Reno Cashes In on Celebrity Status

Former Attorney General Janet Reno took a cue from her former boss and swung through Hollywood this week to collect cash and make face time on a late night talk show.

Reno, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Florida governor, took advantage of her name recognition to hobnob with actors Halle Berry, Sissy Spacek and John Goodman at Elton John's post-Oscars party; chat with with Jay Leno on NBC's Tonight Show, where she sat next to actress Jodie Foster; and attend three fund-raisers while on the West Coast. 

"She's half politician, half celebrity," said Ken Nadeau, chairman of the Marion County Democratic Party in Ocala. "Money is hard to come by. If you can use your connections to bring more money in, why not?"

Reno spokeswoman Nicole Harburger declined to say how much money Reno raised during her trip, but said she got pledges of assistance to her campaign from Elton John and comedian-actor Jamie Foxx. Talk show host Rosie O'Donnell is backing her, and next month TV president Martin Sheen is scheduled to introduce Reno at the Florida Democrats' state conference in Orlando.

Reno, described by Leno as a "tall girl," said she's not comfortable being part of the jet set, though she enjoyed the company.

"I felt kind of like a duck out of water," Reno said of her Hollywood encounters. "But everyone was wonderful and it was great to meet some very fine artists."

After the Leno taping, Reno took a redeye back to Florida to appear at a rally in Ocala's town square. The political appearance followed a two-week truck tour across the state.

Reno must first defeat three other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, including Tampa attorney Bill McBride, who has won a string of endorsements from the Democratic power structure, in particular the Florida AFL-CIO and the state's teachers union.

McBride has more money on hand than Reno, who is leading in the polls, and many state Democrats think he would be more appealing to voters in central and north Florida.

The other Democratic candidates include House Minority Leader Lois Frankel of West Palm beach and state Sen. Daryl Jones of Miami.

Should Reno win the nomination, she will go against Gov. Jeb Bush, brother to President George W. Bush, and a political celebrity in his own right.

The celebrity match-up appears inevitable to some observers, including Leno, who ignored the fact that Reno is still in a primary race and asked the former attorney general: "You're running against Jeb Bush. How does that look? Tricky?"

Whether that happens remains to be seen. Party activists and interest groups don't consider her nomination a foregone conclusion, and McBride, who is raising money from lawyers, teachers and union workers, said Reno's traveling outside the state may not help her case.

"This is the crowd I need to be close with and need to impress in Florida," McBride said Tuesday night at a fund-raiser in Orlando. "I wish her well and the more publicity and the more energy she can bring into this campaign, that's fine."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.