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Lawyer: Davis' voted in 2000

Tampa lawyer Susan Fox, a Democrat, says she stood in line with Jim Davis at the polls.

By ADAM C. SMITH
Published November 2, 2006


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TAMPA — As a new poll showed Republican Charlie Crist with a comfortable lead in the governor’s race, Jim Davis brought out a witness to knock down questions about whether he voted in Florida’s virtually tied 2000 presidential election.

“I was reading the paper this morning and I saw where it said Jim hadn’t voted in 2000,’ and I thought that was not true because I stood in line with him over on Davis Island for 45 minutes to an hour waiting to vote for Al Gore,” said Tampa lawyer Susan Fox, a Democrat who records show did vote in the 2000 election. Fox accompanied Davis to vote early in west Tampa on Thursday.

Davis found himself on the defensive after Hillsborough County elections records surfaced showing that he did not vote in the 2000 election after consistently voting in major elections since 1986.

Davis insisted he did vote — shortly after campaigning with Gore and Joe Lieberman in west Tampa — and former elections chief Pam Iorio, now Tampa mayor and a Davis supporter, said a clerical error could cause a mistake on the voter history record.

On the morning that the 2000 vote controversy hit the newspapers, Gore sent a mass e-mail urging donations to the Davis campaign on the final day for fundraising.

“If we elect Jim the next governor of Florida, we will not have to worry about the accuracy of our elections again,’’ Gore wrote, touting Davis’ environmental record and support for a voter-verified paper trail.

But the Crist campaign jumped on the new line of attack with a radio ad accusing Davis of failing to show up for the 2000 election and casting doubt on his denial: “So who do you believe? Official records, or the guy who has the second worst voting record in the entire Congress?”

As the campaign reaches its final few days, both sides are working feverishly to mobilize supporters and minimize turnout for the other side. The 2000 election issue was tailor-made to help depress Democratic turnout.

To help energize voters, former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to headline a Democratic rally in Miami on Saturday, and President Bush is scheduled to attend a Republican rally in Pensacola on Monday.

Despite the president’s low approval ratings, especially among independent swing voters, North Florida is heavily Republican and a region where a St. Petersburg Times poll last week found that Crist is running weaker than Republicans usually do.

“President Bush doesn’t come to North Florida unless Charlie Crist needs him in North Florida,’’ said Mitchell Berger, a top Davis adviser. “This is going to be a close race. It’s going to be a late night Tuesday.’’

A new Mason-Dixon poll released Thursday night showed Crist leading Davis, 50 percent to 43 percent, with 7 percent undecided or favoring another candidate.

That’s a slight improvement for Davis since the last Mason-Dixon poll and in line with last week’s Times poll showing Crist leading by six percentage points.

“If you look at all the polls that have come out over the last few days we are gaining on him, and he’s outspending me dramatically, with $5-million from the insurance companies,’’ Davis said.

“The independent voters are going to send a message to Charlie Crist and George Bush that they do not want to stay the course on rising insurance premiums and property taxes.’’

Meanwhile, Davis’ running mate, Daryl Jones, held a conference call with reporters to criticize Crist, as a member of the state Board of Executive Clemency, for voting 575 times over the past six years to deny the restoration of civil rights to felons who had completed their sentences.

“He sat silently while the votes of 575 Floridians were denied,” Jones said. “Rest assured that Charlie showed up for those meetings. But he didn’t stand up for those 575 Floridians who paid their debt to society.”

Crist’s response: “Obviously, they’re trying to change the subject, and I can sure understand why. I’d be trying to change the subject too if I was in their situation.”

Crist pointed out that under the rules of the clemency board, the governor must be on the prevailing side of every vote — so that all 575 denials that Jones referred to would have necessitated a no vote from Gov. Jeb Bush.

Crist campaigned on Thursday in Port Charlotte and Naples, and headed to Fort Lauderdale for his final campaign fundraiser  Driving south on Interstate 75 to Naples, he downplayed the latest poll.

“That’s very good news,” Crist said, referring to the 50 percent figure as the magic number. “But you can never take anything for granted. Still, I’d much rather be us than them.”

Times staff writers Alex Leary, Joni James, Steve Bousquet, and Bill Adair contributed to this report. Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com or (727)893-8241.

[Last modified November 2, 2006, 22:28:37]


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