Saturday, July 19, 2014

Jim Davis says Bill Nelson would have been a good candidate, but is prepared to get behind Charlie Crist

Posted By on Sat, Jul 19, 2014 at 12:20 PM

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A recent poll showed that 89 percent of Democrats want Charlie Crist to debate Nan Rich before the August 26 primary election, and you can include Jim Davis among them. The former Tampa Congressman and 2006 gubernatorial nominee says Crist would be well served to debate going into the fall. "Debate, we as Democrats believe, makes us stronger," he says.

Davis is part of the Florida Democratic Party establishment who has been less than enthusiastic, shall we say, about the former Republican once known as "Chain-gang Charlie" becoming the party's standard-bearer. Davis was one of a number of major figures in the party who spent considerable time attempting to persuade Bill Nelson to enter the primary, a possibility that Nelson himself kept alive over the past 8 months or so before the deadline to enter the race came and went last month.

"I think Sen. Nelson would have been a very strong candidate, a very strong governor," Davis said Thursday afternoon on WMNF's Last Call program (hosted by this reporter). "He knows the state, and he has served us well, but he chose not to run and now it's water under the bridge."

Davis went on to say that on issues like Medicaid expansion he believes "the right governor" could put significant pressure on the GOP-led Legislature to support the federal government's plan, "and I think Senator Nelson and many people, including me, want to see a governor that does that."

Charlie Crist was scheduled to open a new campaign office in northwest Tampa Saturday night, and introduce his new running-mate, former Miami-Dade County party chair Annette Taddeo-Goldstein. It's a pick that Davis endorses, but he cautions that "Charlie Crist is going to have to earn this himself."

Davis lost to Crist in an intense battle for the governorship back in 2006, a race where Crist enjoyed the benefits that a strong party traditionally provides the Republican in such a big race in Florida. And it's certainly the situation again this time around; Scott and the Republicans have roughly outspent Crist and the Democrats by a 5:1 ratio in television ads so far ($16 million for Scott and around $3 million for Davis) halfway through July.

Crist used the power of television ads to depict Davis as an average, back-bench member of Congress back in 2006, including an infamous ad that featured an empty chair rolling along the streets of Washington D.C. So it would certainly make sense why Davis will never be inclined to completely embrace a Crist candidacy, but Davis cares about Florida, and says the state needs new leadership this year.
"If he's the nominee ... I support him and I want him to win," he said on Thursday. "But what I want in Tallahassee is something very simple: I want adult supervision. I want a governor who looks out for the entire state and gets the Legislature to work together for our benefit. Charlie Crist has to convince people that he will be that kind of leader."

Rick Scott has endured a miserable week on the campaign trail, where his failure last Monday to answer repeated questions thrown to him by WFLA's Lauren Mayk and WTSP's Noah Pransky was the subject of mockery by the likes of CNN's Anderson Cooper. But underneath Scott's failure to answer uncomfortable questions, Davis says, is an important point.

"The job of the governor of Florida is to lead the state, and if you're going to lead the state you need to mobilize public opinion, and this governor doesn't know how to do that. He doesn't know how to communicate with the press. He doesn't know how to talk to the public through the media, so he just ignores them, so people end up ignoring him, so It really weakens him dramatically as a leader."

The polls show the race essentially tied with Scott maybe up by a percentage point or two. Davis says that people are looking for a reason not to vote for Rick Scott, but it's hard to beat an incumbent with a huge financial advantage, so he says Crist has to "go out there and earn it."

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