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Davis' Alberto comments get stormy Bush response

It was "stupid" for the Democratic candidate to talk about hurricane insurance as a storm threatened, Bush declares.

By ALEX LEARY, Times Staff Writer
Published June 15, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - Something about Jim Davis gets Gov. Jeb Bush rolling.

For the second time this month, Bush on Wednesday berated the Democratic candidate for governor, saying an e-mail he sent Monday to supporters was a tacky political ploy at a time when people were worried about a tropical storm.

"I hope candidate Davis, if he was to be privileged to serve in the job that I have ... would realize what a stupid statement that is," Bush said. "The day before a hurricane arriving on our shores is not the time to be talking about politics."

In the e-mail, Davis, a congressman from Tampa, said that with Tropical Storm Alberto brewing, "there is no better time to discuss how to start fixing the hurricane insurance crisis facing Florida's policyholders." Davis outlined his plan for a "policyholders' bill of rights."

"His ambitions seem to get in the way of common sense on a regular basis," Bush said.

The governor made no mention of Davis' primary opponent, state Sen. Rod Smith, who also campaigned during the storm.

Bush's comments, however, highlighted what has long been a privilege of incumbent politicians. As the governor took aim at Davis, the two Republican candidates were benefiting in their own way from the storm crisis.

A GOP gubernatorial forum in Naples was canceled Tuesday night, but Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and Attorney General Charlie Crist were nonetheless able to use their official state roles Tuesday to raise their profiles.

Gallagher appeared twice on statewide television as he monitored the storm from the state emergency operations center. Crist toured storm-damaged areas, including Cedar Key.

Earlier this month, Bush ripped Davis for suggesting he ask for the resignation of his top health care regulator, Alan Levine, after the St. Petersburg Times revealed Levine was seeking a high-paying job managing a group of South Florida hospitals. Bush mocked Davis' history of missing votes in Congress, including reauthorization of the Patriot Act.

As it did then, the Davis campaign on Wednesday pitched Bush's comments as a positive sign their man is a threat. "They see the traction that he's gaining by talking about the issues like the insurance crisis and the momentum we're building all across the state," spokeswoman Danae Jones said. "It's understandable they want to talk about politics instead of the state's hurricane insurance crisis, given the fact that they spent more time protecting insurance company profits than Floridians' private property."

Jones noted that even before this week's storm threatened, Davis met with residents in Tampa about his insurance plan.

Davis' Democratic rival spent Tuesday on the campaign trail, including a fundraiser in West Palm Beach. Smith spokesman David Kochman said it was up to local organizers whether to proceed and they chose to do so because the area was far from the storm.

Alberto's impending visit prevented Smith from attending a Democratic rally Monday in Orlando, giving Davis sole stage with former President Clinton.

Times staff writer Joni James contributed to this report.

[Last modified June 15, 2006, 08:04:08]


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