MIAMI – Former Attorney General Janet Reno conceded the Democratic primary race for Florida governor Tuesday, saying that she will do everything in her power to help her former adversary Bill McBride defeat current Gov. Jeb Bush.
"As a candidate I have put the election behind me. With this, we move forward," Reno said. "I want to do everything that I possible can to see that [McBride] gets elected. I want to urge everyone to support him because I think this is going to be one of the most critical elections in Florida history."
McBride, a Tampa attorney who ran the state's largest law firm before entering the governor's race, defeated Reno by about 4,800 points in unofficial results that were expected to be certified Tuesday.
That number came down from a 8,196-vote margin after Miami, Dade, Broward and other counties recounted votes that had been lost inside touch-screen voting machines that were brought in after the botched 2000 presidential election. More than 1.3 million votes were cast in the Sept. 10 primary.
McBride had claimed victory Thursday, two days after the race, but Reno said she would wait until certification before conceding the race. Reno toyed with filing a lawsuit to demand a recount but ultimately decided that she would rather unify the party to throw its support behind McBride in the Nov. 5 race against Gov. Jeb Bush.
Reno did say that she would file a lawsuit to make sure that the voting process in the state is fair and just.
"The present governor of Florida has had two shots at it now and has not met either of the opportunities," Reno said. "I want to do everything in my power to see to it that the people of the state of Florida have the right to vote, the right to vote in a timely way, the right to vote for the candidate of their choice, the right to have their vote counted in an accurate and timely fashion."
Reno campaign manager Mo Elleithee said the campaign received calls from more than 600 people willing to help build a case detailing numerous primary day foul-ups. Many complaints were lodged with the elections division about polls opening several hours late, polls closing early and voters being sent to the wrong precincts.
Democrats have accused Bush of failing to show leadership on the election problems. Bush insisted that the problems were caused by local election officials who were in charge of making sure the $32 million in new machinery was functioning properly in time for election day.
"I'm confident that 65 of the 67 counties that got it right in September will get it right in November, and we're going to demand that the two counties that didn't get it right do so," Bush said Tuesday.
Bush also said that he is "delighted" that his opponent has finally been chosen and looks forward to a chance to defeat McBride.
"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 ... I look forward to a good, tough fight and I intend to win."
In the latest polls, Bush is running about 10 points ahead of McBride, who came from more than 25 points behind to defeat Reno in the primary
For his part, McBride did not comment on the recount prior to Reno's concession. Instead he spent a quiet day in his hometown Tuesday, going for a morning jog and running errands. He declined to comment on the recount prior to Reno's concession. He begins campaigning statewide on Wednesday and Thursday, including stops in Miami, Orlando and Tallahassee.
He also planned to announce his lieutenant governor nominee by Thursday and has been narrowing down a list of more than a dozen candidates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.