1970 Florida gubernatorial election

← 1966 November 3, 1970 1974 →
Nominee Reubin Askew Claude R. Kirk Jr.
Party Democratic Republican
Running mate Thomas B. Adams Jr. Ray C. Osborne
Popular vote 984,305 746,243
Percentage 56.9% 43.1%

County results

Askew:      50–60%      60–70%      70–80%      80–90%

Kirk:      50–60%      60–70%

Governor before election

Claude R. Kirk Jr.

Elected Governor

Reubin Askew

The 1970 Florida gubernatorial election took place on November 3, 1970, to determine the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Florida, concurrent with the election to the United States Senate, elections to the United States House of Representatives, and various state and local elections.

Incumbent Republican Governor Claude R. Kirk Jr. chose to run for a second term, with this being the first election in which the incumbent would be eligible for another four-year term. The first Republican elected governor since the Reconstruction Era, Kirk was challenged by Eckerd Corporation founder Jack Eckerd and State Senator Louis A. "Skip" Bafalis for his party's nomination. After failing to receive a majority, Kirk prevailed over Eckerd in a runoff. The primary for the Democratic Party nomination featured a four candidate field, with Florida Attorney General Earl Faircloth and President pro tempore of the Florida Senate Reubin Askew advancing to a runoff. Askew won the runoff and received the nomination of the Democratic Party.

This was the first election since the re-establishment of the office of Lieutenant Governor. Askew selected Florida Secretary of State Thomas Burton Adams Jr., while Kirk chose to run with incumbent Ray C. Osborne. Primarily due to controversial statements and actions during his term, as well as his inability to portray Askew as an extreme liberal as he had done with Robert King High in 1966, Kirk lost re-election to Askew in the general election by a margin of 56.88% to 43.12%.


Incumbent Governor of Florida Claude R. Kirk Jr. was the first Republican who held Florida's governorship since Reconstruction. He was elected in 1966, when Republicans has made some gains in traditionally Democratic Deep South.[1] During his tenure as governor, the Florida Legislature created a new Constitution in 1968, which was approved by voters on November 5, 1968. As part of the new Constitution, the office of Lieutenant Governor was re-established.[2] Kirk appointed Ray C. Osborne, a Florida House of Representatives member from Pinellas County.[3] The new Constitution also allowed for the Governor of Florida to serve two consecutive terms.[4] Kirk was thus eligible for re-election in 1970.[1][5]

Republican primary

During the Republican primary, incumbent Claude Kirk was challenged by State Senator Louis A. Bafalis from Palm Beach and Eckerd founder Jack Eckerd of Clearwater. The Miami Herald endorsed Eckerd, stating that he is "an efficient campaigner with the ability to bring people together constructively. ... [Eckerd has] a common touch, dedication to high principle, and organizing genius." William C. Cramer, a powerful Republican in the state and the party's senate nominee for that year, publicly remained neutral during the primary, but voted for Eckerd. Later, Eckerd himself would state, "I was offended by his [Kirk's] public behavior and chagrined that he was a Republican."[6]

In the primary election held on September 8, Kirk reached first place with 48.16% of the vote, compared to 38.37% for Eckerd, and 13.48% for Bafalis. However, because Kirk failed to receive a majority of the votes, he and Eckerd advanced to a run-offrelection.[6]

Republican Primary – September 8, 1970
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Claude R. Kirk Jr. (incumbent) 172,888 48.16%
Republican Jack Eckerd 137,731 38.37%
Republican Louis A. Bafalis 48,378 13.48%
Total votes 358,997 100.00%


In the run-off election on September 29, Kirk received 199,943 votes versus Eckerd's 152,327 votes, by 47,616 votes – a margin of approximately 13.52%.[6]

Republican Primary run-off – September 29, 1970
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Claude R. Kirk Jr. (incumbent) 199,943 56.76%
Republican Jack Eckerd 152,327 43.24%
Total votes 352,270 100.00%

Democratic primary


In primaries, held on September 8, none of these candidates was able to win majority. As a result, the top two finishers, Faircloth and Askew, advanced to a runoff election.[8]

Democratic Primary – September 8, 1970
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Earl Faircloth 227,413 29.96%
Democratic Reubin Askew 206,333 27.18%
Democratic John E. Matthews 186,053 24.51%
Democratic Chuck Hall 139,384 18.36%
Total votes 759,183 100.00%


Although the primary election was a close race, Askew defeated Faircloth by a relatively wide margin in the run-off election on September 29. Askew earned 447,025 votes against Faircloth's 328,038 votes, by 312,158 votes – a margin of approximately 15.36%.[9] Askew selected Florida Secretary of State Thomas Burton Adams Jr. to be his running mate.

Democratic Primary run-off – September 29, 1970
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Reubin Askew 447,025 57.68%
Democratic Earl Faircloth 328,038 42.32%
Total votes 775,063 100.00%

General election

In response to the schism between Cramer and Kirk, the Miami Herald endorsed Askew and noted that "Askew and Chiles form a logical team; Kirk and Cramer don’t". Kirk mocked Askew as a "momma’s boy who wouldn’t have the courage to stand up under the fire of the legislators" and as a "nice, sweet-looking fellow chosen by ‘liberals’ ... to front for them."[6] Despite promising no new taxes and several attempts to label Askew a "liberal", Kirk had overseen what was then the largest tax increase in Florida history.[10]

Askew and Adams defeated incumbents Governor Kirk and Lieutenant Governor Ray C. Osborn with respectable margin.[11]

Gubernatorial Election– November 3, 1970
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Reubin Askew 984,305 56.88%
Republican Claude Roy Kirk, Jr. (incumbent) 746,243 43.12%
Total votes 1,730,548 100.00%
Democratic gain from Republican

On the very same day Florida elected to the United States Senate Democrat Lawton Chiles, who later was elected Governor in 1990.[12]


  1. ^ a b David Bauerlein (September 28, 2011). "Former Florida governor Claude Kirk dies". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  2. ^ "The Florida Constitution". Florida Constitution. pp. Article IV, § 5. Archived from the original on December 8, 2008. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  3. ^ "Ray Osborne". Tampa Bay Times. September 3, 1970. p. 72. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  4. ^ "The Florida Constitution". Florida Constitution. pp. Article IV, § 2, clause b. Archived from the original on December 8, 2008. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  5. ^ Under the superseded Florida Constitution of 1885, the Governor could serve an unlimited number of terms, but not two in a row. Fla. Const. of 1885, Art. IV, § 2.
  6. ^ a b c d Billy Hathorn (April 1990). "Cramer v. Kirk: The Florida Republican Schism of 1970,"". Florida Historical Quarterly. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  7. ^ "John E. Mathews, Jr. Collection: Biographical Highlights". University of North Florida. Archived from the original on 2015-09-29. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
  8. ^ Our Campaigns – FL Governor – D Primary Race – Sep 08, 1970
  9. ^ Our Campaigns – FL Governor – D Runoff Race – Oct 03, 1970
  10. ^ Martin A. Dyckman (2011). Reubin O'D. Askew and the Golden Age of Florida Politics. University Press of Florida. p. 416. ISBN 0813035716.
  11. ^ Our Campaigns – FL Governor Race – Nov 03, 1970
  12. ^ David Binder (December 14, 1998). "Gov. Lawton Chiles of Florida, Populist and Former Senator, Dies at 68". The New York Times. Retrieved September 26, 2016.