Party’s leaders stay cool on Reno By Buddy Nevins Political Writer
August 31, 2001
MIAMI -- Broward County Democratic leader Mitch Ceasar was glum and Public Defender Alan Schreiber frowned as their nightmare was becoming true in front of them.
Janet Reno was edging closer to a gubernatorial campaign and Democratic activists were listening.
At least they were listening on Friday when Reno talked to more than 100 employees of the public defender’s office in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
The office is a regular stop for statewide candidates because Schreiber can mobilize his employees to donate money and do volunteer work.
Reno has outdrawn any of the other gubernatorial candidates this year, he said.
Ceasar and Schreiber are cool to a Reno candidacy, fearing she can’t beat Gov. Jeb Bush.
“Everybody knows she can win the primary,” Schreiber told his employees. “The question is whether she can win the general election.”
Reno, who may announce her candidacy on Tuesday, said she assured the public defender’s staff, “I won’t run if I don’t think I can beat Jeb Bush.”
But there is another reason that Democratic leaders such as Ceasar and Schreiber don’t like the idea of the former U.S. Attorney General from Miami-Dade running: They can’t play kingmaker with a Reno candidacy.
“Janet Reno has her own army,” said Jim Kane, a pollster who edits the Florida Voter newsletter. “She doesn’t need generals.”
Reno, with her name recognition and star-quality appeal among Democrats, can do without Ceasar and Schreiber to introduce her to the right people or to raise money.
“She isn’t going to the traditional people,” Ceasar said. “She is running a non-traditional campaign. She is going to the grassroots people.”
Reno excited the public defender’s lawyers, secretaries, aides and investigators during her 45 minutes answering their questions. She wasn’t accompanied by Ceasar or Schreiber, but a lesser Democratic player, Hollywood lawyer Larry Davis.
One Democratic leader who appears to be quietly helping the Reno campaign is Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth.
Davis is a longtime political ally of Butterworth’s. A party was thrown after her appearance at the public defender’s office by Paul Hancock, a deputy state attorney general who is close to Butterworth.
Butterworth, who also has members of his political network working in the Democratic campaign of former U.S. Rep. Pete Peterson, could not be reached for comment.
Reno also is reaching past Ceasar to the activists in the county’s network of Democratic clubs.
One of her chief supporters in Broward is John Coleman, president of the Hollywood Democratic Club.
Assistant Public Defender Sandy Perlman may be one of the reasons that Schreiber sat scowling in the auditorium’s front row through Reno’s appearance.
“I’m not only ready to vote for her, I’m also ready to work for her,” Perlman said.
Buddy Nevins can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4571. Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel