By STEVE BOUSQUET and ALEX LEARY
Published October 25, 2006
The race to replace Gov. Jeb Bush comes down to the battle of Tampa Bay.
Republican Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg is facing Democrat Jim Davis from Tampa in the Nov. 7 election.
Both men, a year apart in age, are career lawmakers with clashing visions of the state. Crist says he wants to continue the progress made under Bush while Davis contends the past eight years have put the state on the wrong course.
There are others running for governor, notably Reform Party candidate Max Linn, also of St. Petersburg. But most eyes are on Crist and Davis, who are joined on the ticket by running mates Jeff Kottkamp, a Republican state representative from Coral Gables, and Daryl Jones, a former state senator and fighter pilot who would be the state's first African-American lieutenant governor.
Crist, 50, became the state's first Republican attorney general in 2002 after a decade as a state senator from St. Petersburg. He was best known as a legislator for anticrime proposals such as requiring inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.
He easily defeated Republican challenger Tom Gallagher in the Sept. 5 primary, and early polls show him with a commanding lead over Davis in the main event. While Crist began running television ads immediately after the primary, Davis did not until the first week of October as he had to replenish a war chest depleted by a tough primary with state Sen. Rod Smith.
Crist has staked out a moderate platform, supporting the voter-approved constitutional amendment that mandates smaller class sizes. He also wants to lessen the burden on property owners by doubling the homestead exemption to $50,000.
Davis opposes that move, saying there are better ways to reduce property taxes. His plan would pour more state money into education, trimming the required local amount.
Davis, 49, touts his role in crafting the first class size legislation as a state House member in the mid 1990s. He has tried to draw strong contrast with Crist over education, particularly with a plan to de-emphasize the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
Davis thinks the test does not effectively tell teachers and parents where a student needs improvement. Crist has supported the current system - a cornerstone of the Jeb Bush era - which has been shown to improve student scores and overall school performance.
Davis has positioned himself as the Tallahassee outsider, having been in Congress for the past decade, and says special interests have overrun state government.
His opponent has taken the opposite tack, saying his experience in Florida politics has well prepared him for the job.
As attorney general, Crist has tried to position himself as a consumer advocate (though Davis criticizes him for not doing anything about spiking insurance costs) and that role has given way to his new campaign slogan - "The People's Governor."
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 moved south when he was an infant, eventually settling in St. Petersburg. Crist is a 1974 graduate of St. Petersburg High School. He attended Wake Forest for two years, then transferred to Florida State. He received his law degree from the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Ala. Crist was a state senator from 1992-98, was elected education commissioner in 2000 and attorney general in 2002. He is divorced and has no children. Assets: Cars, sailboat. Liabilities: None. Source of income: Attorney general salary. Web site: www.charliecrist.com.
Jim Davis, 49, is a U.S. representative from Tampa. He grew up in Tampa, attended Jesuit High School, then went to Washington and Lee University in Virginia. In 1982, he earned a law degree from the University of Florida. He 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. Assets: Home, retirement account, treasury securities. Liabilities: Mortgage. Source of income: Congressional salary. Web site: www.jimdavis2006.com.
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.
[Last modified October 24, 2006, 23:02:44]
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