JUPITER, Fla. – Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, considering a run for Florida governor, on Friday said her actions involving Elian Gonzalez and Waco show she can make tough decisions as a leader.
Speaking to about 100 newspaper editors, Reno said she had not yet decided whether to become a Democratic gubernatorial candidate. But, sounding much like a politician, she called for more money for early childhood development programs and a stronger juvenile justice system to keep teens from becoming adult criminals.
Reno said she realizes some Miami residents would not vote for her because she authorized the return of Elian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba over the objections of the boy's Florida relatives and many in the Cuban-American community.
But she said others would appreciate that she took a stand on difficult decisions, including the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, that left about 80 people dead.
"I think the issue would be, who has had the most experience in making the hard decisions that we face in the executive branch," she told the annual gathering of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and the Florida Press Association.
Reno said that while crime dropped each of her eight years as attorney general to a 30-year low, it is still too high. She said communities must provide jobs, restore voting rights and provide opportunities to the half-million criminals who will be leaving prison in the next five years.
"Let's stop the cycle of crime," she said.
Others considering a bid to unseat Republican Gov. Jeb Bush are Tampa attorney Bill McBride, U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa, Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne, and former U.S. Rep. Pete Peterson, who is leaving his job next month as ambassador to Vietnam.
Earlier this week, state Sen. Daryl Jones of Miami became the first Democratic candidate to announce he will run for governor. House Minority Leader Lois Frankel, of West Palm Beach, has said she plans to announce her candidacy Saturday.
Reno began the question and answer session by telling the editors, "No, I have not made up my mind."
Later, she said she is giving a potential gubernatorial bid "every consideration."
"I'd like to do it as soon as possible consistent with a thorough process," she said.
Reno also thanked reporters for their work during her tenure as attorney general.
"Never have I appreciated so much as I have in these eight years what the First Amendment means," she said. "I had Thursday morning press availabilities every Thursday morning. ... To try to listen to those questions that pointed to an issue that might we might not have given sufficient attention to and we were not familiar with is so important."
Reno was scheduled to speak later Friday to the Florida Bar Association in Orlando. Saturday, she will be among five potential Democratic candidates speaking at the party's annual Jefferson-Jackson fund-raiser in Miami Beach.