Davis TV ads to feature Graham

In a 30-second spot to begin Tuesday, the former governor and U.S. senator says Davis "has what it takes to be a great governor."

Published August 4, 2006

Jim Davis, the only candidate for governor who has not yet run a TV ad, will take the crucial step next week, and he is letting someone else do the talking: Bob Graham.

In a 30-second spot to begin Tuesday, the former governor and U.S. senator - one of Florida most recognizable politicians - says Davis "has what it takes to be a great governor" and touts his record on education and the environment.

The ad, which opens with Davis standing in front of an American flag and walking down a residential street with Graham, will be shown on network television in the Tampa Bay area, South Florida and parts of North Florida, home to his Democratic primary rival, state Sen. Rod Smith. Smith has already aired two ads.

The Davis campaign did not release details of the ad, including how much it cost. (Davis raised $1.3-million in July, the bulk coming from public matching funds.)

The ads mirror the candidates' stylistic differences. Smith's are edgy, displaying a take-charge attitude. The Davis ad is more traditional, with the similarly low-key Graham, his campaign chairman, making the introduction and doing all the talking.

Graham, 69, is an iconic figure among Florida Democrats and a living symbol of a time when the party totally dominated state politics. Like Davis, Graham sometimes was a dry speaker, but he was overwhelmingly successful.

"We have a lot of respect for Bob Graham, but I think the voters of Florida want to elect a candidate and leader who can stand up for himself," said Smith spokesman David Kochman.

Graham sketches a flattering portrait of Davis' 17 years in politics, from his work in the state House on class size reduction to his efforts in Congress to beat back oil drilling off the coast of Florida. Davis is seen reading to kids in a classroom, tossing a football on the beach with his wife and teenage sons and visiting with senior citizens.

"Jim Davis is my friend, a great Democrat and a governor who will always be on the side of Florida's families," Graham says.

The ad, produced by adviser Anita Dunn, is the first of several that will run leading up to the Sept. 5 primary, campaign spokesman Josh Earnest said. "This is part of our full-throated campaign on television."

But it comes more than a week after Smith's first spot, which gave a behind-the-scenes look at the ad being made. Polls show Davis ahead but more than half of voters said they are undecided - making TV ads critical.

Smith's latest pitch shows him running from a helicopter to a mock press corps and talking about his plans to hold insurers accountable in storm-battered Florida.

Times staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.