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Davis amps up assault on Crist

The gubernatorial candidate attacks Crist's pattern with insurance regulation and other issues.

Published October 29, 2006


CAPE CANAVERAL - Backed by a new poll Saturday showing him closing the gap in the race for governor, Democrat Jim Davis intensified his assault on Charlie Crist as a status quo Republican who "missed his chance" to stand up to the insurance industry.

From Cape Canaveral to Daytona Beach, Ocala and Spring Hill, Davis tried to capitalize on Crist's comment earlier this week that, were he governor, he probably would have vetoed the insurance bill passed this spring by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush.

As state attorney general and a Cabinet member, Crist is one of four statewide elected officials overseeing regulation of the insurance industry. He said nothing while the bill was being hashed out.

Davis said that's a pattern visible on other major issues, including the Terri Schiavo end-of-life controversy and efforts to drill for oil off Florida's coast.

"He has not stood up for us when we needed him. And I will," Davis said.

Davis was not raising questions at the time, either, even though he was outspoken on other issues while campaigning. "There's nothing I could have done in Congress that would stop it. It was a state issue."

Crist's spokeswoman, Erin Isaac, wondered what he was doing instead, poking fun at the five bills Davis has had passed since 1996. "Talk is cheap. Who has Jim Davis stood up for in his 10 years in Congress? Sports teams? The U.S. Postal Service? Jim Davis' rants about standing up would mean a lot more if he actually had a record to match his rhetoric."

After trailing for weeks in the polls, more recent surveys have shown the race tightening, a reflection of Davis' growing name recognition due to television ads. On Saturday, the St. Petersburg Times published a poll showing Crist ahead by 6 percentage points, with 10 percent of voters still undecided.

"It's a toss-up," Davis told about 75 people at Brevard Community College in Palm Bay.

In Ocala, Davis held one of his "backyard rebellions" with about 70 people, many of whom had a woeful tale about spiking property insurance bills or struggles to even get coverage. Davis outlined his proposal to create a $20-billion state insurance fund, which would cover the first $100,000 of damage in an attempt to make the state more attractive to insurers while cutting premiums.

Crist has called for expanding the state's reinsurance system by covering losses starting at $3.2-billion, down from $5-billion. That would lower the pressure on premiums, which can be raised dollar-for-dollar to cover reinsurance costs in the private market.

Davis tried to spin one of Crist's TV ads that shows an empty chair careening through the streets of Washington as a fictional Florida family looks for its congressman - an allusion to Davis having a poor voting attendance record in Congress due to campaigning.

"I've never sat down, I'm always standing up," he said to loud applause in Ocala.

Despite Davis' newfound bravado, one supporter wants to see more.

"I'm concerned. I don't hear the fire to the extent I want to hear it," said state Rep. Joyce Cusack, D-DeLand, who introduced Davis to a modest crowd at a gymnasium in Daytona Beach. "Why hold back that Charlie Crist doesn't own a house? Why hold back that he can't tell you about family values? He doesn't have kids, he doesn't have a wife."

[Last modified October 28, 2006, 23:44:45]

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