Key contests that may shape next year's Congress; Florida Senate race: both candidates court conservatives
No matter who wins Florida's close US Senate race Tuesday, much of Ronald Reagan's philosophy will triumph in the Sunshine State. From the less-populated panhandle to the condominium-jammed southern counties where most of the Cuban refugees are settling, the two Senate candidates are competing to appera more conservative than the other.
The Reagan philosophy will blossom either in the form of (1) an anti-ERA, pro-massive tax cut woman, Republican Paula Hawkins or (2) a Democrat anxious to pass massive increases in military spending, Bill Gunter.
Both Senate candidates have blasted the Carter record on the Panama Canal treaties, the Cuban refugee crisis, and military spending.
The Republican National Committee has donated $408,000 -- their maximum for a Senate race -- to Ms. Hawkins, seeing the race as winnable.
Hawkins, a former airline executive and former chairman of the state's Public Service Commission would be one of the few women ever elected to the US Senate and only the second Republican senator from Florida this century.
If Mr. Gunter, the current state insurance commissioner, wins, it will not be because the man he defeated in the primary, incumbent Democratic Sen. Richard Stone, helped him much. The primary fight was bitter; Mr. Stone has endorsed Gunter by has done little else to help him.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in Florida about 2 1/2 to 1. But many Democrats are Republican at heart -- and vote that way in national elections, registering as Democrats only to influence the often Democratic-dominated local races.
Neither candidate has a very strong, statewide grass-roots organization, says T. Wayne Bailey, an active state Democrat and political science professor at Stetson University in DeLand. "It's a very low-key election," he says.
The populous south Florida counties of Dade and Broward, with their active Jewish voters, both sides agree, may decide the election. Stone is Jewish; Gunter hopes to inhert his support, but Hawkins is fighting for it, too.