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Jeb Bush under Fire for E-Mail

November 21, 2000

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has attempted to run silent and keep deep any of his own thoughts on challenges to his brother's claim to Florida's disputed presidential vote.

But in an e-mail to his own senior staffers, Bush offered a terse commentary on one outsider's report that someone is trying to stir public outrage over Florida's contested vote:

"This is a concerted effort to divide and destroy our state," Bush wrote to his chief of staff and communications director.

"Ve have our Vays also. I'm working on this," his communications director, Katie Baur, replied.

Baur now says hers was an ill-considered reply. "I did not do anything," Baur said Monday. "It was more a quick response to my governor. Then better valor prevailed."

Asked to comment on the governor's e-mail Monday, Tony Welch, state Democratic Party spokesman, said: "Someone using language like that is actually hoping for division. It isn't a healing message."

Bush told The Miami Herald Monday that his comment was "related to getting phone calls from partisans after the election. It was a sincere feeling of frustration of where our political process has gone.

"It was e-mail," added Bush, an e-aficionado.

The governor's office made public on Monday cartons full of e-mail that Bush has received, and e-mail among his staffers, in response to media requests for public records.

One involved an e-mail from Highlands County, a woman complaining to Bush last week about messages on her telephone answering machine: "Your vote, along with 19,000 others, was thrown out. Call Gov. Bush to find out why."

"What can I do about these calls?" DonnaKay Hannagan asked the governor in her e-mail. "It is very irritating."

Hannagan, a Republican in Sebring, Fla., who voted for George W. Bush, said Monday that she has received five calls repeating the message since the Saturday after Election Day from "Voters Vortex." The messages also refer to Bush somewhat sarcastically as "president-elect," she said.

Insiders in both Al Gore's campaign and the Democratic Party say they know of no effort to make any such calls. The Republicans say they aren't making any such calls.

Mark Silva, Knight Ridder Newspapers


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