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Davis and Crist pound themes from debate

The candidates for governor return to the campaign trail and talk of insurance and taxes.

Published October 26, 2006


AVENTURA - The two major candidates for governor traveled to opposite ends of the state Wednesday, repeating contrasting themes that dominated their first TV debate.

Democrat Jim Davis held another of his "Backyard Rebellion" meetings with about 60 retirees in the affluent Miami suburb of Aventura.

Republican Charlie Crist toured the Panhandle with Sen. Mel Martinez, telling larger crowds in four locations that he was better positioned to keep Florida on course.

"I tell you, this is what I call victory lane, the Panhandle," Crist said in Pensacola.

At Davis' only public event of the day, frustrated residents said their insurance company has still not sent a check for roof and balcony repairs, more than a year after Hurricane Wilma tore through the region.

Such delays will end, Davis said, if he is elected governor on Nov. 7. He outlined his plan to use the state's catastrophic insurance fund to fund backup coverage for insurance companies, and force the companies to pass on the savings to consumers.

"It is unacceptable that you are still waiting to get your money back," Davis said, as retirees sipped coffee and munched muffins.

Crist criticized Davis' plan to reduce property taxes by $1-billion next year because it would require reinstating other taxes, including one on intangibles.

"I'm running against a guy who wants to raise your taxes. Do you want that?" Crist called out at a park in Pensacola, where about 200 people gathered on a brisk morning.

Moments earlier, as Crist's gleaming black tour bus pulled up, a horde of schoolchildren ran down the street to greet him.

Crist made his way through the crowd, calling people by name - "Hey Sheriff! Hey Ellen!" - patting strangers on the back and scooping up a miniature Doberman pinscher named Agnes. "You know, if I'm governor, I'm going to have to get a dog," he said.

Crist's debate performance was enough to earn the support of Lydia O'Connor, a 73-year-old former teacher who described herself as "Republican but independent." Crist, she said, showed himself more experienced and in command than Davis. "I felt more at ease now," she said.

The tour made two more stops, at the Donut Hole in Santa Rosa Beach and a McKenzie Park in Panama City for an appearance with outgoing Florida House Speaker Allan Bense.

In Aventura, Davis outlined his plan to reduce property taxes by $1-billion, while balancing the state's books by eliminating $1-billion in what he called "special interest tax giveaways."

"We can do better, but we cannot afford to stay the course," Davis said.

His message seemed to connect with his liberal audience, but some voiced concern that Davis was not forceful enough.

"To me, he's a young Lawton Chiles," said Ginger Grossman, a longtime political activist in this retiree-rich area northeast of Miami. "But I wish he was a little bit stronger, and wasn't so much of a gentleman."

[Last modified October 26, 2006, 00:02:58]

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