Reno led throughout much of the campaign for the Democratic nomination with much better name recognition at first. However in the final few weeks, McBride gained significantly to clinch a victory by less than five thousand votes.
Reno disputed the results after the primary was marred by problems. Several areas had technical glitches and delayed openings of the poll especially in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, both of which Reno performed strongly in. As a result of the problems, Governor Bush kept the polls open for two additional hours.
McBride's campaign focused on the importance of public education, supporting policies such as teacher pay rises and less emphasis on standardized tests. McBride was helped towards the end of the campaign by visits from national Democratic figures such as Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Jesse Jackson.
The two main candidates faced each other in two debates on 27 September and 22 October in the most expensive Florida gubernatorial election yet. Polls towards the end of the campaign showed Bush with a lead over McBride.Department of Justice observers were stationed at some of the polls, but unlike the problems during the 2000 presidential election and the Democratic primary, voting went smoothly.
At the same time as the election an initiative was passed to limit class sizes. This had been opposed by Bush due to the cost of implementing it, but had been supported by McBride.