The Sunshine State was heading for a showdown Tuesday, as former Attorney General Janet Reno announced she had set up a campaign fund to launch a bid to bounce first brother Jeb Bush from the Florida governor's mansion.
Although polls indicate the former Clinton cabinet member is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, she remains an underdog in the general election to the popular Bush, who said in June he would seek re-election.
According to a late-July poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Reno would lose to Bush 54 percent to 39 percent in the general election. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The state elections office in Tallahassee received the paperwork opening the account at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Reno had said she would seek the Democratic nomination in September 2002 if she opened up such an account, which allows her to raise money and hire campaign staff.
"I think you should stay tuned," Reno told reporters Monday during a Labor Day picnic near her home in Miami-Dade County.
Her face shaded by a wide-brimmed straw hat, Reno hedged a bit at times, telling those who asked that she had not "made up my mind yet" on the race and planned to make a few last-minute calls to supporters.
Bush, who was elected in 1998, is vying to become the first Republican governor to win re-election in Florida.
The race would generate national attention since the governor's brother defeated Al Gore following the protracted 2000 presidential election in Florida.
"The governor is not focused on any of the Democratic candidates. He will remain focused on doing the best job that he can for the people of Florida," said Karen Unger, a Bush campaign spokeswoman.
Other Democrats who have filed to run include former ambassador to Vietnam Pete Peterson, State Sen. Daryl Jones, House Minority Leader Lois Frankel, lawyer Bill McBride and U.S. Rep. Jim Davis.
Some of the controversies that dogged Reno during the Clinton administration could resurface during the race, including the assault at Waco in 1993 and her approval of the seizure of Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives last year.
Reno, 63, was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1995 but has said the disease would not prevent her from serving as governor.
The Miami native was elected Dade County's state attorney five times. The race for governor would represent her first statewide campaign for public office.
Florida has never elected a female governor, but Reno has broken through glass ceilings before. She was the first female attorney general in U.S. history and the first woman to serve as a state attorney in Florida.
Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, said Reno would need to decide whether to distance herself from the Clinton administration.
"She will have to decide whether she'll follow the Gore path or the un-Gore path," Sabato said. "Will she try to separate herself from Clinton or will she embrace her boss of seven years? She cannot tread that line."
With only 7 percent of those surveyed undecided, some Democrats have worried that Reno would not appeal to swing voters crucial in a state that was almost evenly divided during the 2000 presidential election.
"I don't think a poll taken now can tell you an awful lot about the election," said Buddy MacKay, a Democrat who served as governor for 23 days after the death of Gov. Lawton Chiles in December 1998. "The primary will be a year from now. Who knows what will transpire between now and then."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.