Thursday, September 07, 2006

Primary aftermath

With Charlie Crist and Jim Davis getting the victory in their respective primaries Tuesday night, the campaign for November has quickly begun. Crist has it easy - getting help from Jeb Bush and already being a darling of the GOP establishment in Florida and nationally. Crist starts a three-city tour with Jeb today.

Jim Davis faces a tougher road to Tallahassee - and not just because he's a Democrat. The fallout from Davis' 1990 vote against restitution for two wrongly convicted black men has reached a fever pitch. Charlie Crist is bashing Davis for that everywhere he goes (unlike Rod smith, and Davis is even getting blasted by Florida Dems.

Davis invited reporters to listen in on a conference call with a prominent black lawmaker from South Florida. But the stagecraft did more to illustrate the challenge ahead than Davis could have imagined.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, skipped the congratulatory banter and instead plowed into a blunt, sometimes critical, assessment of Davis' standing with African-American voters and the ground he needs to cover.

"Y'all can't take black folks for granted," Hastings said, the urgency in his voice filling a barren room at Davis' headquarters in Tampa.

And Hastings wasn't done. He had something else to tell Davis: Charlie Crist had beat him to this punch. Crist called Hastings as polls closed Tuesday night - roughly 16 hours before Davis picked up the phone.

Hastings said he was "astounded" to get the call, adding Crist remembered meeting him about eight years ago.

"One thing that he said, and this is the trap I don't want us to fall into, was 'Nobody is going to work harder about civil rights,' " Hastings recalled. "Jim, you have to be a different white man. And it's just that simple. Black folks have the same damn problems that white folks have."

There's rumors about Davis making a turnaround on his policy towards that vote, with talk of apology letters to the two men and even setting up a public apology/campaign event with them. Would that help his situation, or just make it look like he's using the guys for a political stunt? Either way, Davis is in trouble.


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