CARRABELLE -- Independent gubernatorial candidate Lawton ``Bud'' Chiles III is a defendant in seven lawsuits stemming from a construction business currently in bankruptcy and a foreclosed condo development.
Most of the suits are either foreclosure cases or claims that Chiles and his partners did not pay leases for construction equipment. In total, suits involving Chiles and his development businesses ask for more than $10 million in damages, though he could be obligated for far less.
The lawsuits could be used politically to raise questions about Chiles' ability to manage a major organization as he runs for governor as an ``outsider'' who wants to clean up the political structure in Tallahassee.
``Anybody with any sense knew the economy was slowing down and we were headed into really tough times,'' said Gene Langston, a real estate agent in Carrabelle, a town on the Gulf coast about 50 miles southwest of Tallahassee. ``I will give him credit for one thing. He had enough sense to know when to get out. Now, whether that makes you qualified to be governor or not, I really don't know.''
Chiles said the business failures came during an ``excruciatingly difficult period'' in his life and that the sharp housing downturn contributed to much of their problems.
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