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Davis camp frowns at Crist ad humor

The cartoonish ad depicts a Florida family looking in vain for the congressman in D.C.

By ALEX LEARY
Published October 20, 2006


TALLAHASSEE - Republicans are trying to sting Jim Davis with humor, launching a TV ad Thursday that shows an empty office chair careening through Washington as a vacationing family looks in vain for their congressman.

"You think we'll see him next time, Pa?" a boy actor asks. A question flashes onscreen: "Jim Davis: If he doesn't show up for work now, why should we elect him governor?"

The ad, the first of its kind in the general election, aims to put a light touch on a serious issue for Davis. His voting attendance record fell to second-worst among the 435 members of Congress as he launched his bid for governor more than a year ago.

It depicts a fictional Florida family searching for Davis as whimsical, almost cartoon-style, music plays in the background.

But Davis was not laughing.

His campaign sent a letter to television stations saying the ad is "false and misleading" and should be taken down. None had done so as of Thursday evening.

The campaign said Davis has passed five bills during his decade in Congress, not three as the ad states. The missing bills urged Saudi Arabia to tone down anti-Western rhetoric in textbooks and named a post office in St. Petersburg for civil rights leader Morris Milton.

Crist spokeswoman Erin Isaac distributed a statement saying there were plans to address the concerns. She would not elaborate.

"Only in Jim Davis' Washington could he be proud for being paid over a million dollars by the taxpayers for not showing up for work and where the highlights of his tenure are passing bills to congratulate sports teams and name post offices," her statement read.

Coming to Davis' defense was U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, who told reporters Thursday that the ad ignores a reality that it's hard for Democrats to get bills heard, let alone passed.

He said Davis has been a leader in other ways, including leading the fight against intervention in the Terri Schiavo case.

"It's both a false attack and an attack that has no basis," Wexler said of the ad, which the Republican Party of Florida financed.

Replied Isaac, "Is Jim Davis saying he would not be able to effectively serve as governor in a Republican-dominated Legislature?"

Wexler did not focus on the main thrust of the ad, Davis' absence in Washington. But when asked if that was a problem for his friend, he said voters understand Davis is torn between two responsibilities.

"When Jim was needed in Washington," Wexler said, "he was there."

Times staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.