Charlie Crist vs. Jim Davis


More than 12,000 people move to Florida every year, straining our roads, water supply and environment. Not to mention our patience. Florida's education system rates near the bottom in the U.S. We struggle to provide health care to seniors and the working poor, not to mention our sizable population of illegal immigrants (or undocumented workers, if that is the euphemism of choice).

And these two guys want to run this mess?

Charlie Crist is Florida's attorney general, a former legislator from the Bay area whose populism and charming style have won him elections for decades. He clearly would continue the Republican reforms of Gov. Jeb Bush. Jim Davis, a Democratic congressman from Tampa, is known as a whip-smart centrist.

To decide in this race, where the candidates were less accessible than those in local races, the entire Creative Loafing news staff watched the first gubernatorial debate together to see if either candidate could swing our opinions.

Starting with Scott Harrell's appraisal of moderator Ray Suarez's oddly dark beard ("Somebody likes James Lipton"), most of the rest of the debate went downhill in a cascade of unrelenting speaking points. Staffers complained that neither candidate seemed to deviate much from the script to elaborate or explain their positions when challenged. Davis, wanting to link Crist to President Bush's woes, used the phrase "stay the course" six times to describe the Republican's platform. Crist, in return, was unrelenting in criticizing Davis for missing congressional votes while he was campaigning for governor. "The debate proved to me why I don't like politics," said Leilani Polk, our events editor. "When you get to a certain level, it's all rehearsed." Our copy editor, Anthony "Sal" Salveggi, chimed in, "I was turned off by how much both of them used stock phrases."

Davis' tax plan and his ability to force better terms from insurers who want to do business in Florida seemed stronger to our staff, and Crist's plan for making up for lost revenue once he cuts taxes fell flat. Saying that local governments could instead just slash their own budgets "was a hollow argument," editor David Warner said.

Our choice: Watching the debate didn't help several of our staff in making their decisions. In fact, at least one moved from decided to undecided after seeing the soundbitefest. Charlie Crist is clearly the better speaker, the more dynamic politician. One staffer said Crist seems more open-minded to compromise, whereas Davis' election would result in gridlock with the Legislature. For two other staffers, the idea of gridlock was appealing "so shit doesn't get more fucked up." (We're nothing if not eloquent here at CL.) But the majority here wins — despite one vote for Crist and two undecideds that are leaning to Crist — and the majority want a change in our state's direction with Jim Davis as our next governor.

— CL Staff

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Elections 2006