The person most likely to succeed William J. Bennett as director of the nation's drug control strategy is Florida Gov. Bob Martinez, who recently lost his re-election bid, a White House official says.
Bennett, meanwhile, is in line to become chairman of the Republican National Committee in January, Republican sources said over the weekend. He would take over for the ailing Lee Atwater, 39, who has been undergoing intensive treatment for a cancerous brain tumor.The 55-year-old Martinez "is probably going to be the next drug czar," said the official, who spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity. "Nobody else is being actively considered."
Officially, the White House was mum, as was Martinez's spokesman.
"I don't have any details on candidates, I'm afraid," said White House spokesman Bill Harlow, contacted in Paris where he was traveling with the president. "As far as I know, no decision has been made on that position."
The governor's spokesman, Jon Peck, said from Tallahassee, "At this point, everything is just speculation." Martinez would consider the position if asked by Bush, but "that's not to say that it's something he has been actively working to get."
Martinez was trounced in his re-election effort by former Sen. Lawton Chiles, losing by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin. He was only the second Republican governor in Florida since Reconstruction. His term ends Jan. 8, when Chiles is to be inaugurated.
Bush traveled to Florida three times to campaign for Martinez, and first lady Barbara Bush made a campaign commercial on his behalf. Jeb Bush, one of the president's sons, was Martinez's campaign chairman.
Florida has had a lot of experience with drug problems. Most of the nation's cocaine supply went through Florida until the mid-1980s, when a crackdown there pushed traffickers west to Mexico and the southwest U.S. border states.
The national drug strategy compiled by Bennett's Office of National Drug Control Policy last January designated the Miami area as one of country's five high-intensity drug trafficking areas.