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Chiles Leaves Governor's Race, Throws Support to Sink

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Tallahassee, FL – The Florida governor's race narrowed to two candidates and their running mates Thursday. With nine weeks till Election Day, independent Lawton "Bud" Chiles dropped out and threw his support to Democrat Alex Sink, the state's chief financial officer, while Republican nominee Rick Scott tapped state Rep. Jennifer Carroll to complete the GOP ticket. Margie Menzel reports.

Chiles left the field after three months as a low-budget, independent candidate for governor, the office his father once held. He's the son of the late "Walkin' Lawton", a Democratic icon, and party stalwarts expect the younger Chiles' support to help Sink. But pollsters disagree on whether those voters who supported him are likely to break Republican or Democrat in the governor's race. Bud Chiles:

"I've been on the phone the last few days with friends and supporters from both sides of the aisle, and I'm confident the Bud Chiles supporters will be supporting Alex Sink - perhaps not all, but the great majority."

Last week a Quinnipiac poll showed Chiles pulling 9 percent of registered Democrats and 8 percent of Republicans .while a survey by Public Policy Polling showed his backers to be 47 percent Republican and 30 percent Democrat. After his announcement Thursday, though, state Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman was upbeat.

"I think what Bud did today was - he realizes that his father's legacy can live through Alex, and I think that was an important step for him," Thurman said.

At the time Chiles got into the race, he said he was doing so because he hadn't heard what he wanted to hear from Sink on the issues. On Thursday, he was asked what had changed.

"Alex, I feel, in the last three months has been a much more clear, bold voice for the changes that need to happen in Florida," Chiles said. "I've heard that, and at our meeting, we talked about that, and I came away from that feeling like she and I are in synch on most of the things that are important, and those issues are the most important for me."

The younger Chiles - like his father - is known for championing children's issues, and he ran as an independent partly to fight the influence of money on the political process. Standing at his side Thursday, Sink touted their shared beliefs and the ten-year relationship between their families.

"And because your father asked me to join and eventually chair the Government Accountability to the People Commission," she said, "I was able to make, and I have made accountability the hallmark of my service as the state's CFO."

As a candidate, Chiles accepted donations no larger than $250, raising just $75,000 - a factor, he said, in his leaving the race. Another was a ruling won by Republican nominee Rick Scott during the G-O-P primary, preventing his opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum, from receiving part of the public financing he needed to stay competitive against the multi-millionaire Scott.

"I think the very unfortunate situation where a law could be challenged by Rick Scott that's a good law, that creates a level playing field for matching funds, makes it extremely difficult to run a low-budget campaign that is open to all people to participate," said Chiles.

But while Chiles has blasted the 527 committees, which he has accused of money laundering and which were widely used by the Scott and McCollum campaigns, Sink did not rule them out. She said they hadn't been part of her discussion with Chiles.

"Well, if my campaign decides to set up a 527, then the contributions will be fully transparent," she added.

Chiles said he'll campaign actively for Sink, but that they haven't discussed whether he might have a role in her administration.