Democrats get more personal on TV

By Times Staff
Published August 27, 2006

Check out Democratic gubernatorial candidates Jim Davis and Rod Smith today at 11 a.m. on Political Connections on Bay News 9. Sitting side by side for an extended hourlong interview, the Democrats frequently became heated, even with some softball questions thrown in.

What's their favorite movie and favorite band?

Smith said Casablanca and Charlie Daniels (only to second-guess himself off-camera and wonder if he'd get in trouble for not naming his hometown hero, Tom Petty). Davis prefers Bruce Springsteen.

"My favorite movie is whatever I get to watch with my sons, and I don't have much control about that. Except we don't watch 'R,'" Davis said.

An Orlando Sentinel columnist recently bashed Smith for his ties to the sugar industry, saying, "I would no more vote for Smith than I would take a bubble bath in Red Tide."

"Obviously, you can chalk him off as a decided voter and that's great," Davis said when asked about that.

Smith was optimistic: "Well, I actually have the guy down as a maybe."

Check out the full interview today at 11 a.m., or starting Monday at no cost on Ch. 342 (Bays News 9 on Demand).

MORE DEBATES: Republican gubernatorial candidates Tom Gallagher and Charlie Crist will square off for a live debate televised on NBC stations across Florida Monday at 8 p.m. The Democrats will debate live on NBC stations Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Anybody noticing the bad name bumper stickers are getting in Florida lately?

"The loophole that he talks about because it fits on a bumper sticker," Smith said of Davis' jab at an insurance bill passed last year. Smith also dismissed America's wet foot/dry foot policy as "a bumper sticker, not an immigration policy."

Then there was Gallagher Tuesday night scoffing at Crist's "bumper sticker answers."

Well, there's one candidate who is standing up for bumper stickers in a big way: Charlie Crist.

"Somebody has to," he quipped. In Deltona Thursday: "You have a bumper sticker on your car yet? No? What's up with that?" In Viera: "Here, take two stickers. You must have a friend who could use one." In Orange Park Friday: "I'm the bumper sticker guy."

Most everywhere he tells people that someone once told him each bumper sticker swings seven votes and even if it's half-true that's a great thing.

Turns out, though, his mom refused to put one on her car for fear it wouldn't peel off.

"With (his campaign manager's) permission, we spent a little extra money and got the thick vinyl kind."

INSURANCE TENSION: Saturday at Coral Gables High School, at one of incoming House Speaker Marco Rubio's "idea raisers," Rep. Juan Zapata, R-Miami, told the audience "I think the Republican Party has failed you (on insurance) . . . We have been afraid."

But Zapata didn't stop there. He ended his remarks bashing Rep. Don Brown, R-DeFuniak Springs, a part-architect of this year's insurance legislation.

"I will tell you this much, on the record, and I hope he hears this: He is in the pocket of the insurance companies," Zapata said, then added he hoped Rubio, who wasn't present, wouldn't place him on insurance committees next legislative session.

Asked about that on a South Florida radio show, Brown, an insurance agent, cited his "background and understanding of the industry that helps me navigate through a very complex issue. And if that offends Rep. Zapata simply because he doesn't have that kind of understanding, I'm sorry. I was elected to come to office and bring the talent I have and apply it to the difficult issues we face and that's what I do."

DEFINING THE CANDIDATE: Urbandictionary.com has added a new phrase to the lexicon: Katherine Harris Crazy: "(n.) As insanely optimistic as Congresswoman Katherine Harris. Usually characterized by an overly optimistic estimation of someone's chances of achieving success.

"Did you hear Jim just bought $500 in lottery tickets? That boy is 'Katherine Harris crazy' if he thinks he's going to hit the jackpot."

Meanwhile, the congressional race to succeed the Longboat Key Republican is looking like one of the better political dramas this year. University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato says of the Republican-leaning district in the Sarasota area: "When one prominent blog labeled Sarasota as the nation's craziest district, the Crystal Ball couldn't help but agree. Incumbent Katherine Harris' Senate bid has been the laughingstock of the campaign world for ages, but now GOP contender Tramm Hudson's statements casting doubt on the swimming abilities of African-Americans has only confirmed the district's reputation. We bet Buchanan will win the Republican nod, but with a late Florida primary, we cannot rule out Democrat Jennings, who has been eagerly waiting in the wings."

THE LATEST SLAP: Crist continues his sweep of newspaper endorsements. Even the Miami Herald, the hometown newspaper of opponent Gallagher, backed Crist. (It also endorsed Smith in the Democratic primary.) As of Saturday, Gallagher had yet to receive a single major newspaper endorsement, which his campaign cited as proof that Crist is favored by liberal interests.

Crist, meanwhile, took to the airwaves to tout his sweep of the newspaper endorsements and featured some direct quotes to bash Gallagher: "Crist is focused and consistently solid on cultural issues, pro-life, better able to continue the policies of Jeb Bush," reads the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.

A little trivia: In the last GOP gubernatorial primary, Bush didn't receive a single major newspaper endorsement. Pretty much sweeping the endorsements in 1994 were Smith and Gallagher. Apparently the papers liked Gallagher's moderate record and platform.

MORE ENDORSEMENTS: In the Republican Senate primary, frontrunner Harris also is getting shut out of major newspaper endorsements, while retired Adm. LeRoy Collins Jr. is reeling in the most recommendations. So far Collins has won over St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Tribune, Miami Herald, Naples Daily News and Gainesville Sun. Former federal housing official Peter Monroe has won endorsements from the Palm Beach Post and South Florida Sun Sentinel.

MURDERED ANTI-MURDER BILLS? At a Crist campaign stop in Brooksville last week, state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, was on hand to cheer Crist as a leader "who isn't constantly trying to reinvent himself." She also made a point of noting that she sponsored Crist's cherished "anti-murder" bill combatting child predators. Contrary to Sen. Tom Lee saying recently that Crist simply didn't have the votes to get it through the Senate, Dockery said it died simply because of "election year politics" where "the powers that be" didn't want to give Crist a big legislative victory.

"I'm not going to say who," she said when asked if she meant Senate President and CFO candidate Lee. "But despite the fact that I had the votes to pass it, I couldn't get it up for a vote on the floor."

Adam C. Smith, Joni James, and Jennifer Liberto contributed to this week's Buzz. For much more political news, check out Buzz online at blogs.tampabay.com/buzz.