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Papers pick Crist, Smith for primary

The Attorney General is pegged as "having a better chance of winning in November," while Rod Smith has a leg up among Democratic candidates.

Published August 21, 2006

If newspaper endorsements decided elections, Attorney General Charlie Crist would have a lock on the Republican gubernatorial nomination, while Democratic state Sen. Rod Smith would have the edge in the Democratic primary.

Crist, as of Sunday, had won recommendations from editorial boards for every major daily Florida newspaper to date, including the St. Petersburg Times, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel and Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union.

Republican Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher has yet to receive an endorsement from a major Florida daily paper, though the Miami-Herald, his hometown paper, had not issued endorsements in the governor's race as of Sunday.

"Not only does Crist have a better chance of winning in November, he would be better able to continue the policies of Jeb Bush," said the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, one of the state's more conservative editorial boards.

It backed Davis over Smith among the Democrats because, "One senses Davis wouldn't turn the clock back to the pre-Bush days as thoroughly as Smith."

The Sentinel in Orlando called Gallagher "embarrassingly unprepared to lead even after 32 years in public service. The challenges facing Florida - a crisis in homeowners insurance, the wise management of growth, continued education reforms to name but a few - have to be met with more than platitudes aimed at wooing primary voters. And though he served as the state's insurance regulator for 10 years over three decades, Mr. Gallagher can suggest only pale variations of the same policies that led to the crisis in the first place. Where has he been?"

In the Democratic primary, Smith, a former Gainesville-area prosecutor, so far has won endorsements from the St. Petersburg Times, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Daytona News-Journal, Lakeland Ledger, Gainesville Sun and Naples Daily News. U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa has won endorsements from the Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Times-Union and Bradenton Herald.

"Likability is a funny thing in politics. Many voters seem to base their picks on who they'd most like to have a beer with. On that measure, it's easy to imagine Smith more comfortably holding court at Clyde's, the famous Tallahassee watering hole for politicos. The more introverted Davis would prefer to be home with his wife and two boys," the Tribune wrote in an editorial published Sunday. "But likability has a different meaning for those of us who have known Jim Davis over the years and trust he will do the right thing, even if it means standing up to powerful interests in his own party."

Said the Sun-Sentinel: "Democrats should choose Smith, 56, a former prosecutor from Gainesville who is currently a state senator. His primary opponent is Jim Davis, 49, an affable congressman from Tampa. Smith's record is the more impressive of the two, and his familiarity with the Legislature and state government gives him the edge over Davis. Smith could literally win the November election and hit the ground running."

The St. Petersburg Times, Florida's largest daily newspaper, issued its gubernatorial endorsements last week.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8241 or

[Last modified August 21, 2006, 00:34:09]

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