Philadelphia Inquirer [Printer-friendly version] March 5, 1985 AT MEETING, ALL SIGNS POINT TO A FLORIO-KEAN REMATCH By Ernest Tollerson, Inquirer Trenton Bureau Backers of U.S. Rep. James J. Florio sported "Run, Jim, Run" decals on the lapels of their dark business suits. Copies of "Report Number Two" of "Jim Florio's Committee to Make New Jersey Better" were as plentiful as the mountains of Danish that are the staple of political conventions like this week's Conference of New Jersey Democrats 1985. And when Florio took the podium to address the convention yesterday, the Camden and Gloucester County delegations created a ruckus reserved for a politician running for governor. Florio, the South Jersey Democrat who lost the 1981 gubernatorial election to Republican Gov. Kean by fewer than 2,000 votes, said everything yesterday except those crucial two words: "I'm running." Although Florio said he would not announce his decision until March 25 or 26, his hard-hitting speech on the deficiencies he sees in President Reagan and Kean made abundantly clear to the 1,500 convention delegates that he was likely to seek the Democratic nomination for governor. Florio has repeatedly said that he wants a second chance in the ring against Kean. And the evidence of that desire went beyond the buttons and literature at the convention, with some supporters putting their hopes into words. Stephen Moses, an influential Democrat from vote-rich Bergen County who was a top operative for the Mondale campaign in New Jersey last year, talked about Florio as if Florio were already running in the race that already has four declared candidates and one would-be candidate. "I think we're ready for Jim," Moses said. "He has the highest visibility of any candidate. He does have a high favorability rating. No one is suggesting it isn't going to be difficult." Yet the best scraps of evidence of Florio's plans were in his speech yesterday, in which he repeatedly attacked Kean. Florio said Kean had failed to tackle any serious problem in his term. "We have rolled from crisis to crisis," Florio charged. "The flood crisis. The garbage crisis. The asbestos crisis. The insurance crisis. The Mount Laurel crisis. The apparent upcoming drought crisis." He capsulized Kean's style this way: "When in doubt about a tough problem, hide," Florio said. "When there is no doubt about what to do about a tough problem, run and hide." The Camden County Democrat said the Reagan administration's plan to take away $30 million in federal funds for a Philadelphia-Atlantic City rail link was emblematic of "congenital affliction endemic to the Kean administration: paralysis induced by controversy." Since 1982, New Jersey has had access to the $30 million to help pay for the rail link. Because the state has not come up with $20 million in state matching funds and has not used the federal funds, the Reagan administration is proposing to use that money for something else in the fiscal 1986 budget. In Florio's reconstruction of events, Kean stalled because he was torn between two interest groups. Some Camden County groups opposed the rail link and branded it the "gamblers' express." Business interests in Atlantic County, home to Atlantic City's casino gaming industry, supported it. "The Kean administration wore itself out, wanting to be loved by everyone," Florio said. "And for 2 1/2 years they spent time running up and down, running up to Camden County describing its apprehension and doubts, then back to Atlantic County pronouncing its devotion to the project." No matter who the Democratic nominee for governor is after the June 4 primary, Florio said, the national party should take part in the general election campaign. He noted that he had discussed national party involvement in the gubernatorial race with Paul G. Kirk Jr., the new chairman of the National Democratic Committee.