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Buddy MacKay
United States Special Envoy for the Americas

In office
March 5, 1999 – January 20, 2001
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Mack McLarty
Succeeded by Otto Reich
42nd Governor of Florida

In office
December 12, 1998 – January 5, 1999
Lieutenant Vacant
Preceded by Lawton Chiles
Succeeded by Jeb Bush
14th Lieutenant Governor of Florida

In office
January 8, 1991 – December 12, 1998
Governor Lawton Chiles
Preceded by Bobby Brantley
Succeeded by Frank Brogan
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1983 – January 3, 1989
Preceded by Bill Young
Succeeded by Cliff Stearns
Member of the Florida Senate
from the 6th district

In office
November 4, 1974 – November 5, 1980
Preceded by Jim Williams
Succeeded by George G. Kirkpatrick Jr.
Personal details
Born Kenneth Hood MacKay Jr.
March 22, 1933(1933-03-22) (age 88)
Ocala, Florida, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Anne Selph (m. 1960)
Children 4 sons
Alma mater University of Florida
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1955–1958
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Captain

Kenneth Hood "Buddy" MacKay Jr. (born March 22, 1933) is an American politician and diplomat from Florida. A Democrat, he was briefly the 42nd Governor of Florida following the death of Lawton Chiles on December 12, 1998. During his long public service career he was also a state legislator, a U.S. Representative, lieutenant governor, and special envoy of President Bill Clinton's administration for the Americas. As of 2021, he is the last Democrat to serve as Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Florida.

Early life[]

MacKay was born to a citrus-farming family in Ocala, Florida, the son of Julia Elizabeth (Farnum) and Kenneth Hood MacKay, Sr.[1] He served in the United States Air Force during the 1950s, and then attended the University of Florida, where he was tapped into Florida Blue Key and eventually received a law degree. MacKay was inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame (the most prestigious honor a student can receive from UF) and was a member of The Board. He married Anne Selph[2] in 1960; the couple has four sons.

Political career[]

MacKay was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1968, and to the Florida Senate in 1975.

From 1983 to 1989 he served for three terms in the United States House of Representatives.

In 1988 he received the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate, but lost in a very close race for that office to Connie Mack III.

Lieutenant governor[]

MacKay won the 1990 Democratic primary for lieutenant governor on the ticket headed by former U.S. Senator Lawton Chiles, who had held the Senate seat MacKay had unsuccessfully sought two years earlier. They won the election and were re-elected in 1994, the latter campaign being a close contest against the Republican ticket headed by Jeb Bush.

As lieutenant governor, MacKay was given many duties and played a very important role in Chiles' cabinet, including being co-chair of the Florida Commission on Education, Reform and Accountability.[3] He was regarded as the most significant and powerful lieutenant governor in Florida's history.[4]

MacKay was a strong supporter of the use of capital punishment, as Chiles was. When he was asked during the 1998 gubernatorial election campaign about his positions on use of the death penalty and electric chair in Florida, he replied: "I support the death penalty and support the use of the electric chair so long as it operates in a reliable fashion."[5] However he suggested that Florida should change its mode of execution after Pedro Medina's botched execution, saying: "The last thing we want to do is generate sympathy for these killers."[6]

Gubernatorial candidate[]

In 1998 MacKay sought to succeed the term-limited Chiles as governor, easily winning the Democratic nomination with his full support (Chiles and MacKay were known for their friendly relationship). However, MacKay was soundly defeated by Republican nominee Jeb Bush, who had narrowly lost the 1994 contest.[7]


Despite his defeat, MacKay became Chiles' successor when Chiles died unexpectedly on December 12, 1998. MacKay was at this time in Boston with his wife. When they returned to their hotel room, they found a message about Chiles' death, asking MacKay to get on a plane to Atlanta, where they were picked up by a state crew and flown through thick fog to Tallahassee. At 12.30 a.m. the next day, the 65-year-old MacKay was sworn in as Florida's 42nd governor at his Capitol office for the 23 days remaining in Chiles' term.

"There's no great pleasure in this," said MacKay about taking a job he had sought, but got for a short time after his political partner's death. He also stated how sorry he was that he would be unable because of the short time and lack of mandate to take care of such issues as education and health care.[4]

Despite keeping a low public profile during his time as governor, MacKay made at least 56 appointments to various boards and to various offices, including two judgeships. He granted six pardons to female prisoners and was involved in such issues as the negotiation plan for the Everglades, and moderated some other disputes.[8] Perhaps his most visible act as governor was signing Peggy Quince's nomination to the Florida Supreme Court. Quince was Chiles' last pick for the bench and it fell to MacKay, and then Bush, to sustain her nomination.

