Jim Davis 1990 vote could bite him by Mitch E. Perry

08/25/06

During Wednesday’s Democratic gubernatorial debate between Jim Davis and Rod Smith, Smith appeared to score debating points when he asked Davis why he had voted AGAINST compensating 2 Black men who were wrongly convicted of the murders of 2 white men in 1963 (roll tape#1 o.q.�and delayed�)

Yesterday a mailer was sent out to about 100,000 homes throughout Florida that reads, “Jim Davis’ record of Shame…Davis voted to deny justice�.

The mailer – produced by a 527 group called The Coalition for Justice and Equality – tells of how in 1990 Davis voted against compensating Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee - – even though they had been pardoned 15 years earlier and another man had confessed to the crime. The men had been sentenced to death and spent 12 years in prison.

Susan McManus is a professor of Political Science at the University of South Florida.

WMNF asked her if she thinks the wide distribution of this flier 10 days before the election will hurt Jim Davis (roll tape# 1 o.q. “they’ve gone to this approach�)

Freddie Pitts himself is now speaking out. In an interview in Friday’s Miami Herald, the 62 year old, who now lives as a retiree in Miami, said, “What did [Davis] expect to hear? What rock was he under? The only thing I can think of is he was one of these backwoods, backwards politicians.''

State Senator Les Miller – who says he is not supporting either candidate - told WMNF today that he did NOT think the issue would hurt Davis in the election (roll tape#3 o.q.�I don’t think it’s going to hurt his campaign�)

But State Senator Fredericka Wilson, who DOES supports Rod Smith, and is the leader of the legislative black Caucus told the Miami Herald, “If these facts get in the mail boxes and the minds of African-American voters, it will motivate them,� She added, ``This is race we are talking about. This is the sting of racism we are talking about.''

Jim Davis was on the majority side of a 6-4 Committee vote back in May of 1990 to deny Pitts and Lee restitution. The 2 were convicted by an all-white jury in the Panhandle town of Port St. Joe

The Legislature finally gave the men $500,000 each in 1998 – 35 years after they were first arrested .

Davis appeared a bit startled when Rod Smith brought the case up during the Democratic Debate Again,, USF political science professor Susan McManus (roll tape#2 o.q.�at the moment�)

Speaking to the Herald, the other defendant, Wilbur Lee said of Davis’s rationale for not voting for compensating him, “I've been through the system. I know what people are really saying when they talk about the process. It's no good. Black people know what prejudice feels like. We know what it sounds like. You can pretend it's something else. But we know “.

The Jim Davis camp has tried to deflect the recent flier by questioning who is behind it. The aforementioned Coalition for Justice and Equality – which received $100,000 from U.S. Sugar earlier this month.

In a press release issued on Friday, the Davis camp says U.S. Sugar has spent nearly $2 million dollars in promoting Smith’s campaign.

USF Political Science Profesor Susan McManus says THIS is a potential minefield for Rod Smith’s campaign – and not just Democratic voters who care about the environment and have negative feelings about the sugar industry (roll tape#5 “environmental stance�)

The Davis campaign released a new Television ad today called “ Loud and Clear�, which blasts Smith for standing on the side of special interests�.

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