WASHINGTON -- Gov. Bob Martinez of Florida, a Republican who recently lost a bid for re-election, will be appointed by President Bush as the nation's next drug czar, White House and administration sources indicated yesterday.
Governor Martinez would succeed William J. Bennett as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the drug czar's official title. Mr. Bennett, who resigned the office Nov. 8, is expected to become chairman of the Republican National Committee, succeeding Lee Atwater, who has been undergoing intensive treatment for a brain tumor.
Bill Harlow, a White House spokesman, said by telephone
yesterday from Paris, where he was traveling with the president, that he had "no announcements to make" concerning the post of drug czar. Mr. Bush is scheduled to return to Washington at the end of the week from an eight-day trip to Europe and the Persian Gulf.
But an administration official who insisted upon anonymity said Governor Martinez, 55, was the "leading candidate" for the job of drug czar. The Associated Press quoted an anonymous White House official as saying that the governor, whose term ends Jan. 8, "is probably going to be the next drug czar."
"Nobody else is being actively considered," the White House official was quoted as saying.
In Florida, Jon Peck, Governor Martinez's spokesman, said the governor definitely would consider the position if asked by the president. "That's not to say that it's something he has been actively working to get," Mr. Peck told the Associated Press.
Nevertheless, the governor's name has been "consistently" linked to the job of the nation's drug czar, according to Sterling Tucker, who held a similar post in the District of Columbia government. Mr. Tucker resigned the post five months ago to make an unsuccessful bid to become the district's non-voting delegate to Congress.
Mr. Tucker said he had repeatedly heard the names of two candidates for the national post: Governor Martinez and former Washington Superior Court Judge Reggie Walton, who has been Mr. Bennett's deputy.
Mr. Tucker said he had hoped Judge Walton would get Mr. Bennett's job -- but he also speculated that Judge Walton might now have a chance to succeed Jay Stephens as U.S. attorney for the District. Mr. Stephens led the prosecution of Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. on cocaine-possession charges.
Despite campaign help from the Bush family, Governor Martinez was soundly defeated by former Sen. Lawton Chiles. The president traveled to Florida three times to campaign for Mr. Martinez; First Lady Barbara Bush made a commercial on his behalf; and Jeb Bush, one of the president's sons, was Mr. Martinez's campaign chairman.
Mr. Bennett, who served 20 months as drug czar, plans to remain at the job until Nov. 30, according to aides. He will reportedly take over Mr. Atwater's job as RNC chairman in January, and Mr. Atwater is expected to assume the title of "general chairman."