TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Janet Reno made her gubernatorial quest official Monday filing papers and paying $7,210.26 to get on the ballot, becoming the first gubernatorial candidate to qualify.
Reno walked several blocks to the Division of Elections from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, where she talked with government workers, a core Democratic constituency.
The luncheon drew only a small crowd -- about 20 people -- but several of them told her they didn't like Republican Gov. Jeb Bush's move to make state government smaller by privatizing some of its functions.
Paul Brewer, a Department of Transportation printer, said when private companies take over state responsibilities, profit is the companies' main goal.
"Profit is not our motivation," Brewer said. "It's public service."
Reno echoed Brewer's sentiments at a small rally with state workers at the Capitol later, telling them they deserve more respect for having to deal with some of the state's most frail people in the state and some of the most crucial jobs, such as protecting neglected children and guarding prisoners.
"I want to do everything I can to give them the tools to do the job the right way," Reno said.
Reno, who was attorney general in the Clinton administration, said Bush's effort to make state government smaller didn't seem needed given that Florida ranks 47th out of 50 states in the number of government workers per capita.
"That indicates to me we're pretty lean," said Reno, who has been a government worker herself as a prosecutor and a former legislative staffer.
Later in the evening, Reno planned to take part in a town hall meeting in Tallahassee, primarily with state workers. AFSCME, which has endorsed Reno, represents about 100,000 state workers.
Also expected to qualify this week for the Democratic gubernatorial primary were Tampa lawyer Bill McBride and state Sen. Daryl Jones of Miami.
Reno, who turned 64 Sunday, leads the Democratic field in recent polling.
But all the Democrats trail Bush, and both Reno and McBride lag behind him in fund-raising by a margin of about 4-to-1.
The qualifying week puts the campaign into full swing with just over six weeks before the Sept. 10 primary.
McBride plans to file qualifying papers Wednesday before a statewide fly around for rallies in Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, St. Petersburg and Innisbrook, north of the Tampa area.