Michael Schiavo backs Davis in governor's race

Published April 26, 2006

Michael Schiavo, who has turned the end-of-life struggle of his late wife Terri into a political cause, Tuesday threw his endorsement to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis.

"Even though my private family issues became a national spectacle, they had no business being debated by politicians who did not know me or Terri," said Schiavo, who has started a political action committee, TerriPac. "Congressman Davis was one of the very few leaders with the courage to place conviction above politics, stand for the rule of law and respect our privacy."

In March 2005, when President Bush cut short a vacation in Texas to join more than 200 members of Congress passing legislation to force the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, U.S. Rep. Davis of Tampa was among the most vocal critics of the move. On Tuesday he called it the most shameful episode of his 10 years in Congress.

Davis is running against state Sen. Rod Smith of Alachua for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Smith argued passionately against state lawmakers' attempt to require that Schiavo be kept alive.

"When I led the coalition of nine Democrats and 12 Republicans to prevent politicians from intervening in a private family decision, I didn't do it for Michael Schiavo's PAC endorsement," Smith said in a statement. "I did it because it was the right thing to do, and I would have done the same thing even if I knew then that he was going to endorse Jim Davis."

Both Davis and Smith met with Schiavo to discuss his endorsement. Asked why he backed Davis over Smith, Schiavo said Davis "feels this issue in his heart." He also noted that Davis called the family at the time to make sure they were okay.

"Politicians have no role in these tragic experiences except to protect our fundamental right to privacy," Davis said Tuesday.

Davis and Smith are running to succeed Jeb Bush, who must step down after this year because of term limits. In the Republican gubernatorial primary, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher faces Attorney General Charlie Crist. Gallagher publicly supported the government's intervening keep Terri Schiavo alive, while Crist largely stayed on the sidelines. Crist recently said he did not agree with Gov. Bush's efforts to intervene in the controversy.