Davis settles in with voters

On his 'backyard tour,' neighbors bring issues to the candidate.

Published October 22, 2006

With only a couple of weeks left until Election Day, Democratic candidate Jim Davis took time Saturday afternoon to sit in a St. Petersburg back yard and listen to the troubles of the people he hopes will make him governor.

Davis, who has trailed his Republican opponent Charlie Crist for much of the campaign, has spent the past several months scrambling to better sell himself to voters. On Thursday, he launched the "Backyard Rebellion Tour," a new initiative to reach out to homeowners.

In the back yard of maintenance worker and longtime Democrat Milford Strong, Davis sat in a plastic chair, his sleeves rolled up to the elbow, and listened as Helene and Learie Job bemoaned the $10,000 they will spend on home insurance this year. Last year, they were told insurance for their new two-story home would cost $6,000.

"I feel like I'm being penalized for the value the appraiser put," Helene Job told Davis, as she held a stack of bills in her lap.

Davis said Tallahassee was overrun by lobbyists and promised to help lower costs.

"It is too much of a burden for those of us who own a home right now or rent property," he said. "The future of home ownership is at stake in this race."

Davis later leaned forward and nodded when sixth-grader Jonathan Cooney asked, "What are you going to do about classroom size?"

The state needs better standards, Davis answered.

At times, the event, attended by about a diverse group of two dozen neighborhood residents sitting in a circle, seemed almost too casual.

But Helene Job said she wanted a governor who reached out to people.

"It's nice that he asked about the everyday things, like home insurance costs and the price of a tomato," she said.

Cristina Silva can be reached at csilva@sptimes.com