clinton.

Clinton praised

Mr Bush himself told the BBC: "I didn't emulate Bill Clinton ... but I do admire his awesome listening skills which is something that I have had to learn. That's not something that God gives you. It's really important to listen to people."

And for Jeb Bush, listening to people does not only mean hearing traditional Republican supporters.

In 1998, Mr Bush targeted traditionally Democratic voters - African Americans, Jews and the elderly.

During the campaign, the Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Journal, endorsed him as a "mensch" - a Yiddish word for a strong man who cares.


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