Davis, Crist enter the homestretch
By STEVE BOUSQUET AND ALEX LEARY
Published November 6, 2006
MIAMI - In church after church Sunday, Jim Davis bowed to people power, telling Democrats their ballots can overcome Charlie Crist's huge money advantage in the race for governor.
"How many children could we feed?" Davis asked Miami churchgoers, referring to the $40-million of Republican money being spent to defeat him.
Crist attended no services on the final Sunday before Election Day, when candidates typically reaffirm their faith. Instead, a political celebrity sang Crist's praises at four rallies: former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani fired up crowds in Miami, Boca Raton, Sanford and Pinellas Park, telling Republican voters Crist will be "a great governor."
The contrasting campaign styles of the two candidates came on the final day of grassroots campaigning in the contest for control of the executive branch of the fourth-largest state.
"Tuesday is the one day, the one day, that we are all truly created equal in the eyes of God and in the eyes of one another," Davis told the congregation at Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church south of Miami. "It's the one day we get to stand up and say, 'I am somebody. My vote counts.' "
Davis, a 49-year-old Tampa congressman, attended services at six predominantly black congregations in Miami and Homestead.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and former Sen. Bob Graham joined him at several church services, which ranged in size from 50 to 500 people.
At Bethel Missionary Baptist in Miami, Davis' wife, Peggy, was at his side as he swayed and sang to the music performed by a live band and sung by a choir dressed in white.
"I'm desperate for you, and I'm lost without you," Davis sang along with worshipers.
Davis also spent the day criticizing Crist for not standing up to the insurance industry, ending a 12-hour day at a Democratic rally in Orlando.
Crist, the self-proclaimed "happy warrior," told large and enthusiastic crowds Sunday that Davis is a "depressing" candidate who skipped votes on Capitol Hill and voted as a state legislator to increase taxes on insurance premiums.
"Our opponent voted to slap a tax on your insurance premiums. Can you believe that?" Crist told a rally in Miami. "That's the kind of guy he is. Remarkable. Bad, not good."
Insurance tax vote
Davis said that he did not specifically remember the vote, and that Crist's bringing it up smacked of worry that his lead has evaporated.
Crist's campaign said the vote in question was a tax bill in the 1990 legislative session that raised the tax on surplus lines insurance premiums from 3 percent to 5 percent. Surplus lines insurance companies, such as Lloyd's of London, are not subject to state regulation.
Democrats were in control then, and they routinely passed a major tax bill near the end of the session to provide enough revenue to balance the budget.
But what Crist didn't tell audiences was that a Republican governor, Bob Martinez, allowed the tax increase to become law. Martinez could have vetoed it.
Giuliani has achieved near-cult status as the human face of America's response to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. His blessing is highly coveted by Republican candidates.
Crist, the 50-year-old attorney general, spoke at a political rally at Chaban Lubavitch, a synagogue in Boca Raton.
Crist's crowds were on average larger than Davis.' More than 600 people turned out Sunday morning for a Crist rally at a hotel near the Miami airport, 250 at an airport hangar in Sanford and more than 300 at the Wagon Wheel Flea Market in Pinellas Park.
Crist, his shirtsleeves rolled up and his necktie loosened, leaned over the flea market stage to shake dozens of hands and sign caps, campaign signs and T-shirts.
Crist's decision to skip religious services was yet another sign that he was looking beyond the socially conservative base in his party.
By contrast, on the final Sunday before his 2002 re-election victory, Gov. Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba, went to traditional sources of conservative support such as First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, where he spoke of the power of prayer and family.
With Crist and Davis on the ballot to become Florida's 44th governor are Reform Party candidate Max Linn and three independent hopefuls.
Steve Bousquet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 850 224-7263.
[Last modified November 6, 2006, 01:18:47]
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