MacKay was succeeded by Bush on January 5, 1999.

Diplomacy and later life[]

Former Governor MacKay (right) with former Governor and Senator Bob Graham

After his governorship ended, MacKay retired from active politics. He, however, remains publicly active.

He was appointed by President Clinton as a special envoy for the Americas, being the second person to hold this position. During his tenure he traveled to 26 countries in the Americas, working on issues such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), hemispheric security, strengthening the rule of law, labor standards, environmental policies and human rights.[9]

He attended a “Day with Florida Governors” symposium, organized by the University of Central Florida and Louis Frey Institute on March 27, 2006 with Governor Bush and former governors Claude Roy Kirk Jr., Reubin Askew, Bob Graham and Bob Martinez (Wayne Mixson, who served for three days after Graham's resignation, wasn’t present).[10]

MacKay's memoir about his political career, How Florida Happened, was published by the University Press of Florida in March 2010.

Electoral history[]

Florida Senate, 6th district (1974)

  • Buddy MacKay (D) – 26,418 (75.32%)
  • Charles E. Curtis (R) – 8,655 (24.68%)

Florida Senate, 6th district (1978)

  • Buddy MacKay (D, Inc.) – elected unopposed

United States Senate election in Florida, 1980 (Democratic primary)

  • Richard Stone (Inc.) – 355,287 (32.08%)
  • Bill Gunter – 335,859 (30.33%)
  • Buddy MacKay – 272,538 (24.61%)
  • Richard A. Pettigrew – 108,154 (9.77%)
  • James L. Miller – 18,118 (1.64%)
  • John B. Coffey – 17,410 (1.57%)

Florida's 6th congressional district, 1982

  • Buddy MacKay (D) – 85,825 (61.35%)
  • Ed Havill (R) – 54,059 (38.65%)

Florida's 6th congressional district, 1984

  • Buddy MacKay (D, Inc.) – 167,409 (99.30%)
  • Eric Tarnley (write-in) – 1,174 (0.70%)

Florida's 6th congressional district, 1986

  • Buddy MacKay (D, Inc.) – 143,598 (70.16%)
  • Larry Gallagher (R) – 61,069 (29.84%)

United States Senate election in Florida, 1988 (Democratic primary)

  • Bill Gunter – 383,721 (38.00%)
  • Buddy MacKay – 263,946 (26.14%)
  • Dan Mica – 179,524 (17.78%)
  • Pat Frank – 119,277 (11.81%)
  • Claude Roy Kirk Jr. – 51,387 (5.09%)
  • Fred Rader – 11,820 (1.17%)

Florida United States Senate election, 1988 (Democratic runoff)

  • Buddy MacKay – 369,266 (52.00%)
  • Bill Gunter – 340,918 (48.00%)

Florida United States Senate election, 1988

  • Connie Mack III (R) – 2,051,071 (50.42%)
  • Buddy MacKay (D) – 2,016,553 (49.57%)
  • Adam Straus (write-in) – 585 (0.01%)

Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, 1990

  • Buddy MacKay – 746,325 (69.49%)
  • Tom Gustafson – 327,731 (30.51%)

Florida gubernatorial election, 1990

  • Lawton Chiles/Buddy MacKay (D) – 1,995,206 (56.51%)
  • Bob Martinez/J. Allison DeFoor (R) – 1,535,068 (43.48%)

Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, 1994

  • Buddy MacKay (Inc.) – 603,657 (72.17%)
  • James H. King – 232,757 (27.83%)

Florida gubernatorial election, 1994

  • Lawton Chiles/Buddy MacKay (D, Inc.) – 2,135,008 (50.75%)
  • Jeb Bush/Tom Feeney (R) – 2,071,068 (49.23%)

Florida gubernatorial election, 1998

  • Jeb Bush/Frank Brogan (R) – 2,191,105 (55.27%)
  • Buddy MacKay/Rick Dantzler (D) – 1,773,054 (44.72%)

Source: Our Campaigns – Candidate – Kenneth "Buddy" MacKay Jr.


External links[]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Bill Young
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
Cliff Stearns
Party political offices
Preceded by
Lawton Chiles
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Florida
(Class 1)

Succeeded by
Hugh Rodham
Preceded by
Frank Mann
Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Florida
1990, 1994
Succeeded by
Rick Dantzler
Preceded by
Lawton Chiles
Democratic Party nominee for Governor of Florida
Succeeded by
Bill McBride
Political offices
Preceded by
Bobby Brantley
Lieutenant Governor of Florida
Succeeded by
Frank Brogan
Preceded by
Lawton Chiles
Governor of Florida
Succeeded by
Jeb Bush
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Mack McLarty
United States Special Envoy for the Americas
Succeeded by
Otto Reich

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