Democrats Jim Davis and Rod Smith agree in opposing Bush's education policies. Republicans Charlie Crist and Tom Gallagher clash on several issues.
By STEVE BOUSQUET, Times Staff Writer
Published August 23, 2006
Meet the Candidates: Find detailed information on the hopefuls, including their unedited responses to questions from the St. Petersburg Times editorial board. Search database Return to Special Report BLOG: The Buzz The latest in the world of Florida politics. Read and react
As the Jeb Bush era draws to a close after eight years, Florida voters on Sept. 5 will choose Republican and Democratic nominees to succeed him as governor.
The race for the Republican nomination is a fight over who can best carry on Bush's legacy of low taxes and an emphasis on boosting student achievement through the use of standardized tests and grades for schools.
This is the first election for governor since 1994 in which Bush will not be the Republican standard-bearer. Bush narrowly lost that year before winning in 1998 and 2002.
The leading Democrats, U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa and state Sen. Rod Smith of Alachua, both strongly oppose Bush's education policies. Both have made property insurance a focus of their campaigns, offering somewhat different ideas on how to solve the problem while criticizing Republican leadership on the issue.
The Republican contest to succeed Bush is between Attorney General Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who sharply disagree on several key policy issues.
Crist, 50, became the state's first Republican attorney general in 2002 after a decade as a state senator from St. Petersburg. Crist is a lawyer who was best known as a legislator for anticrime proposals such as requiring inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.
Gallagher, 62, is making his fourth try for the governorship and is one of Florida's longest-serving officeholders. He was first elected statewide in 1988 as treasurer and insurance commissioner and later was elected education commissioner. He was unopposed in 2002 when he became Florida's first CFO, a post created by merging the offices of treasurer and comptroller.
Gallagher, a political moderate in his early years as a state legislator from Miami, is running as the more conservative candidate. Gallagher favors the repeal of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
Gallagher supported state and federal intervention to keep the brain-damaged Terri Schiavo on a feeding tube, while Crist said that was an issue best decided by the family.
Crist supports the voter-approved constitutional amendment that mandates smaller class sizes. Gallagher supports repeal of the amendment.
Democrat Jim Davis, who has represented the Tampa Bay area in Congress for the past decade, has portrayed himself as the outsider who has come to reclaim state government for the people. He says special interests have the exclusive ear of lawmakers and promises a more inclusive decisionmaking process.
Davis, 48, does not want to scrap the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test but thinks it should be used more as a diagnostic tool rather than the key factor in student advancement. He does not want it tied to teacher pay.
Seizing the state's growing property insurance woes, brought on by several crushing hurricane seasons, Davis has proposed creating a policyholder advocate. He would also reverse a 2005 state law he says made it easier for wind and flood insurers to pass responsibility to each other.
Smith, his opponent, would create an independent panel to back consumers in rate cases. He voted to split wind and flood insurance and says Davis' plan to reverse that would drive up rates even more. Smith, 56, is pushing a plan in which the state would cover some portion of the first $50,000 to $100,000 of insured value. Private insurers would handle all the paperwork and be expected to offer policies for greater losses.
The former prosecutor has views similar to Davis' on education and has a plan to raise teacher pay. Both men decry the government attempts to intervene in the Schiavo case.
For many, then, the Democratic primary may come down to a contest of personality. Davis has a more laid-back style, a la his mentor Bob Graham, while Smith's legal training and homespun persona come out in fiery, humor-laced stump speeches.
- JENNIFER LIBERTO, ALEX LEARY, JONI JAMES AND STEVE BOUSQUET, Times staff writers
The governor is the top executive of the state, with a range of agencies under his command, from public schools to state prisons. He leads the state Cabinet, where he oversees the state's capital purchases and its debt load. The governor has veto power over almost all actions taken by the state Legislature, including a line item veto of the budget. The job currently pays $127,804.
CHARLIE CRIST, 50, lives in St. Petersburg and is Florida's attorney general. The second oldest of four children, he was born in Altoona, Pa., in 1956. His parents, Charles and Nancy Crist, moved south when he was an infant - first to Atlanta, where the elder Crist attended medical school, and later to St. Petersburg, where the parents still live. Crist is a 1974 graduate of St. Petersburg High School. He attended Wake Forest for two years, then transferred to Florida State, where he graduated. He received his law degree at the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Ala.
Crist was a state senator 1992-1998, was elected education commissioner in 2000 and attorney general in 2002. He also was an attorney for minor league baseball and state director for former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack. He was the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Bob Graham in 1998
TOM GALLAGHER, 62, a Delaware native, is one of Florida's longest serving politicians. This is the University of Miami graduate's fourth run for governor. Gallagher, a former mortgage insurance broker, began his political career in 1974 with his election as the sole Republican state House member from Miami-Dade County.
In 1987, he was appointed as secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. His first election to a statewide office came in a special 1988 election as the state's treasurer and insurance commissioner. He won re-election in 1990, eventually overseeing the resuscitation of the state's insurance market in the wake of 1992's Hurricane Andrew. In 1994, after his third unsuccessful bid for governor, Gallagher became a consultant and ran a testing company. In 1998, he won election as Florida's education commissioner. In a special 2000 election, he once again won the post of treasurer. In 2002, he was elected the state's first chief financial officer.
He and his wife, Laura, have a 7-year-old son, Charlie.
ASSETS: $2.6-million (includes $1.88-million in eight properties and one yacht, $160,694 in retirement accounts).
JIM DAVIS, 48, is a U.S. representative from Tampa. He grew up in Tampa, attending Jesuit High School, then went to Washington & Lee University in Virginia. In 1982, he earned a law degree from the University of Florida.
Davis was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1988 and served until 1996, when he staged an underdog bid to replace the retiring Sam Gibbons in Congress.
He and his wife, Peggy, have two teenage boys, Peter and William.
ROD SMITH, 56, is a former state attorney who was elected to the state Senate in 2000. He was born in Oklahoma but moved to South Florida as a child into a house he says had no running water. He got a law degree from the University of Florida in 1975 and spent 17 years as a labor lawyer.
In 1992, Smith defeated a Republican incumbent to become state attorney for the 8th Judicial Circuit and gained notice with the successful prosecution of the Gainesville student serial killer. He currently works for the Gainesville personal injury law firm of Avera & Avera. Smith lives in Alachua with his wife and has two sons and a stepdaughter.