Final tally gives McBride nomination; Reno concedes

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

MIAMI -- Florida finally sorted out the mess Tuesday from last week's bungled election as final vote counts showed Bill McBride narrowly defeating Janet Reno for the Democratic nomination for governor.

The former Clinton administration attorney general conceded the nomination, saying she told McBride "he was going to be a great governor."

McBride, a Tampa lawyer and first-time candidate, won by about 4,800 votes out of more than 1.3 million cast, according to the still-unofficial figures. He will face Republican Gov. Jeb Bush in November.

McBride had claimed victory Thursday, two days after one of the closest elections in Florida history.

Reno gained a net total of 3,400 votes in final counts released Tuesday by Miami-Dade, Broward and other counties -- not enough to erase the 8,196-vote margin McBride held after last week's preliminary tally.

The balloting Sept. 10 was marked by equipment glitches and human errors that brought back memories of the 2000 White House race. The problems happened despite a $32 million overhaul of Florida's election system that included the installation of touchscreen voting machines.

Reno's lawyers said they would not sue to force a recount or otherwise challenge the results.

Bush said he was "delighted" that it appeared his Democratic opponent has been finally decided.

"For a year there have been three opponents that have been banging on my head and saying ugly things about me, not being very specific about what they would do differently," Bush said. "Now there will be one, and I'm looking forward to it."

With the nomination secured, McBride settled on state Sen. Tom Rossin of Royal Palm Beach as his running mate, sources close to the campaign said Tuesday. Rossin, 69, is the Senate's Democratic leader.

McBride's lead in the preliminary returns last week was larger than the half-a-percentage point margin necessary to trigger an automatic recount. The gap shrank to less than that when the final figures came in. But by then it was too late under the law for Reno to ask for a recount.

Reno has said previously she plans to make election reform her crusade in the coming months.

Over the last week, about 7,500 votes in Miami-Dade County and about 1,100 in Broward County were found to have been uncounted in the hours after the polls closed.

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